I’m well aware that ‘salad’ is perhaps not one of the first things that you crave on a cold January day. Dark wintery days are for hearty stews, steaming soups, indulgent desserts and filling casseroles, am I right? Right. Nonetheless, I still believe that eating salads doesn’t really have to end when summer does.
An autumnal, or winter salad simply needs a little bit of substance, color, and perhaps some slightly warm elements… like a hefty piece of pan-seared meat, for example. In this salad, a juicy pan-seared duck breast rests on top of a colorful bed of red chicory, bright-green watercress and dark, shiny blackberries. It makes for a great lunch for two, or is great served alongside other dishes to brighten up your winter meals. This colorful salad surely brightens up a gloomy winter day (and your mood!).
It’s not unusual for duck to be paired with fruit – think ‘duck a l’Orange’, or roast duck with plum sauce – and I can’t really think of any fruit it wouldn’t combine well with. For this salad, I’ve chosen to pair the duck breast with blackberries. Since blackberries are a little sweet and acidic, they not only combine perfectly with the rich slightly-gamey duck meat, but with the slightly bitter red chicory and the peppery watercress as well. Can’t find blackberries? Use whichever fruit that is available and in season where you are; apart from the more common oranges and plums, I believe persimmons, tangerines, pomegranate, or even grapefruits go well with duck too!
Tip #1: In order to get a nice crispy skin on your duck breast, you need to render out the layer of fat that lays underneath. To give your duck breast enough time to render out the fat and to crisp up the skin without drying out and overcooking the rest of the meat, start it off skin side down in an initially cold frying pan.
Tip #2: You can add a handful of cooked couscous, pasta, or quinoa to make this salad even more substantial.
Duck Breast Salad with Red Chicory, Watercress and Blackberries
- 1 large duck breast
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 150g red chicory
- 60g watercress
- 100g blackberries
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
Method*Please note that the 'preparation time' listed does not include letting the duck come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Prep the duck breast: take the duck breast from the fridge about 30 minutes before you are planning to cook. Score the duck skin and fat when the duck is cold from the fridge, but don’t cut too deep and try not to cut into the meat. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin side and a little onto the meat side. Let the duck breast come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the dressing: Add half of the blackberries to a bowl and mash with a fork. To the same bowl, add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ tablespoon of honey, a pinch of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Cook the duck breast: When the duck has come to room temperature, place the it skin side down in a cold frying pan (without oil) and turn the heat to medium. Cook the duck breast on the skin side without touching it until the fat renders down and the skin becomes golden brown and crispy for about 5 - 6 minutes. Turn the breast and cook for another 4 - 5 minutes for medium (depending on the thickness), or a bit less for medium-rare. When the meat is cooked, take it from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing it.
- Assemble the salad: Take the leaves from the chicory and cut them in half lengthwise if they are large. Wash the watercress. Add all vegetables to a bowl and toss with half of the dressing. Arrange dressed cress and chicory leaves on a plate, or large serving dish. When the meat has had time to rest, thinly slice the duck breast. Arrange slices of meat over the vegetables. Finally, scatter the remaining blackberries over the salad and drizzle on the remaining dressing.