Five-spice Roasted Duck Breast with Duck Fat Tater Tots, Crab Apple & Candied Ginger Chutney

Duck and apples were meant to be together. They’re like Bonnie and Clyde, Simon and Garfunkel, Batman and Robin…well, you get it. They’re a great team. This recipe plays into the Hudson Valley’s strengths during the autumn harvest. Apples, ducks, tater tots. Okay, maybe tater tots aren’t a traditional Hudson Valley ingredient, but who doesn’t love a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside potato nugget!

Cooking duck doesn’t have to be intimidating. Ninety percent of the cooking is done on the skin side to render out the fat for super crispy skin. I’ve created a spice blend that goes nicely with duck and apples. It’s combines what is known as Chinese five spice and French quatre épices. My blend contains black pepper, cloves, ginger, star anise and cinnamon.

As a chef, I always try to utilize all aspects of a meat product such as duck. Duck is notorious for having lots of fat. It’s like liquid gold. You can do many things with duck fat, such as confit the legs in it, sauté it, and of course make tater tots.

Day 1: Prepare Crab Apple & Candied Ginger Chutney

Prep Time: 20 to 30 minutes | Cook Time: 35 to 45 minutes

Crab apples have a ton of pectin. They turn a beautiful pinkish hue once cooked down. This sweet, sour and savory combination of vinegar, sugar, onions and crab apple is simple to make. As with all chutneys, it’s best to prepare it a day or two ahead so the flavors hav time to marry together before serving.


  • 2 cups crab apple, skins on, quartered and cored, then cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Step by Step

  1. Heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat with olive oil
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes
  3. Next, add the crab apples, cider vinegar, sugar, grated orange peel and chopped candied ginger
  4. Cook over medium-low heat to simmer until it thickens into a jam consistency, about 25 to 30 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat
  6. Place the chutney into an airtight container to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days

Day 2: Pre Cook the Tater Tots & Season the Duck Breast

Pre-cooking the Tater Tots

Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes | Special Equipment: Box grater or food processor with grating attachment


  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 4 quarts rendered duck fat (or enough to fill fryer)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Step by Step

  1. Fill a large pot with the duck fat and bring the temperature to 200F degrees
  2. Once the fat is hot, outfit a food processor with a medium/fine shredding disc
  3. Peel the potatoes and shred them into long strings
  4. Carefully add the potatoes to the duck fat and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until they are tender but hold their shape
  5. Once tender and almost falling apart, remove the tots from the duck fat and drain in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl
  6. Finely chop the thyme leaves while the potatoes drain
  7. Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl
  8. Season with sea salt and gently fold in the thyme until completely incorporated
  9. Line a sheet pan or 9×13” baking pan with parchment paper
  10. Spread the potato mixture into an even layer, about 3/4” thick
  11. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator

Pre Cooked Tater Tots Spread out on to a baking tray in an even layer

Five-spice Duck Breast

Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Special Equipment: Mortar and pestle or spice grinder

This five-spice mix plays off the gaminess of duck. It’s important to let the duck “sit on the salt” overnight to help draw out the moisture from the skin so it becomes crispy. This also helps the seasoning penetrate the duck breast.


  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground clove
  • 5 to 6 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Step by Step

  1. Place the spices in a medium sauté pan over low heat and cook until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes
  2. Turn off the burner and allow to cool slightly in the pan
  3. Once cool, put the spices into a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder
  4. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months

Seasoning the Duck Breasts

Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Seasoning Time: 8 hours or overnight


  • 4 duck breasts
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup five-spice powder (recipe above)

Step by Step

  1. Pat the duck breast dry
  2. Place the duck horizontally on a cutting board, with the bigger end facing left
  3. Cut 8 scores marks on the duck breast
  4. Next rotate the duck breast so the bigger end is facing the right side of the board
  5. Carefully slice the fat off the duck breast again on the other side
  6. Line a plate with paper towel or a wire rack-lined baking tray
  7. Combine the spice mixture and salt together
  8. Season the duck breast evenly with the spice mixture, being sure to fill in the score marks
  9. Place the seasoned duck on the paper towel-lined plate or wire rack and refrigerate for 8 hours

