Thursday, November 13, 2008

a cold-weather salad

I tend to think of main-dish salads as hot weather food. Fall is for soups, and stews, and warm roasted things. But like a lot of people, all this hearty eating eventually makes me feel a little heavy. And bulky sweaters can only conceal so much, you know. So I revisit salad. A nice big plate of mixed greens is great, but when you add a few seasonal ingredients (roasted squash, nuts, apples, braised meat) you've got a dinner worthy of company and something easy enough to throw together on any weeknight.

A few weekends ago, I cobbled together a roasted duck salad inspired by a recent visit to Northeast Kingdom, a super charming restaurant in Brooklyn. I didn't get the recipe from the chef, but I mentally cataloged all of the components (shredded duck, pomegranate seeds, chopped dates, parsley) then tried to reproduce it at home. I made a few changes, adding oranges and pistachios and omitting the dates. Although the restaurant's version had more of a spicy sweetness, my orange zest-infused dressing paired well with the duck. Speaking of which, this was my first time cooking duck. I'm not sure why I put it off for so long. I guess duck always sounded complicated and greasy, but I can happily report it was no more time consuming or difficult than cooking chicken or turkey. If you're still duck-shy, you could substitute slices of roasted squash, grilled steak or chicken.

Roasted duck salad
(Serves about 4 people)

For the salad:
2 boneless duck breasts, skin on
5 oz. baby greens (I used Earthbound Farm's herb mix, which was nice)
2 heads endive, sliced
2 oranges, segmented
1 handful pomegranate seeds
1 handful pistachio seeds, shelled
salt and pepper
olive oil

For the dressing:
1 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 1/2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the duck breasts on a foil-lined cookie sheet, skin side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the duck. The juices should run clear when the center of each breast is with a knife. Remove from the oven, wrap the duck in the foil, and let it rest for about 10 minutes to seal in the juices. Unwrap the duck (watch out for the hot steam), then remove the skin and set it aside. Using a serrated knife, slice the duck and skin thinly and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until combined. If you want to make the dressing a bit richer, add a spoonful or two of the pan juices from the roast duck. Yum. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, endive, and fruit. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss until combined. Plate the salad and arrange the duck slices on top. Sprinkle with pistachios and sliced duck skin.

Serve with:
Roasted acorn squash (click, then scroll down for the recipe)
Pumpkin custard


Megan and Butch! said...

Duck is very easy to cook and integrates beautifully into salads. It's a natural because vinaigrette tempers the unctuousness of the meat.
I think many Americans are frightened of it because when we were growing up the only people we saw cooking it were scary French chefs on TV and Cantonese cooks at the local fried rice place (remember Dixon Li's in West Palm?)
When I was living in Prague I once cooked a gigantic Thanksgiving feast for a mixture of Americans, Canadians, and Brits. The Czechs don't eat too much turkey, so I substituted six ducks and cooked them in batches in my oven, basting them with a mixture of orange juice and pan drippings. They were delicious.

Lisa said...

Okay, I've decided: you will come make duck in our apartment for Christmas this year. I will provide the egg nog.

Megan and Butch! said...

Oh man, that would be so fun. Spike the egg nog and I'm your girl.

Lisa said...

Done and done.

Daniel said...

While you two are making Christmas plans, I've been trying to come up with a funny post involving the phrase "complicated and greasy" but nothing is coming to me! I'm going to open this up to the floor.

Anonymous said...

Dixon Li was simply greasy.

Once I made a Julia Child's recipe for duck which entailed removing it from the oven half cooked and cutting off the wings and legs and roasting them at a different temperature. Cutting a half cooked duck was so bloody and disgusting. Those French chefs were scary.

Lisa said...

That does sound kind of frightening--and not to dis Julia, but unnecessary!


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