Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The duck that keeps on giving

I keep having the same pesky kitchen problem. What is it? What is causing me to lie awake at night, tossing and turning? Two words: duck confit. A fridge that lately has been full of duck legs ever since I made a big batch of confit the other week (using this recipe). Man, is my life hard or what? I did a terrific confit and fava pasta the other night. I still had a couple of legs left and had to do something with them, if only so I could sleep at night. So I stole some ideas from epicurious, did a little riffing, and came up with a savory bit of salad deliciousness that would be a great first course at a dinner party. This was one of those fast, easy, and healthy (as long as you don't eat too much fatty-crispy duck skin, which w didn't but I of course did) salads that just felt good to eat. The original recipe called for pears, but this is early season for those. There were ripe white nectarines in abundance at the market and their juicy sweetness set off the other ingredients perfectly, and the browned/fried pecans added a nice nutty complexity. epicurious also called for blue cheese crumbles. Why do they always do that? Usually you don't need them. In this salad it was completely unnecessary, and would have been way too strong for the duck. It turned into a pretty damn impressive salad.The downside: now my fridge is devoid of duck, so back to Nicky USA I go!
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Duck Confit and White Nectarine Salad
adapted from epicurious
serves 4-6

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 confit duck legs
3 firm-ripe white nectarines
8 cups mixed greens, such as frisée (French curly endive), tender watercress sprigs, and baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 225°F.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified, then whisk in shallot.
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook pecans, stirring, until golden brown. Transfer nuts with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, then season with salt.

Heat skillet with any oil remaining in it over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown duck on all sides until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and tear meat into bite-size pieces and discard bones. Keep duck warm, covered, on a baking sheet in oven.

Slice nectarine into thin wedges. Add nectarines, greens, duck, and nuts to dressing with salt and pepper to taste, then toss gently to combine.

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