This Thai duck salad with French accents is a dish my friends ask for time and again when they come over. It combines Thai flavors — lemongrass, cilantro, Asian fish sauce, lime juice and red pepper — with the supremely French cut of duck known as magret, aka the breast, fat attached. The duck is cooked to a warm rosiness, then sliced and placed over or beside the herbal salad. Add a glass of chilled rosé, and lunch or dinner is ready.
Salade thaïe au magret / Thai duck salad, French style
The inspiration behind this dish is a Thai cookbook given to me by my sister-in-law a few years back: New Thai Food by Martin Boetz, an Australian chef with a passion for Asian cooking. His inventive recipes include many ingredients not easily found in Paris, so I quickly learned to improvise, for example substituting ginger for galangal. It may not be as authentic, but it tasted just fine. Over time, I began to understand the technique for achieving the balanced combination of flavors that defines Thai cooking — salty, sour, sweet and spicy. Then I began to experiment.
One of my first attempts was to use magret de canard instead of beef in a Thai salad loosely based on a recipe by Martin Boetz. I tried it out on my daughter, who loved it. We added some rice on the side to create a more substantial meal. Since then, I’ve been making this salad regularly when guests come by. It is a lovely warm-weather dish, and now that we’re nearing midsummer this is a perfect time of year to try it out.
Magret de canard is omnipresent in France, where ducks are raised in abundance in the southwest. The breast has the advantage over whole duck of being quick to cook and easy to slice. If whole duck breast is not available where you live, it may be ordered online. I’ve included some sources in the recipe.
Meantime the news from Paris is good. Our nighttime curfew was moved back this week from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and the city is finally starting to feel normal, with sidewalk tables full of outdoor diners and happy sounds filling the air. In a few weeks the curfew will be lifted altogether if all goes according to plan. And there’s even talk of lifting the mandatory outdoor mask requirement that has been in effect since last autumn.
I don’t know about you, but this everyday French chef plans on spending less time in the kitchen in the weeks ahead. Last night, for the first time in months, I had a leisurely dinner out and made it home just as the last rays of light were fading, around 10:30. But who can afford to go out every night? So, as ever, my message to you is…