Wild Duck Breast Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette 4.000

James M. Thresher for The Washington Post

Nov 23, 2008

This is a flexible recipe, according to the chef who created it: Goose breast can stand in for duck breast, seasoned with only salt and pepper or with a spice blend that is Asian or Southwestern. Dried apricots or orange segments can be used instead of cranberries. Try apple instead of carrot. Leave the pecans out, or use a different type of nut.

Servings: 4
  • For the brine and duck
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt, plus more (optional) to season the duck breast halves
  • 2 sprigs herbs, such as thyme or rosemary
  • 4 whole spices, such as juniper berries, allspice or peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 duck breast halves, skin removed (8 ounces each)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon spice blend, such as Montreal seasoning with freshly grated nutmeg (may substitute seasoning of your choice; see headnote)
  • For the vinaigrette
  • 2 slices apple wood bacon, cut into small dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 10 to 14 chives, snipped or minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage leaves
  • 1/2 medium cloves garlic, minced (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 small shallot, minced (2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium firm apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the salad
  • 4 ounces (4 cups) mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium radish, such as a French breakfast or watermelon radish, cut into very thin slices with a vegetable peeler or mandoline
  • 1 small (2 ounces) uncooked beet, such as Scarlet, peeled and cut into very thin slices with a vegetable peeler or mandoline (1/2 cup total)
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut lengthwise into very thin slices with a vegetable peeler or mandoline (1/2 cup total)
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut in half, then cut into very thin strips (julienne; 1/4 cup total)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted (see NOTE)


For the brine and duck: Combine the water, brown sugar, syrup, 2 tablespoons of the sea salt, herb sprigs, whole spices and bay leaf in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Transfer to a container large enough to hold the duck breast halves and let cool thoroughly.

Place the duck breast halves in the cooled brine; cover and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours.

Remove the duck breast halves from the brine and use paper towels to blot them dry; discard the brine. Season the breasts on both sides with pepper and salt, if desired (they may have enough salt from the brine), and then the spice blend.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat until it is smoking. Add the duck breast halves and sear for 3 minutes, until well browned, then use tongs to turn them over and sear for 2 to 3 minutes, until well browned. The flesh should feel firm on the outside yet soft on the inside, with an internal temperature of 135 degrees (medium-rare).

Remove from the heat and let the breast halves rest in the skillet while you make the vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette: Place the diced bacon in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the pieces are crisp and the fat has been rendered.

Add the honey, mustard, vinegar, chives, parsley, sage, garlic and shallot; stir to mix well, then add the oil. (At this point, the mixture may break or look loose; that is okay.) Add the apple, mix well and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad: Combine the greens, radish, beet, carrot, red onion and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat.

To assemble: Cut the duck breast halves lengthwise into very thin slices.

Divide the dressed salad among individual plates or a large platter. Arrange the duck slices on the salad, then sprinkle with the toasted pecans. (Alternatively, the duck can be placed on the plates first, then topped with the salad.) Serve immediately.

NOTE: To toast pecans, place them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for about 7 minutes, turning them to avoid burning, until they are fragrant and have darkened slightly. Cool completely.

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Recipe Source

From chef R.J. Cooper of Vidalia restaurant.

Tested by David Hagedorn.

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