Duck salad has long been one of my go-to speedy dinners. Typically, I pair pan-fried duck breast with spinach, caramelised onions, and cherry tomatoes, but it’s an almost infinitely customisable recipe. In this cold-weather iteration, for instance, I opted instead to use vibrant purple radicchio, blood orange segments, balsamic-roasted shallots, and
lemony sorrel (the latter an early signifier of spring).
What you get is a salad of enormous punch and vigour. The radicchio brings a bass note of bitterness, the blood oranges a dose of acid, the shallots a burnt caramel sweetness and then, of course, the centrepiece duck, crispy of skin and richly gamey. This is no wan, wilting plate of greens, and so it makes sense to pair it with 8 Wired's Saison Sauvin.
This New Zealand saison is a regular in my rotation. Made with, as its name suggests, Nelson Sauvin hops, it's floral and estery on the nose, vinous on the palate and leaves a railing, pithy bitterness in its wake. It’s everything I want from a dinnertime beer: complex enough that you’re tempted to pause after every sip to parse out its tasting notes, but also utterly drinkable. It stands up ably to the salad’s bold flavours, and tastes slightly sweeter besides it.
Just one note of warning: as some industry experts might say, this beer has the potential to be a foamy hello-er, so you may want to open it over the sink and have a glass at the ready!
End-of- Winter Duck, Blood Orange and Radicchio Salad
For the salad:
2 duck breasts
Flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste
4 round shallots
1 Tbs balsamic glaze
1 head of radicchio
20g sorrel leaves (you can substitute watercress or spinach if preferred)
2 blood oranges
For the dressing:
2 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 Tbs blood orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2.5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. First, prep your duck breasts: dry off using paper towels. With a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a crosshatch (without slicing into the meat below); this will help the fat under the skin render out during cooking. Season both sides, generously, with sea salt and black pepper, and set aside, allowing to come to
room temperature if fridge-cold.
Slice your shallots in half, length-wise, and peel. Place cut-sides up on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until softened, fragrant, and starting to caramelise.
Meanwhile, in a small, dry frying pan, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until darkened and fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool. Roughly chop.
Next, prepare the radicchio and blood oranges. Remove any wilty outer leaves from the radicchio, core it, and then roughly chop it into large pieces. Then, supreme your blood oranges: cut off the ends and then slice off the peel and all of the white pith in long strips. Next, carefully slice out each segment, leaving behind any of the tough membrane. If
you're not familiar with the technique, this is a good visual demonstration.
Now, it's time to prepare the duck. Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat until hot. Add the duck breasts skin-side down and cook for approximately 6 minutes; you don't need to add any oil as the fat will render out. As the fat renders, keep a small bowl and a spoon at hand, and spoon out the excess (you can save this for later—it's brilliant on roast potatoes). Check how the skin is doing; once it's deep golden and crisp, flip the breasts over, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
As the duck rests, prepare the dressing: add the ginger, vinegar, blood orange juice, mustard, and olive oil to a small bowl and whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk again.
To serve, slice the duck thinly. On your plates, arrange the radicchio and sorrel. Top with the blood orange segments and walnuts; roughly separate the shallots and scatter across the salad. Arrange your duck slices over the top, and then pour over the dressing. Season to taste with a bit more salt and pepper.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of 8 Wired Saison Sauvin in store or online.