For some reason, while everything else in the stone-fruit department has been gone for a while already, apricots have been available for a really, really long time this year, until about 2 or 3 weeks ago, in fact. The problem with these freaky late stone fruit? They’re… tart, to say the least. Pretty much inedible in a raw state to be honest. The good side of the deal? I’ve got no qualms about throwing them into the pan whatsoever~! That’s the perfect(-ly late!) opportunity to cook up one of my favorite end-of-summer dishes and share it with you guys.
This one actually works with all types of stone fruit since basically all of them have a secret love affair with crispy fried and spicy ducks and, unless you’re like me and prefer to eat perfectly ripe fruit just as they are, it also works with all stages of ripeness up until a point where they would simply fall apart in the pan. My favorite picks for this dish are apricots or nectarines while Hubby’s rooting for plums in all shapes and sizes. No matter which particular fruit I’m going with though, I usually pick the ones in a (very) slightly underripe stage because I absolutely love their transformation from a bit bland and sour to full fruity sweetness in the pan. So, go with whatever you like best, so far I haven’t encountered a combo that didn’t work~! The recipe itself stays the same, so here we go, dinner for 2~!
The Crispy Harissa-Duck
1 Large Duck Breast of about 350-400g
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2-3 Tsp of Harissa Paste
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
1 Sprig of Thyme or Rosemary
1 Strip of Lemon Peel
1) Pick up a very sharp knife and carefully crisscross-slice through the skin – but not into the meat beneath! – until the entire surface is sporting a pretty diamond-shape pattern.
2) Dust it with a very generous pinch of salt and gently rub the salt into the cuts to help the skin along its crisping-up business.
3) Fire up a heavy-based pan on high heat and place the duck, skinside down, in the pan while it’s still cold.
4) Rub the meat side with the Harissa.
5) Once the duck starts giving off distinct sizzling noises and you can see the fat slowly oozing out of the skin, pop in the clove of garlic, the lemon peel and the herb of your choice.
6) Give the pan a gentle shake to prevent the skin from sticking to the bottom and to distribute the fat a little bit, then leave the pan and its contents to their own devices for a bit.
7) After 7 mins, flip the duck onto the meaty side and drizzle the skinside with the Maple Syrup.
8) Give the harissa-rubbed, meaty side 1 min to heat up, then start tilting and turning it so all “sides” of the un-covered duck breast get a round in the heat.
9) All in all, about 3 mins should be enough for the duck to reach its perfect pre-rosé stage.
10) A period of rest, tightly tucked in under a blanket of aluminum foil for 5 mins, will take care of the last stretch of the “cooking” bit.
11) While the duck is resting, turn the heat below the duck-pan to medium, it’s time for the fruity part of the deal! Just a word of warning: everything from this point on rolls out in one go, so make sure you have your ingredients prepped and in easy reach.
12) Just in case there’s too much duck fat for your personal comfort left in the pan, keep about 2 tbsp (really, make sure you have some of it left, it’s going to be part of your dressing!) and the herbs (unless they caught an overdose of uh… roasting aromas? somewhere down the line) and soak up the rest with a paper towel before discarding it.
The Apricot & Bean Salad
200g String Beans, blanched and diagonally cut into 2cm bites
6 Apricots, halved and pitted – if they’re out of season, go with plums or any other type of stone fruit before resorting to tinned/preserved/frozen apricots, they’ll just fall apart in the pan. If you have to go with that last resort, skip the pan-part and adjust the dressing instead to make them shine~
100g Mixed Lettuce Leaves
2 Leafy Sprigs of Mint, leaves picked and sliced into thin ribbons
2-3 Tbsp Walnuts, coarsely chopped
A few sprinkles of Dry Harissa – clicky here for my Harissa Spice Blend recipe
1) Divide the greens and mint ribbons onto 2 plates
2) Pop the apricots into the pan still containing the leftover juices from the duck-experience and dust them with a dash or two of Harissa.
3) The time they’ll need in the pan depends on their pre-pan ripeness – keep them in until they’re caramellized and deliciously tender.
4) Remove the apricots, sprinkle them with the walnuts and set them aside for the time being
5) Turn the heat off, remove the herb sprig, garlic and lemon peel if you haven’t done so already, and add the beans to the pan.
The Sherry Vinegar & Mustard Dressing
3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
2 heaped Tbsp Coarse Mustard
The remains of the Duck and the Apricots being sizzled in your pan
Salt & Pepper
Opt: a few drops of Maple Syrup to taste – wait until the zing of the Sherry Vinegar has mellowed down in the residual heat of the pan
1) Place the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and add a generous pinch of salt and a good crack of black pepper.
2) Whisk the lot until they’re well combined, then douse the beans sitting in the pan with the dressing.
3) Flip the contents of your pan until the beans are evenly coated, then allow the residual heat to work its magic for about 2 mins.
4) Have a taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning with Maple Syrup, salt and pepper.
Assembling the Dish
1) Uncover the duck and slice it into thin, comfortably biteable slices.
2) Retrieve your leafy plates and distribute the bean & dressing mixture between them.
3) Arrange the duck slices on top of the piles and dot the I with the apricots.
4) If there’s any liquid remaining in the pan, drizzle the servings with it just before going to town with a fork~!