When this recipe came to me – in the middle of the night, as they so often do – I originally pictured it with oily, Mediterranean fish like fresh sardines. But then I read about sardines. And evidently even the freshest of them still taste exactly like what they are: sea fish.
Now, I like my fish. And I love my sea. But the thought of eating something so unmistakeably salty and fishy kind of grosses me out. Who knows! Maybe once I sink my fingers into their flaky fish flesh, the skin just perfectly crispy from the grill and doused in fresh lemon, salt and cracked black pepper, I’ll have found my new obsession.
Obviously, I have a love affair with the idea of eating sardines. Especially if they’re atop a mountain of creamy, tomato borlotti beans with crispy bacon, preserved lemon and heaps of fresh herbs like basil, chives and rosemary with some fresh wood-fire baked bread on the side. Be still my beating heart!
But when it comes to actually doing it, I’m not entirely sold on it. I mean, the heads are still attached. And the bones. And ultimately, they (apparently) taste like salt water fishiness.
So, when braced with the ultimate decision to sardine or not sardine, I chose duck breast. The result was a not quite French, not quite Mediterranean dish that made my taste buds the happiest taste buds in all the land. Be sure to pair with a bold, juicy red wine and enjoy the varying textures, flavors and general perfectness of this dish.
I certainly did.
Pan Seared Duck & Oozy Borlotti Bacon'd White Beans
Yield 4 servings
- 4 Duck Breasts, skin on.
- 4 C Fresh (and par-boiled) or Canned (and drained & rinsed) Borlotti Beans
- 4 Strips of Quality Bacon, chopped.
- 1 Spanish Onion, peeled & diced.
- 1 Medium to Large Sized Yellow Potato, diced.
- 2 Large Fresh Garlic Cloves, peeled & finely chopped.
- 1 Rib Celery, sliced.
- 1 Preserved Lemon, chopped.
- Small Palmful oily, black olives, pits removed & chopped.
- 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste.
- 2 C Chicken Stock.
- Handful of Fresh Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Basil & Chives).
- Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.
- Place a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped bacon and allow to cook until crispy, stirring often. Remove bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add onion, celery, potato, woody herbs (Rosemary and Thyme) and a good helping of salt and pepper to bacon fat and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chicken stock and allow to simmer over medium heat. Once the stock has reduced to almost nothing, add a Tbsp or two of duck fat. Allow to cook for a further 3-5 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Toss in the garlic, preserved lemon and olives. Stir well. Massage in the tomato paste. Remove any woody stalks left over by the herbs at this point and remove from heat. Stir in bacon and more delicate herbs such as basil and chives.
- When you add the stock to the onion, potato mixture, place a cast iron pan on another burner over medium-high heat. Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towel and lightly score the skin of the duck in a criss-cross pattern. Be careful not to cut into the meat. This will help the fat render off the duck and leave the skin crispy and the duck meat juicy. Season both sides well with salt and pepper.
- Place the breasts skin side down in the very hot cast iron pan and allow the fat to render off, approx 5-7 minutes. You will need to carefully spoon some of fat out of the pan as duck breasts are incredibly fatty. Reserve that fat to add to your potatoes. Once the skin is crispy and 97% of the fat has cooked off, flip. Cook a further 5 minutes and then remove from heat. Place the breasts on a wire rack, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 5-7 minutes. This will allow the juices to flow back into the meat and leave you with medium cooked breasts. The best way to eat duck. If you want it cooked more or less, adjust the cooking time by a couple of minutes accordingly. Slice and serve with borlotti beans.