Duck Magrets in Honey/Anise Liqueur Glaze (Pato con glaseado al Xtabentún)

David Sterling, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition - July/August 2014

Excerpt from Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling. Recipe adapted from the same.

Duck is a rare find on menus in Yucatán—a fact that strikes me as strange, since ducks of many species have always been plentiful here, especially in the area around Sisal. According to colonial chroniclers, the Mayas of the sixteenth century consumed duck, although we aren’t quite certain how they cooked it, since recipes for it rarely appear in historical sources. Sweet glazes of various flavors (cherry and orange come to mind) are common in the French repertoire, a fashionable cuisine in late nineteenth-century Yucatán. But I was immediately smitten after my first taste of this glacée de cuisine (glaze), prepared with a famous local liqueur known as Xtabentún. Its honey/anise flavoring makes it the perfect counterpoint to the richness of the duck. The magrets (boned duck breast) as served at Hacienda Xcanatún are always accompanied by a couple of plantain croquettes inspired by the Cuban dish Machuquillo, a paste of mashed plantain and pork cracklings.

This recipe and the one for the accompaniment, Machuquillo, were shared with me by Cristina Baker, the charming hostess/owner of Hacienda Xcanatún, and her executive chef, José Andrey Vázquez Manzanilla, a native-born Yucatecan who does inventive plays on Yucatecan themes incorporating local ingredients.

Prepare ahead note: The rich brown poultry stock or even the complete glaze/sauce can be made a week or two in advance and frozen. Reheat immediately before serving.

Makes 6 servings

Brown poultry stock:

  • 2 Tbsp. (28g) enriched lard
  • 1 lb. (500g) chicken or duck neck, gizzard, heart, wing tips, or bones saved from the carcass
  • 1 med. (275g) white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 med. (100g) carrot, halved across the width
  • 8 cups (2L) beef stock or bouillon
  • 1 tsp. (4g) black peppercorns
  • 2 lg. (6g) sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme

Heat the lard until shimmering in large heavy stockpot; add chicken or duck pieces and vegetables; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meats are well browned and the onions are beginning to caramelize, 5 to 6 minutes; add remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer (do not allow to boil); partially cover the pot; simmer 1 hour, skimming fat as needed during the first 15 minutes of cooking; pour stock through fine-mesh sieve into another stockpot; discard solids; cool; refrigerate overnight. You should have approximately 6 cups.

Yields: approximately 2 1/4 cups

  • 2 cups (500ml) sweet orange juice
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) Mexican honey
  • 1/4 cup (62.5ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (62.5ml) soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) Xtabentún liqueur or anisette
  1. Bring stock to a boil; cook over high heat until reduced by two-thirds, about 35 minutes (you should end with 2 cups of stock).

  2. Bring orange juice to a boil in medium saucepan; cook over high heat until reduced by half; add sugar and honey; cook over medium high heat for 8 minutes, until the caramel reaches the soft-ball stage (238˚F); add vinegar and soy sauce, stirring until well combined; continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches the hard-ball stage (250˚ to 265˚F).

  3. Add caramel reduction to reduced stock; and simmer 15 minutes, until it reaches the firm-ball stage; add Xtabentún; bring to a boil; cook over high heat 2 minutes; take pan off heat (the glaze should have the consistency of syrup and will thickly coat a spoon); reserve.


  • 6 (about 7 oz./200g each) duck magrets, skin scored and at room temperature
  • sea salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • Machuquillo, for serving
  1. Season duck; place skin side down in dry, cold, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron); turn heat to medium-high; cook until skin browns and is crisp and much of the fat has rendered, 8 to 10 minutes; flip magrets; baste with rendered fat; continue cooking to preferred temperature; remove from heat; rest 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. Reheat glaze; slice duck on the diagonal just before serving.

  3. To serve, arrange sliced magrets on serving plates; spoon over top; accompany with three warm Machuquillo croquettes per person.

Excerpt from Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling (Copyright © 2014 by the University of Texas Press) used by permission of the University of Texas Press. For more information visit