Michael’s Favorite Duck Breast

Today is Michael Kamen’s birthday. He would have been 64. Michael was many things to many people. He was my friend, cohort and coconspirator. We spent many days and nights together working, eating, drinking, laughing and making great music. No matter how much pressure we were under there was always time to eat. Michael introduced me to the best food in the world. He taught both my friend Steve McLaughlin and I how to cook – not the techniques so much, but the passion. He taught us how to really enjoy a fresh peach or an incredibly decadent bite of caviar just by being with him as he relished such morsels.

Michael always went to the same restaurants over and over again. I used to ask him about this new restaurant or that and he just shrugged them off. He intrinsically knew that if he found somewhere that he liked and got to know the people he would be treated like one of the family. We once found a restaurant that was pretty good in Seattle and Michael made reservations for the whole week. I walked into an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks a few years ago and the owner walked up to me with tears in his eyes telling me how much he missed Michael. Michael had been dead for 5 or 6 years. I now go to the same restaurants over and over again to support the people that own them and work there and to be treated like family.

The dinner table at Michael’s house in London was the source of way more than nourishment. His wife Sandra and his girls Sasha and Zoe always made everyone feel welcome. I can remember on many occasions a dinner for 6 would easily turn into  a dinner for 12 and sometimes more. He’d make a little more salad or slice the duck breast a little thinner. And, although Michael rarely drank, there was plenty of wine. The guest list was whomever was in town or in the neighborhood. Everyone was welcome and I mean everyone. I sat next to musicians, directors, actors, carpenters, artists, writers, family and friends of family. I will not drop names as there are too many and that was not the point. They were all Michael and Sandra’s friends and they needed to eat. Although there was one amazing night when I sat between a Beatle and a famous guitar player (Hint:  the two of them at one time had a wife in common).

Michael was bigger than life and had as much love in his heart as anyone I have ever known. I miss him every single day. I enjoy food because of him and our dinner table is open to all. He made amazing music that he has left for the world to enjoy. What most don’t know is that he also made a mean duck breast. Thanks to his lovely and generous wife Sandra for providing this recipe, you can now enjoy it, too.

Serves 2 -4 or more depending on how thinly you slice it.

Ingredients

  • 2 Duck Breasts
  • 2 Oranges
  • 1/2 Cup Pomegranate Syrup
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Paring Knife (optional)
  • Ovenproof Dish
  • Brush
  1. Score the skin of the duck breast in a criss-cross pattern.
  2. Salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Place in the dish, skin side down.
  4. Brush both sides of the duck with a layer of pomegranate syrup. Most middle eastern markets sell this stuff. If you can’t find it, you can reduce pomegranate juice with a little sugar and lemon juice.
  5. Squeeze the juice of one orange over them.
  6. Place orange slices in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Let marinate for about 20 minutes.
  8. Broil for about 10 minutes skin side down (depending on how thick the breasts are).
  9. Turn and broil for another 10 minutes. I like my duck only very slightly pink. If you like it more rare than cook accordingly. 
  10. Let rest for a few minutes then slice and serve.
You can also grill these. When grilling, place on a piece of doubled over aluminum foil and cook skin side up first. The duck fat rendered from the skin can cause a fire so make sure you are catching it in some manner. 
The wild rice from yesterday wast taught to me by Sandra Kamen and goes perfectly well with this dish. We would also have arugula and fennel. In Michael’s memory, we are having this dinner tonight for the family and whomever shows up.
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