Literally, actually.

Last night we had duck for dinner. Which was, actually, pretty good.

Can I ask you? Is it possible for us to agree to stop using the word “actually?” Or at least stop using it inappropriately?  When using the word “actually” it implies surprise. Or an unexpected, unanticipated result. And many people use it incorrectly. Or they use it correctly but offensively.

“The duck was, actually, pretty good.” Duh, of course the duck was good. There’s no surprise there. But it implies that you expected for it to be bad. (No worries though *don’t get me started on that phrase* Jon did not say the duck was, actually, pretty good).

When you say “that’s actually a pretty good idea” it implies that most of the ideas suck. So let’s just stop. 

My friend Chris’s favorite is “literally.” Even now, it makes me pause every time I use the word because it is literally impossible to use correctly. And it makes Chris so angry. And it makes me giggle. He could probably write a whole guest post on that word. And runny eggs. He hates runny eggs. Which also makes Jon and I giggle when we eat the runniest egg imaginable and one of says “oh Chris would hate this.”

Actually pretty good duck breast is easy to make. In France, duck is widely available and it is frequently vacuum sealed so you can buy it now and don’t have to eat it today. Duck breast has a thick layer of fat on top of it and renders oh so nicely when you cook it. I like to sear it and then stick it in a low temperature oven for about an hour. Although last night I overdid it a bit, so maybe forty five minutes next time. If you want to get fancy you can put something sweet on it: a berry sauce, quince compote, cherries. Then, save the rendered fat and use it to make duck fat roasted potatoes. Or toss it with some vinegar and put it over salad greens. Or get crazy and sear your steak in it.


I like this recipe. From NYTimes cooking of course.

BASIC ROAST DUCK BREAST by Florence Fabricant


• 3 moulard duck breasts (magret de canard)

• 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder

• 2 tablespoons honey

• 3 tablespoons light soy sauce

• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1 Score fat on duck breast in criss-cross pattern at one-inch intervals.

2 Mix the five-spice powder, honey, soy sauce and lemon juice together in a dish, brush the mixture over both sides of the duck breasts and place the breasts in a dish. Cover and allow to marinate at least an hour at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, whichever is more convenient.

3 Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

4 Heat large, heavy skillet, preferably nonstick, to very hot. Remove duck breasts from marinade, reserving marinade for sauce, if desired. Place duck breasts in the skillet skin side down and sear for about two minutes, just until the skin is well browned. Remove the duck breasts from the skillet. Pour all the fat out of the skillet (reserve the fat for the sauce or other cooking, if you wish). Return the duck breasts to the skillet skin side up and cook for about a minute, just until the meat is seared.

5 Transfer the duck breasts skin side up to a baking dish that will hold them in a single layer. Place in the oven for about an hour. By this time the duck breasts will be uniformly pink throughout. They can remain in the oven as long as two hours and can sit warming even longer if the oven is turned off after two hours. The recipe can also be expanded for as many duck breasts as you need.

6 To serve, slice the duck breasts on an angle, into slices a quarter to a half-inch thick. Array on a platter and serve.

Leave a Reply