While the Chinese are the biggest connoisseurs of duck, this classic combination of duck and figs is more French in style. Thanks to the shapely figs, this is a dramatic-looking main course for an elegant meal.
Duck Breasts with Roasted Figs and Balsamic Glaze
6 skin-on, boneless duck breasts, about 2 1/4 lb. total
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 ripe Black Mission figs
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
8 fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife, trim away any visible fat from each duck breast to create an even 1/4-inch-thick layer. Score the skin side of each breast, cutting through the skin but not into the flesh, to create a 1/4-inch crosshatch pattern. Generously season the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Using a paring knife, cut a small cross in the top of each fig. Spread the figs open, season with salt and pepper, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the vinegar over the figs and scatter the thyme sprigs on top. Roast, basting the figs with the vinegar every 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely glazed, 12 to 15 minutes. Keep the figs warm in the oven.
Heat a large fry pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down, and sear until the skin is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until lightly brown on the other side, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
Thinly slice the duck breasts on the diagonal. Arrange the slices on a platter, top with the figs and drizzle with the balsamic glaze from the baking sheet. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.