Although commonly misused, the French term magret refers strictly to the breast meat of the fattened Moulard duck
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat or vegetable oil
1 magret (Moulard duck breast, about 2 pounds); cut into 2 breast halves
2 tart cooking apples (such as Cortland, McIntosh, or Spy), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch slices
3 large shallots, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups duck or chicken stock
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or less, if a less sweet dish is desired)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Heat the duck fat in a heavy, 10-inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the breast halves and quickly brown it on both sides, about 5 minutes total.
2. Remove the breast halves to a plate and set aside. Stir in the apples, shallots, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Increase the heat to high, stir in the cider vinegar, and cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the stock and maple syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, bring the liquid to a bare simmer, and add the breast halves and any accumulated juices. Braise the breast halves slowly for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning it once with tongs, until it's medium-rare. Remove the breast halves and the apples (use a slotted spoon) to plates and keep warm separately. Discard the bay leaf.
4. Over very high heat reduce the sauce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Holding your knife at a 45-degree angle to the cutting board, slice the breast halves crosswise into 16 pieces. Place the apples on 4 serving plates, and top with the breast halves fanned over the apples. Spoon the sauce over and serve immediately.
Although commonly misused, the French term magret refers strictly to the breast meat of the fattened Moulard duck -- but only if its liver has been used in the production of foie gras. The Moulard is a big duck, weighing up to 7 or 8 pounds dressed, and its breast is very large, weighing up to 2 pounds; it can easily serve 4 people. This delicious dish has French roots, in a sense. Many elements of Quebecois cooking can be traced to Quebec's original French settlers, who were from Normandy; that would account for the use of apples. The sweet maple syrup is a Quebecois staple -- they've even been known to cook their breakfast eggs in maple syrup -- but the juxtaposition of something sweet with duck is very French. In any event, if you don't like mixing your sweet with your savory, pass by this dish. Serves 4