Burgers de canard

Duck burgers

Le burger took France by storm a few decades ago, and now that the French are familiar with the beef variety they’ve put their own twist on it by creating the duck burger. In this version, the duck is chopped, mixed with minced shallots, pan-fried and topped with caramelized onions as well as lettuce, tomato, red onion rings and a special sauce.

For success, use magret dc canard, i.e. the boned breast of a fattened duck. Magret is readily available in France, and can be purchased online elsewhere, for example here or here in the States and here in England. Be sure to choose a raw duck breast, as smoked or cured breasts are also on offer but would not deliver the same result.

The duck should be chopped by hand (au couteau), not with a meat grinder, and it’s important to include a bit of the fat to ensure that the burger isn’t dry. Not to worry — most of the fat will melt away when you cook the duck, but the flavor will remain. By the way, the first time I made a duck burger I used a filet de canard, which is a leaner duck breast, and the results were less spectacular.

The sauce in this recipe is my favorite burger sauce, a mixture of mayo, ketchup and Asian hot sauce. If you prefer a different sauce, go for it. Or you can serve the burgers without the sauce, or indeed without any of the accoutrements. As you wish.

If you happen to have a barbecue, by all means grill the duck over charcoal instead of frying it. The flavor will be all the better.

Serve the burgers with fries or a salad — and a bottle of sturdy red. The quantities below will make two burgers.

1 duck magret (breast)
1 shallot

2 red onions
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. hot sauce (sambal oelek or sriracha)
2 lettuce leaves or a handful of tender greens
1 tomato

2 high-quality burger rolls
3 tsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. water
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)

Place the duck in the freezer for half an hour before beginning. This will harden it up and make for easier slicing.

Slip a very sharp knife beneath the skin of the duck breast. Carefully slice away the skin, leaving some of the fat attached. Cut through the breast to create thin slices. Lay the slices on top of each other and chop crosswise and lengthwise. Transfer to a bowl.

Peel and finely mince the shallot. Add to the chopped duck. Mix well. Refrigerate for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend.

When ready to cook the duck, form the meat into two patties.

Make the sauce: mix together the mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce. Stir.

Peel the red onions and slice into fine rounds. Set aside a few of the rounds for topping the burgers. Slice the tomato. Have the lettuce or greens standing by,

Slice the burger buns in half and toast.

Set the bottom half of each bun on a plate. Top with some sauce and a lettuce leaf.

In a skillet, heat 2 tsp. olive oil to sizzling. Add the red onion slices (except for the few you set aside). Sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some black pepper. Add the mustard, honey and water. If using fresh thyme, strip the leaves off the sprig and add. Stir briefly and turn down the heat to low.

In a separate skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil to sizzling. Fry the burgers for about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare duck, or longer if you prefer it well-done. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some black pepper.

Transfer the burgers to the buns. Top with the fried onions.

Add the tomato slices and raw onion rings. Spread the rest of the sauce on the other half of the buns and set on top. Serves 2.

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