Day 3: Cook the Duck Breast, Fry the Tater Tots & Serve

Cooking the Duck Breast

Prep Time: 1 hour | Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes | Rest Time: 7 minutes

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve already waited 8 hours for the duck breast to season, why must you prep for another hour before finally cooking these duck breasts? The answer is that you must bring the meat to room temperature before cooking, or it will cook unevenly. All you have to do is pull the duck breast out of the refrigerator, pour yourself a glass of wine — or in this case, I’d say a cider would be delightful — and wait an hour. Then all the action starts.

Step by Step

  1. Bring the duck breast to room temperature as you preheat the oven to 400F degrees
  2. Pat the duck breast dry with paper towels
  3. Place the breasts skin side down in a large cast iron or heavy bottom pan that is room temperature, not hot — No oil or butter needed *Farm2ChefsTable Tip
  4. Over medium-low heat, cook the duck for about 5 to 7 minutes * Farm2ChefsTable Tip
  5. After rendering the fat from the breasts, place the duck in the oven for 2 minutes until cooked medium rare
  6. Add 1 minute to your cook time for each degree of doneness preferred. I recommend a medium-rare doneness because duck meat is very lean and can dry out quickly
  7. Remove the duck from the oven and place it onto a paper towel-lined plate
  8. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving. This is a good time to fry the duck fat tater tots
  9. After resting, it’s time to carve the duck. I like to slice my duck a little thicker than normal because it gets cold quickly when sliced thin. And it eats more like a steak this way

 Farm2ChefsTable Tip: You may need to cook the duck breast in two batches depending on the size of your pan. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan because the ducks will steam and not get crispy.

Farm2ChefsTable Tip: The duck breast will release a lot of fat. Be sure to remove the excess duck fat as it cooks. Save the fat in an airtight mason jar for future use, like your morning breakfast potato hash! This method is called rendering and is used a lot with meats that have a fatty exterior.

Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Resting the meat before you carve it is crucial to keep the meat juicy and not dried out. It allows the juices to settle back into the meat and not onto the cutting board. A good rule of thumb is letting the meat rest the same amount of time you cooked it. In this case, the duck cooked for 10 minutes, so we will let the duck rest for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about the meat getting cold. The meat is “carryover cooking” and still piping hot.

Frying Duck Fat Tater Tots

Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Cook Time: 5 to 7 minutes


  • 1 recipe chilled tater tot slab from the day before
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste

Step by Step

  1. Once the potatoes are completely chilled, reheat the duck fat to 350F degrees in a large sauce pot or deep fryer
  2. Slide the parchment paper from out of the sheet pan and onto a flat surface, being careful not to break the potato slab
  3. Portion the tater tots into rectangular batons that are approximately ¾” x ¾” x 2-½” long
  4. When the duck fat is hot enough, add the tater tots one at a time in opposite corners of the frying pot. *Farm2ChefsTable
  5. Cook the tater tots, turning occasionally until golden on all sides, about 4 minutes
  6. Once the tater tots are golden brown and delicious, remove them from the oil
  7. Let the tater tots drain on a paper towel-lined serving dish
  8. Season with sea salt while the tots are still hot

Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Tots have a tendency to stick to one another, so spacing them out is crucial. Fry only 6 to 8 pieces at a time so you don’t overcrowd the pot, which may drastically reduce the oil temperature


Step by Step

  1. Place the sliced duck breast on a plate with the pieces stacked neatly side by side
  2. Stack the duck fat tater tots like a tower on one side of the plate
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the Crab Apple & Candied Ginger Chutney in a pile off to the side
  4. Serve and enjoy.