This story first appeared in Side Dish, a weekly newsletter. Subscribe at

If you’ve never tried to cook duck yourself, this recipe from 5Church Midtown’s Chef Rodney Smith Jr. is the perfect place to start.

Smith, who recently prepared the dish live on Good Day Atlanta, is the executive chef and partner at 5Church. He previously owned the Northern Nomad food truck and served as a traveling chef for Ronin Hospitality.

“Duck is not like any other poultry. They key is to not overcook it – actually, the rarer, the better,” Smith said. “Start it low, with the skin side down, to get a nice, crispy skin. And, as we do in our restaurants, use local, fresh ingredients whenever possible for the best results.” 

Enjoy this delicious seared duck breast, paired with almond polenta and golden raisin agrodolce!

Chef Rodney Smith Jr.’s seared duck breast.

Chef Rodney Smith Jr.’s Seared Duck Breast with Almond Polenta & Golden Raisin Agrodolce Recipe

Duck Breast Ingredients:

1 ea Duck Breast, 6-8 oz.
Coarse Sea Salt
Black Pepper, Butcher’s Grind/Course
3 Tbsp 75/25 Blend Oil or High Temp Oil (350+ Burn temp)
3 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted
2 Sprig Rosemary, Fresh
1 Sprig Thyme, Fresh
3 ea Garlic Clove, Peeled/Fresh
1 Tbsp Mint, Chopped
2 Tbsp Toasted Almonds, Shaved

Duck Breast Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Blot the duck breasts dry. Use a sharp knife to score the fat of each in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut into the meat. Season both sides of each breast generously with salt and pepper, then place them skin side down in a large, cold oven-safe skillet.

Place the skillet over low heat and cook for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until the duck begins to sizzle. Continue cooking undisturbed until the skin is browned, crisp, and has rendered most of its fat, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip over the breasts and transfer the skillet to the oven.

Place the pan in the oven, roast for 2 to 4 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 125ºF-135ºF.

Transfer breasts to a plate to rest.

Almond Polenta Ingredients:

32 fl oz (4 Cups) Vegetable Stock, Unsalted
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Yellow Onion, small diced
2 Cups Dry Polenta or Medium Ground Cornmeal
4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp Pure Almond Extract

Almond Polenta Directions:

Place a medium-size pot on medium-high heat then add in the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until they are browned, about 3 to 7 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, pour in the polenta (or cornmeal) while continuing to vigorously stir with a whisk to ensure no clumps are formed, about 15 to 20 minutes. When the polenta is completely poured in, turn the heat down to medium-low. Finish off the polenta by stirring in butter, parmesan cheese, almond extract, salt and pepper until completely combined.

Cook further for 5 minutes over low heat.

Golden Raisin Agrodolce Ingredients:

½ Cup Golden Raisins
16 fl oz (2 Cups) Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Sugar, Granulated
½ Tbsp Salt, Kosher
1 ea Bay Leaf
1 tsp Rosemary, Chopped

Golden Raisin Agrodolce Directions:

In a medium saucepot, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the raisins are soft and bloomed. Remove from heat.

Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth puree forms.

To Plate:

Spoon ½ of the polenta into the center of each plate. Slice the duck into 6 even slices. Place 3 slices of duck over the center of the polenta. Drizzle with agrodolce. Spoon 2 Tbsp reserved pan sauce from duck breast over top. Garnish with chopped mint and toasted almonds.

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.