Vol 6 No. 23 - March 1, 2006

Duck, in all its splendor... made easy

PHOTO: Roasted duck salad with citrus-bacon and kumquat vinaigrette

By Liza Morrow

A new salad has been sighted, run aground in Anna Maria on tender spinach, dressed in kumquat vinaigrette in our beautiful little Island restaurant, The Beach Bistro. It is the slow-roasted, tender and succulent duck, and diners say it represents the evolutionary turn in Island dining, until 20 years ago best known for lumbering creatures like the casual deep-fried grouper and ubiquitous Caesar salad.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro’s owner, spent years in the finest kitchens and dining rooms of New Orleans before striking out on his own and opening Beach Bistro in November 1985. The duck salad dish is his own creation, derived from some of those years spent in Arnaud’s, the temple of haute cuisine in New Orleans.

Whatever its origins, it works. The duck, rubbed with fresh basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon and rosemary, is doused with a squeeze of fresh orange juice and oven roasted for hours. The meat is then pulled from the bone and diced into small squares. Meanwhile smoky bacon is sautéed. Brandy and triple sec are stirred in and flambéed a moment before a bit of orange zest, more fresh orange juice and a couple tablespoons of kumquat preserves are stirred in. The duck meat is added and the vinaigrette is then reduced until there is a perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. Spinach, sliced Granny Smith apples and mango slices round out the textures while the sweet citrus fruits ground the flavors. The duck meat is moist and meaty but lean and the exotic kumquat renders the flavor intriguing - a familiar taste in an unfamiliar setting. It is a quiet triumph of a dish.

Nor is it the only one. Mr. Murphy, a Canadian-born attorney turned Floridian restaurateur, obviously has a well-developed flavor sense. However, he gives credit to his wait staff and chefs for the conception of his menu. From bouillabaisse to lobster tails to lamb chops, the Beach Bistro serves modern Louisiana and Gulf Coast cookery with unabashedly hearty portions and whimsical, delicious flourishes in the cozy rooms of a cheerful beach cottage.

Isn’t it one of life’s extraordinary mysteries why food tastes so in much better at the beach? Maybe it’s the sky slathered with a buttery yellow sun or speckled with glistening stars, the appetizing salty breezes. Maybe the song and rhythm of the Gulf waves or the fact that no one minds if you track in a bit of sand on your high heels. Whatever it is, it is a truth, and one that the earthy, witty and totally passionate Mr. Murphy is able to celebrate and elevate.

Roasted duck salad with citrus-bacon and kumquat vinaigrette
One of the major problems with most duck available today is that it has enormous quantities of fat and if not cooked properly will come out very greasy. Many of us fuss about how time consuming it is to cook duck. However, Mr. Tucker, a patron of Beach Bistro and a friend of Sean Murphy, is also a part-time Anna Maria resident. He is from the Maple Leafs Farms. The family owned Maple Leaf Farms and now sells fully cooked duckling at the Holmes Beach Publix. That made things easy!
3 lb. bacon (I know that sounds like a lot but the fat is poured off)
1 pint brandy
1 cup Triple Sec
Zest of 2 oranges
2 c. orange juice
4 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. kumquat preserve
1 lb. baby spinach
1/2 lb. pulled roasted duck meat
1 sliced Granny Smith apple
!/2 sliced mango

In a heavy-duty sauté pan, render the bacon over medium heat. When bacon is crisp, drain off the fat and allow the bacon to cool. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and Triple Sec and flambé briefly. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add crisp bacon and duck meat. Toss baby spinach, sliced Granny Smith apples and mango slices with the warm dressing and serve.
Serves 8


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