Anatra in salsa (grilled duck with chopped salame, anchovies, garlic and a little vinegar)

This is dish from Veneto. The duck should be whole, roasted and then bathed with a lively garlicky, mildly vinegary sauce. I rarely “do” whole birds and I decided to use (easily available and convenient) duck breasts instead and to cook them a la piastra, i.eon a griddle stone. This is almost a ten minutes dish: little work & high rewards on the taste front. The sauce calls for lardo and chopped soppressa veneta, the typical salame of the part of Northern Italy. In London, it is very difficult to get hold of and I have replaced it with salame Milano, which is not totally dissimilar – Italian food purists scream now, if you wish.
This is a lovely and quick supper dish, which would go perfectly with a mount of soft, buttery polenta. In true Italian style,the sauce amounts to no more than a few, precious tablespoons.

Anatra in salsa (grilled duck with chopped salame, anchovies and garlic)
2 portions

2 large duck breast, skinned and salted beforehand, 300g approx
25g lardo or  unsmoked pancetta or oil or butter
half a clove of garlic
1 sage leaf
1 small sprig rosemary
30g salame Milano, finely chopped
1 large anchovy fillet preserved in oil
2 tablespoons  wine vinegar
a knob of butter

Bring the meat to room temperature, if it was refrigerated.
Heat up your griddle – it must be screaming hot. I tend to give it a good half and hour on medium-low heat. Meanwhile chop together the lard, the garlic, the sage and the rosemary – this is called battuto in Italian culinary terms.
Cook the breast for three or four minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
The sauce: is quickly assembled: place the herby lard, the anchovy and the chopped salame in a heavy frying pan and cook very gently for about ten minutes., stirring well to dissolve the anchovy. Add the vinegar and let it bubble until it is almost evaporated. Move the pan  away from the heat.
Slice the duck by the bias and add it to the sauce.
Return the pan to the heat and toss the duck slices in the garlicky sauce and bring to a lively simmer. That’s it. A little knob of butter added at the end, would add some finesse to this otherwise rather robust dish.
Buon appetito

It is always a good idea to salt meat and fish well beforehand one wants to use them, even days before. I have actually found that pre-salting makes for tastier meat (and fish).
Adding some anchovies to a meat dishes is a typical Italian touch: they bring a nice savoury, umami note (and no, there is no any fish taste at the end)
This treatment would work also with chicken livers and pork escalops



18 thoughts on “Anatra in salsa (grilled duck with chopped salame, anchovies, garlic and a little vinegar)

  1. This makes a lot of sense – most duck recipes pair it with sweet things, which seems just too much and too rich. Duck with orange sauce – yuck.

    With fatty meat of course you can either add sweetness or cut through it with sharpness or bitterness – like serving roast lamb with either redcurrant jelly or mint sauce. In fact, I do lamb with the same ingredients you use here: garlic, anchovy, rosemary.

    I also like essentially replacing the duck fat with lardo and salami fat – bumps up the salt and umami tremendously. In fact I’d forget about the duck, cook the rest, and have it on toast or stirred into pasta. Divine.


    1. nicely observed deb… do u know that in traditional italian cooking there are many dishes that mimic another dish but without the main, generally costly ingredient? for instance u have: vermicelli con le vongole and then u could have vermicelli con lo vongole fujite… which means with “the clams the run away”, i.e. sans clams” :basically it is a pasta dish dressed with oil, chilly, parsely and garlic but without the clams… or u could have La genovese, which is a neapolitan beef and onion stew and u could have La finta genovese,,, the faked genovese, just a delicious caramelized onion sauce… so here it would ne nice, as u suggest, to make the duck in salsa.. without duck, just the sauce….


  2. I rarely cook duck except for celebratory occasions. I wouldn’t dream of attempting to grill the bird for fear of over-cooking it and disappointing a tableful of guests. I was, therefore, a bit hesitant when I saw this post’s title. Seeing your work around, however, makes this dish much more accessible for me, Stefano. THe use of vinegar, too, makes it much more appealing, as well. I’ve a love for vinegar in some dishes from my father. He loved it! Glad, too, that you gave a substitution for the lardo. I cannot find it here — and believe me I’ve tried. I’ve searched high and low for it since my return from Florence in 2014. I was served bruschette topped with thinly sliced lardo and fell in love. Maybe it’s time I renewed the search? 🙂


    1. I am with u, John… overcooking the bird! (and that’s why I have always found much easier to cook a cut-up bird (just thought that actually this good be a good way to go for me too, next time – I have a whole duck in the freezer) ) + the truth is that I also love the convenience of the breasts (or legs, here I can buy also just the legs)
      + lardo: did u try Eeataly? they should have it (at Eataly price, of course 🙂 ) …but I would use anything I can get hold of: ham fat, unsmoked bacon, goose fat + any mild salame, chopped.
      ciao s

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, Eataly. I’ll try there but there’s a secret to shopping our store. Parking costs about $20.00 for the first hour in that neighborhood — but it’s free if you purchase something. So, I always drive and deduct the $20.00 from my Eataly bill. Their prices are more reasonable that way … well … at least for me. My passengers aren’t so lucky. 🙂


  3. What a nice original way to serve duck! To me it seems strange to remove the skin of the duck and in effect replace it with lardo. I can get soppressa in Amsterdam — I remember because I thought it has a surprisingly funny name when I saw it at the Italian deli.


    1. Hi Stefan. Good point, thanks. I used to grill duck with the skin and I then switched to the skinless version because it is much quicker and because I have never eaten the skin. It is true that the skin protects the meat, but I have never noticed any real difference. In this recipe I wanted to “insaporire” (litterally: to make tasty) the duck slices in the lardo: I wanted them to absorb some of it (of course: one could use duck fat). In the original recipe a whole duck, skin on, is roasted and then bathed with the sauce. If u r interested I can send it to u.
      Soppressa in Amsterdam: !! lucky u! Make sure it is soppressa veneta and not the more commonly available Southern Italy soppressa (or soprressata), which would not be suitable here because it is generally hot (piccante). ciao, stefano


        1. ciao stefan, thanks for the tip… yes…. er… it looks a little complicated + I have been toying with the idea of buyng a sousvide (the anova had a good discount few weeks ago), but …bottom line is that I am not a great meat eater … and as for fish and vegetables I have not been entirely convinced (judging from the recipes I have seen on chef steps, serious eats and Modernist C).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Fish sous-vide is outstanding, because it is so easy to overcook otherwise. I prefer to roast most vegetables, but for some like asparagus sous-vide is great. You should check out my blog 🙂


  4. Cannot wait to prepare: living alone with sometimes a friend for lunch can see this rather healthy version of the duck I love but rarely cook a huge success: have never used anchovies or vinegar for that matter in association with the lovely bird! Methinks ‘umami’ is very much the operative word . . .


    1. Hi Eha, give it a try. I have found that duck and goose breasts (as well as pigeon breast) are very handy and useful to produce excellent quick meat dishes. I never use chicken breast because I find it the most boring food in the world (and I am not, in general, a meat eater). Anchovies can be added to very many savory dishes (in tiny quantity): they do boost the umami dimension of any dish. ciao, stef


  5. Sounds delicious. We do occasionally roast a whole duck, mainly to restock our stores of duck fat. But I always find the meat of a roast duck a little dull. This sounds like the perfect answer.


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