With a fork prick the skin of each breast and with a small sharp knife score the skin diagonally both ways to form a diamond pattern. Season with salt and black pepper. Place them skin-side down into a frying pan and cook very gently for 20 minutes until most of the fat has rendered and the skin is a light golden brown. The fat will bubble around the pieces of duck; but don’t let it get too hot or the skin will color too quickly and you risk the meat being tough.
Carefully drain off the duck fat (I add it in my goose-fat jar that I keep in the fridge for roast potatoes et cetera). Then turn each breast over and, without increasing the heat, cook them for five minutes if you like them pink; 10 minutes for medium. But you need to keep checking.
(An alternative is when you turn the duck breasts on to the flesh side and sear for one minute to keep the juices inside; then place them skin-side down in a hot oven for 4 mins. Then let them rest for another 4 mins.)
(Another alternative is to transfer them to a plate, keeping the skin side up. When you are ready to use them, stick the breasts under a very hot grill (about 11cm from the heat source) skin-side down on the rack of the grill pan for two to three minutes. Let them rest for a couple of minutes; then turn them over for two to three minutes to let the skin sizzle and crisp as it turns a deeper golden brown. )
Remove the duck breasts to a carving board to rest for a few minutes before cutting them into thick chunky slices and placing on warm plates. Drizzle some sauce over and garnish with watercress and serve with rice or mash and a green vegetable - garden peas (or jar of petits pois) or spinach. Green lentils go well with this dish. Or try pear and celery salad.
Sauce: Many chefs prescribe a sweet or a sweet n' sour sauce. But whatever you do, don't smother your duck breasts in sauce: the taste of the moist, pink meat, unsalted, just on it's own is a delight.
Raymond Blanc's cherry sauce: On a high heat in a medium saucepan, boil about 30 mls of red wine and 50 mls of ruby port, until reduced by about half. Add 300 gms of fresh stoned cherries, ‘5-spice powder,' cinnamon, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Return to the boil and simmer for 2-3 mins. Remove half the cherries and set aside. Pour the remaining cherries and sauce into a blender and blend for a couple of mins. Strain through a fine sieve into a small saucepan; add the reserved cherries to the sauce and check the seasoning.
Experimenting the other day, I took a shallow fruit dish and tentatively mixed oyster sauce (a suggestion from a local Chinese taxi driver) with a little light soy sauce; then added a fork-end of Dijon mustard and a careful drop of Balsamic vinegar; then a teaspoonful of ‘redcurrent & port jelly' I found in the cupboard. Boy, it tasted good. I plan to try plums, redcurrent or blackcurrent compote in a similar way. Pears in red wine blend nicely. And I am sure that a splash of Cointreau could play a useful role.
The bottom line is that, with a little experimentation, this could become one of your very own signature dishes