Duck is a fairly new culinary experience for me. I think the first time I ate it was in Melbourne a couple of years ago – a confited (con-feed) duck leg which was slow cooked in its own fat. I savoured every mouthful of that dish I can tell you! Since then, I’ve wanted to try cooking duck myself, but have never really had the chance, a: because it’s so hard to find where I live and, b: because it’s so darned expensive.
Then, out of the blue the other day I chanced upon some duck breast pieces in an out-of-town supermarket and, turning a blind eye to the price, snapped them up quick-fast. While duck legs are usually confited, duck breasts tend to be simply pan-fried so, looking for a bit of guidance, I set out to find an online recipe. This simple recipe from Aussie chef Maggie Beer fit the bill perfectly – pan-fried duck delivering tender, blush-pink flesh with crispy, golden-brown skin, coupled with a simple salad of rocket, toasted walnuts, grilled pears and a red wine vinaigrette. Need I say more?
I probably won’t have the opportunity to make this dish again any time soon, but I’m sure glad I finally got to make it. It may have been on the expensive side, but it’s one of those rare luxuries that make life worth living.
WARM DUCK SALAD WITH GRILLED PEAR, WALNUTS & RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
- 4 duck breasts
- 2 pears halved, cored and cut into wedges
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp aged red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 80 g walnuts, toasted
- 200 g rocket leaves
- Pat the duck skin dry with an absorbent kitchen towel. Score duck fat in lines or criss-cross gently (you’ll need a sharp knife) without cutting into meat underneath. Season the breasts with sea salt and bring to room temperature.
- Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat (you won’t need oil). Once at temperature place the duck breasts, skin side down and cook for a few minutes to render the duck fat (this means that the duck fat will partially melt and the duck will start frying in its own fat). If there is an excess of fat, tilt the pan towards you and spoon it off (you can save this fat for future use). You’ll notice the duck breast will reduce in length and swell in thickness – this is normal. When crisp on skin side, turn over and seal the underside for another few minutes.
- Turn again and continue turning and cooking until the skin is golden brown and, when pressed, the meat feels firm and springy – approximately 10-12 minutes in total (this recipe calls for the duck to be medium-rare, however I prefer it to be lightly pink so cooked it a little longer).
- Remove the duck breasts from the pan, place onto a warm resting plate, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing, during which time the juices will settle. If, when you come to slice your duck and find it under-cooked, place it in the oven at 220ºC (428F) to finish cooking then leave to rest again afterwards.
- In the meantime grill the pear wedges on a preheated, oiled grill plate. Cook on one side for 2-3 minutes and then turn over to cook evenly on the remaining side. Remove from heat.
- For the vinaigrette: Place the Red Wine Vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl with the mustard and whisk, until emulsified. Season with sea salt to taste.
- Assembly: Combine walnuts, rocket leaves, grilled pear and sliced duck breast in a bowl and toss through with just enough red wine vinaigrette to finely coat the salad.
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