Seared Duck Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

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I don’t know when duck salad became a staple of my kitchen repertoire, but I know why it did. Duck breast—especially when cooked so that its fat renders and its skin crisps—is the perfect weekday indulgence. This salad is also remarkably flexible; here, I serve the duck on spinach and pair it with wine-dark cherries, toasted walnuts, and seared onion, but you can also get creative with the results of a fridge forage. A basic vinaigrette, brightened here with orange juice, has enough acid to counterbalance the duck’s fattiness and tie it all together.




PAIR WITH A dark, malty wheat beer. This dish brings a range of deep, rich
flavours, from the browned onions and gamy duck to the mouth-staining cherries. Look for a beer with complementary richness and profundity, one that supplies its own decadence—a boozy wheat wine, say.

THREE BEERS TO TRY Brouwerij De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte (Belgium); Erdinger Dunkel (Germany); Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale (US)


2 duck breasts (about 6oz/170g each)

1½ tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 cup (100g) walnut halves

7oz (200g) cherries, pitted (stoned) and halved

3½ oz (100g) baby-leaf spinach

Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves,to garnish


For the Orange Vinaigrette

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1½ tbsps red wine vinegar

2½ tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Zest of 1 orange

Large pinch of flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black


1. Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator about 20–30 minutes before cooking and pat dry with paper towels. Using a very sharp knife, cut a crosshatch pattern through the skin and fat layer on each breast, being careful not to slice into the meat below; this will help the fat render as it cooks. Season both sides generously with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.


2. Add the olive oil to a large skillet (frying pan) and place over high heat. Add the onion once the oil is hot, but not smoking, and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften. Spread the onion in a thin layer and cook, without disturbing, for a further 2–3 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown. Flip over and cook on the other side for several more minutes until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.


3. Toast the walnuts in a small skillet (frying pan) over medium heat for about
5–7 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.


4. Just before you plan to cook the duck breasts, whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl until well emulsified, and set aside.


5. Place the large skillet you used for the onion over high heat. When very hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook for 6 minutes, or until the skin has crisped and turned golden brown, and a great deal of fat has rendered out. As you cook, tilt the skillet frequently and use a small spoon to collect the rendered fat that pools at the bottom (save the fat in a small bowl, or discard). Press fi rmly on each breast with the back of a spoon to help render as much fat as possible—this results in a crisper skin.


6. Flip the breasts over and cook for a further 3–4 minutes, depending on how well done you like your duck. Rotate the breasts frequently, so they cook evenly; you may want to use tongs to ensure they’re evenly browned on all sides. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the breasts to a cutting board. Let rest for 5–10 minutes.


7. Meanwhile, construct the rest of the salad. Add the onion, walnuts, cherries, and spinach to a large bowl, pour over the dressing, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Divide the salad between two plates.


8. Slice the duck breasts thinly and arrange across the salads. Garnish with the thyme leaves and serve immediately.


For more recipes and beer parings, check out The Beer Lover's Table by Claire Bullen and Jen Ferguson. To get more great blog posts like this one - direct to your inbox – be sure to sign up to our mailing list here!