Thai duck salad, French style
This is a Thai recipe with a French twist because it involves magret de canard — a whole duck breast, which is sautéd, sliced and placed warm on top of a salad of herbs with a Thai-inspired dressing. The French prefer their duck rosé (pink), as shown in the photo, but you can cook yours longer if you prefer. And the salad can be as spicy as you like.
Magret de canard is widely available in France. Elsewhere it may be purchased online, for example at D’Artagnan in the States or at London Fine Foods in the UK. Asian ingredients for the salad and dressing — lemongrass, nuoc mam (Asian fish sauce) and sriracha sauce — can be found at Asian grocery shops worldwide.
Ingredients for the dressing are approximate because of the need to balance the flavors — depending on how juicy your limes are, you may need to adjust. Your aim is to produce a sauce that is sour, salty, spicy and sweet. You can taste as you go along.
The quantities below will serve two people.
1 duck breast, fat attached
1 tbsp. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
4 lettuce leaves (Boston lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, romaine)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2-3 stalks fresh mint
1 stalk lemongrass
1 bird’s eye pepper or a milder red pepper
1-2 tsbp. nuoc mam
2-3 tsp. sugar
1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce
Dry off the duck breast. Using a very sharp knife, slice through the fat in a diamond pattern. This will help the duck cook evenly without curling up.
Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. When it sizzles add the duck, fat side down. Cook five minutes. Flip over and cook five minutes more. Remove the duck to a cutting board. You will finish cooking it just before serving.
Now prepare the salad. Rinse off the lettuce leaves. Slice into fine shreds. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Peel the shallot and mince finely. Add to the bowl.
Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems. When you have about half a cup of leaves, add to the bowl. Strip about 12 mint leaves from the stalks. Snip finely. Add to the bowl.
Cut a 2-inch (5 cm) piece from the bottom of the lemongrass. Remove the tough outer leaves. When you reach the tender center, slice very finely. Add to the bowl.
Cut the spicy pepper in half. Remove the seeds. Slice very finely. Add as much to the bowl as you think the people at your table will appreciate. If you don’t use the whole pepper, you can bring the extra to the table for those who may want more heat.
Now prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lime, 1 tbsp. nuoc mam, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. sriracha sauce. Taste. The flavors should be balanced — sour, salty, sweet and spicy. If the balance is off, add more of one or more ingredients.
About 15 minutes before you plan to serve the salad, return the duck to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for five minutes more per side.
Remove the duck to the cutting board. Slice in half crosswise. If the duck is too rare for your liking, return to the skillet and cook a few minutes more.
When the duck is done to your liking, slice it thinly.
Now assemble the salad. Distribute the greens over two plates. Arrange the warm duck alongside. Drizzle with the sauce. Add a piece of lime for garnish. Serves two.