Drawing on some technique from Mexico and some flavours from Hong Kong, these duck tortilla wraps are as bold as they are complex.
Tortillas are a thin unleavened flatbread originating in Central America. Originally made with ground corn, wheat flour usage became widespread after the arrival of Europeans. Tortillas are best known for their role in tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. While you can buy pure corn tortillas, they are a lot harder to procure than wheat flour tortillas, or the corn and wheat tortillas which I used.
I considered calling this dish tacos. Apart from the fact that tortillas are used in the Americas to make tacos by wrapping several ingredients, this recipe has little in common with the more traditional taco. The XO sauce is most certainly not a typical taco ingredient.
XO sauce is a Cantonese condiment originating in Hong Kong in the 1980’s. More a relish than a sauce, it was named after XO cognac, though it doesn’t contain any. In Hong Kong at the time, XO had become a generic term for high quality. This very tasty relish contains dried shrimps and scallops, red chillis, ham, garlic and canola oil. In short, jam packed with umami.
I bought my XO sauce from a local Cantonese restaurant. You will be able to find it at an Asian store. Or you could make your own.
For the duck meat in these duck tortilla wraps, I bought 2 duck breasts and cooked them using the sous vide method (1 hour 30 minutes at 58 degC), searing the skin before and after, and retaining the rendered duck fat. You could buy a pre roasted duck and use that instead. It would be interesting to compare this dish made with breast meat compared to leg meat, and roasted versus sous vide. Pre-cooked duck can be heavily seasoned. Given the complexity of the XO sauce and pumpkin, the pure duck flavour of these sous vide duck breasts worked very well. Adding a additional heavily seasoned ingredient would interfere with that balance.
Roast pumpkin and white beans
The roast pumpkin and white beans was the foundation of this tortilla wrap. The spices – cumin, paprika, and pepper, brought some complexity to the sweetness of the pumpkin. The white kidney beans (aka cannellini beans) bring something special. It is hard to pin down what it is though – perhaps a nutty creaminess? They also work their magic in a couple of other favorite recipes: this roasted fennel, cauliflower, and cannellini bean soup, and this chicken breast on a white bean puree.
Duck, roast pumpkin and bean tortillas. XO sauce.
- 1 butternut pumpkin 1kg
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Duck fat rendered from the duck breasts. Or olive oil if using pre-roasted duck.
- 1 400 g can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 2 duck breasts skin on
- 8 to tortillas corn tortillas preferred, corn and wheat flour also very good
- Arugula aka rocket. Or simply shredded lettuce leaves will work too
- 4 Tbsp XO sauce
- Score the duck skin diagonally at 5-10mm intervals
- In a cold heavy pan, preferably a cast iron skillet, lay the duck breast skin down.
- Put the skillet over a medium-low heat. After a few minutes you will start to see fat rendering from the duck.
- Continue cooking until the skin is a light gold colour. We are going to brown it again, so don’t go too far. Should have accumulated 3-5 Tbsp duck fat. Keep that for roasting the pumpkin.
- Allow the duck breasts to cool (while preparing the pumpkin).
- Add a sprinkle of salt to each breast and put into individual sous vide bags.
- Remove the air and seal with a vacuum sealer, or the immersion method.
- Sous vide for 1 hour 30 minutes at 58 degC.
- Plunge the bags into cold water until cool enough to handle.
- Bring the skillet to a medium heat.
- Lay the duck breasts in the skillet again skin side down and sear until golden brown.
- Allow to cool and rest for 5 minutes.
- Lay skin side down on a cutting board and slice into thin slices.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degC.
- Cut, de-seed, remove skin, and dice the pumpkin into roughly 15x15mm pieces.
- Spread the pumpkin pieces on a baking tray. Drizzle with duck fat. Sprinkle over the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Roast for 50-60 minutes, tossing half way through, until getting caramelised crispy edges.
- Drain on paper towels.
- In a large bowl gently stir together the white beans and roasted pumpkin. It doesn’t matter if the pumpkin breaks up a bit.
- Bring a skillet up to a medium heat and smear with some vegetable oil.
- Add a tortilla and cook until starting to brown. Turn over and do the same on the other side.
- Repeat for each tortilla.
- Spoon on some pumpkin and bean mixture.
- Add some slices of duck.
- Spoon on some XO sauce.
- Add some arugula leaves.
- Serve. Guests should roll up the tortilla and eat.