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Green Bean Salad with Crispy Duck

Sorry that we’ve been MIA. My cousin got married this weekend (Congrats, Peter and Holly!!) so we’ve been busy with travel and seeing family. We’ll have a few local Minnesota posts this week – we’re going to a local food restaurant in Minneapolis tonight and hopefully picking some chokecherries at the cabin in a couple of days. First, a salad that we made last week that blew us away.

I found this recipe in the New York Times about a year ago, but never got around to making it. Every time I flipped through my recipes,though, it caught my eye, so I finally pulled it out and put it on the list. We made a few of our standard tweaks – doubling the veggies and streamlining some of the prep – and then devoured it. There are enough green beans to make it feel like a salad, but the duck and honeyed almonds make it a treat.

If you’re afraid of the thick layer of fat on the duck, you can trim it off after you cook it, if you absolutely have to. Just don’t cut it off before it’s cooked, because it bastes the meat and is used in the dressing. I think you should live a little and eat the fat. Then go for a run or haul some food home from the farmer’s market. :)

Green Bean Salad with Crispy Duck
Serves 4

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
1 1/2 tsp Honey Tremblay Apiaries *
Small pinch Salt
1/2 cup Slivered almonds
1 TBsp Brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds Mixed green beans We used about half Romano and half purple pole beans Berried Treasures and Norwich Meadows Farm *
2 Duck breasts 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, total Crescent Duck Farm (local, but not from the Greenmarket)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Chili powder
1/2 tsp Black pepper Freshly ground
1/2 tsp Ground cumin
1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
2 TBsp + 1 tsp Olive oil
1 clove Garlic Keith’s Farm *
2 TBsp Lime juice Freshly squeezed, if you can
Several handfuls Watercress Northshire Farm *


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can try heavily greasing the baking sheet, but I’m not taking responsibility for anything sticking to it.
  2. Microwave the honey for 10-20 seconds in a glass or ceramic bowl until it is very runny.
  3. Add the small pinch of salt and almonds and mix until coated. Add the brown sugar and toss to coat the almonds.
  4. Spread the almonds in a single layer on the baking sheet and cook bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until dark golden brown. Stir about halfway through and check on them before you think you need to. They have a tendency to go from perfect to burned in a flash. Let them cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

  5. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the salt, chili powder, black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon.
  7. Put a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) on the stove and add 1 tsp of olive oil. Don’t turn on the stove. This is just to get you set up so that you don’t have to use your duck-y hands to get out the pan.
  8. Score the duck fat in a crosshatch pattern. Try to just cut the fat, not the meat, but don’t get too fussy. I definitely cut into the meat and it still tasted great.

  9. Rub the salt mixture all over the duck, really working it into the fat.

  10. Turn the stove to medium-low and let the pan heat for a minute or so, until you can feel the heat with your hand a couple of inches off the surface.
  11. Put the duck in the pan, fat side down. Sear for about 10 minutes without moving. In the words of my culinary/science geek hero, Alton Brown, just walk away! If it smells like burning, turn the heat down a little. At the end, say around minute 8, you can take a peek. If it looks nice and dark brown, flip it over. If not, let it cook for a few more minutes. Cook on the other side for just a minute.
  12. While the duck cooks on the first side, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Add a good pinch of salt. Set out a bowl of cold water and float an ice pack in it. If you keep ice in your freezer, you can use 10 or so ice cubes instead of the ice pack, but we rarely have ice hanging around.
  13. While the water is heating up, snap the ends off the green beans. You can cut off the ends, too, if you’d rather. Snap/cut any in half that are longer than you’d like in your salad.
  14. Once the water is boiling, drop about half the beans in and let them cook for 2 minutes (thin beans) to 4 minutes (thick beans). After the allotted time, fish the beans out with a slotted spoon or tongs and drop them into the bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking, so that you have bright green, crisp tender beans. Repeat with the rest of the beans.
  15. Once the duck has cooked in the second side for one minute, put it in the oven (on the same pan) and cook for about 4 more minutes. The USDA recommends cooking duck to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, so now is a good time to get our your probe thermometerif you have one. Take the duck out of the oven and let it rest.

  16. While the duck is in the oven, smush up the garlic until it forms a paste. You can use a pinch of salt to make this easier. Either a mortar and pestle or the side of a knife work pretty well. You do this to avoid big chunks of garlic in the salad. Put the garlic paste in a large bowl and add the lime juice. Whisk in the remaining 2 TBsp of olive oil.
  17. Add the green beans and watercress to the large bowl and toss to coat with the lime-garlic dressing.
  18. Cut the two duck breasts apart and slice each into about 8 diagonal slices.

  19. Put a pile of green beans and watercress on each plate. Top it with 4 slices of duck and a shower of honeyed almonds (break up any big chunks). Eat!

This salad keeps well for at least a day. I didn’t heat up the duck at all when I ate it for lunch the next day…just let it sit out for a bit so that it wasn’t refrigerator-cold. Erik microwaved the duck for 30 or 40 seconds before putting it all together. We were both pleased with our techniques.

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