6 magret (French-style duck breasts, available from D’Artagnan)
3 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Several days before serving, remove the duck breasts from their packaging, pat dry, and place on a rack in the refrigerator to dry overnight.
Combine the salt, black pepper, pink peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl, and rub each duck breast on all sides with this mixture. Return the duck to the rack, place over a shallow tray to catch the liquid that will seep out, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, although 48 hours gives best results.
Build a fire in a wood oven, or preheat the oven to 450° F. Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator, wipe off the seasoning, and pat dry. Use a sharp knife to score the skin (slash shallow cuts going first in one direction and then the other, creating a diamond pattern).
Heat a cast iron skillet on the stove over the highest possible heat until nearly smoking. Carefully add the duck breasts to the skillet—you may need to work in batches depending on the size of your skillet—and sear for 3 minutes, until the skin is brown.
Drain the excess fat and place the skillet in the oven or wood-fired oven. Continue cooking, skin side down, until the skin is crispy; this should take 3 to 5 additional minutes.
Then, using kitchen tongs, carefully turn each breast and allow to cook until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 130° F (54° C). Immediately remove the pan from the oven and transfer the breasts to a wooden cutting board. The rendered fat can be saved and used for cooking.
Allow duck to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Slice on a bias and serve over Upstate Vegetables Provençal, accompanied by roasted potatoes if desired.