Sugar and Chile-Cured Duck Breasts

This is Robert’s contemporary take on trail food, inspired by the Old West. It’s a whole other world from hardtack, however, and lots more fun to eat.

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 boneless, skinless duck breasts (8 ounces each)


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, chile powder, and salt. Evenly rub the mixture over the duck breasts; place on a small plate and refrigerate for at least two hours. For the best flavor, let the duck sit in the chile cure overnight.

For the sauce: In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the corn and cook until softened, about two minutes. Add the shallot and white wine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and put in blender; purée until smooth. Add the cold butter, one piece at time, until incorporated. Strain the sauce back into the saucepan and keep warm. Just before serving, stir in the ketchup

Assembly: Prepare a barbecue grill. When hot, brush off the excess dry cure from the duck breasts and place the breasts on the grill. Cook until still pink inside, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cut diagonally into thin slices and arrange on a plate. Spoon the corn sauce over the open portion of the plate and top with chopped chives.

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By Robert McGrath

Cuisine(s): Southwestern

Main ingredient: Duck

Serves(s): 4

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