Warm Duck and Lentil Salad

I’m not even going to pretend that this is healthy, although honestly, it could be worse. Once you try it, you won’t care in the slightest. Picnics, family BBQs, feeding whosoever is in your bubble, or dropping it off to those with whom you cannot break bread at present. This is hearty, rich, decadent and yet still filled with healthful legumes. I won’t say it’s uncomplicated either—it’s full of several little steps­, which can be broken up and tackled in stages. 

Why is this a salad, rather than a warm side dish? Mainly because I use a vinaigrette to dress the lentils. But instead of oil, duck fat is warmed up and used along with the reduced pan juices. I got this idea from the brilliant Brad Long, chef and owner of Café Belong and Belong Catering, and sometimes star of the Food Network smash hit Restaurant Makeover. His Brown Butter Vinaigrette, born out of necessity, provided me with the understanding that different types of fat can stand in for oil in a salad dressing. Duck fat is delectable in any recipe. Here it is paired with the vinegar from my Smoky Onion Pickles, and the pickled onions, paired with a sweet mustard. Fresh tarragon makes this feel like the most French thing you’ll eat all summer, and well into the fall.

I made use of pre-made duck confit, but roast duck legs would work perfectly here. As long as the skin is crisped and thrown in with the shredded meat, you should have plenty of hearty flavour to boost your lentils, with or without pan juices. 

The other cool trick I learned this week is that sous vide lentils are their own thing entirely. I usually put puy lentils in the pressure cooker, not caring if some become mushy. Preferring it in fact, for lentil and potato soup. I’ve tried cooking them carefully on the stovetop to preserve them in distinct and unbroken form, only to find that the age of the lentils can create wildly varying results. And they require an exceedingly watchful eye. Sous vide lentils, on the other hand, can be left for hours without any fear of disintegration, and leaving you free to turn your attention to other matters. You can cook them in a Ziplock bag, but I cooked them in mason jars.

This salad can be easily doubled for a crowd. Makes a nice side dish or a main with a wholegrain sourdough and an endive salad. 

Warm Duck and Lentil Salad

Hearty, rich, decadent and yet still filled with healthful lentils, this salad uses pickled onions and crispy duck for a hefty wallop of umami.
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: #duck, #lentils, #salad
Servings: 8 people

Equipment

  • Sous vide device (optional)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup puy or beluga lentils
  • 2 ½ cups water 
  • 2-4 fresh bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp sea salt 
  • 1 whole leg of duck confit (or 2 roast duck legs)
  • 1 cup tarragon, washed and chopped 
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup smoky onion pickles 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp salted capers
  • ½ cup vinegar (from the onion pickles, or white wine or champagne vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard  
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup duck fat, warmed
  • ¼ cup pan juices 
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 pats duck fois gras (optional)

Instructions

  • Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve, then place them in jars or bags with water, bay leaves and salt. Set sous vide devise to 190ºF (87ºC) and cook for 90 minutes, or up to 3 hours. Open and let cool. Drain and set aside. 
  • Alternatively, bring lentils, salt, bay leaves to a boil in 4 cups of water, then simmer until tender, 25-30 minutes.
  • Place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350ºF for 12-15 minutes. Let cool. Rub off most of the skins, then chop roughly with a knife or pulse in a food processor until roughly ground. Set aside.
  • Remove the duck from its bag, pouring the juices into a small pan. Bring juices to a boil, then reduce over medium heat until you have about ¼ cup. 
  • Reheat duck in a cast iron frying pan, browning and crisping the skin. Remove the skin and crisp it on all sides. Melt any fat under the skin. Reserve ½ cup of the fat.
  • Remove duck to a cutting board, let cool slightly. Shred with hands. 
  • Chop onion pickles (use fresh mild onions or shallots if you don’t have the onion pickles) into a fine mince. Chop tarragon and parsley, then throw all three into a bowl with the lentils. 
  • Make the vinaigrette: put the vinegar, garlic cloves, capers, mustard, salt and pepper together in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pour over the lentils, onions and herbs. Warm up the duck fat in the pan. Toss together thoroughly. 
  • Add half of the hazelnuts and the duck meat and skin, and chopped fois gras, if using, and toss again. Top with remaining hazelnuts and a few sprigs of tarragon. 

Notes

You can use your own sous vide duck, buy it, or roast a couple of duck legs to use instead. 
If you happen to find duck foes gras, adding it in will take this dish from decadent to doubly delicious. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Potage Jacqueline

There is something so delightfully nostalgic about an old cookbook. Once beloved, long since fallen out of fashion, then dusted off and revived once more. Like finding your childhood teddy bear or an old photo you didn’t realize you’d kept.

I don’t generally go in for nostalgia. It’s usually only fun for a brief moment; a warm memory, a resurgence of feeling, a fuzzy image—suddenly ungraspable and empty, all-too-quickly receding again into the past. The present comes quickly knocking again to remind you of what’s what.

Not so with old cookbooks. It’s been twenty years at least, but I knew exactly where to find New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant in my library, and exactly which page to turn to.

I learned to cook from Moosewood cookbooks. As a young West Coast vegetarian whose eating habits offended my family of hunters, I was thrilled to learn that books and restaurants and a whole food culture was geared to people like me, because there was a whole movement of people like me. I am no longer vegetarian, due to the pressure of feeding meat-lovers in my house, but I often eat vegan cuisine when I’m home alone. It’s better for animals, the planet and my health. And more vegetables can never be a bad thing.

This is a non-vegetarian take on a vegetarian soup that I made once for my friend Jacqueline. She was delighted to have a soup bearing her name. I’ve upped the cream and switched out the water for chicken stock. Both tweaks make for a richer soup, but honestly, water or veggie stock will do just fine. I’ve upped the ginger, too, but trust me, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a very balanced, still a very French-seeming soup, perfect for transition weather. Gently from summer to fall we go, back and forth, then and now. 

The other tweak was the lemon. The original recipe called for a floating lemon slice in the soup, which is a beautiful garnish, but it also was essential to the flavour, but a very uneven delivery method. I didn’t want the acid of lemon juice, and I didn’t want to boil the lemon zest, which would make the soup unbearably bitter. So, I grated so zest—a fair bit—to be blended in with the cream. It makes the sweet potato soup tastier and less insistently healthful.

If you can find fresh bay leaf, please do use it—dried is acceptable but just not the same. Tarragon also makes a lovely garnish. Potage Jacqueline, la deuxième fois.

Potage Jacqueline

A luxurious update of an old Moosewood recipe, sweet potatoes and cream scented with ginger.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, Soup
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: cream of sweet potato, ginger, soup, sweet potato ginger, sweet potato soup, sweet potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 large onions, or 3 small
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups chicken stock 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup fresh whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest 

Instructions

  • Melt butter in oil over medium low heat. Sauté onions slowly until they are translucent. Add ginger and celery, stirring until celery is soft. 
  • Add chopped sweet potatoes, salt, bay leaf, white pepper and chicken stock. If you have the leaves from the celery, throw that in too. If the stock doesn’t quite cover the potatoes, don’t worry, they will submerge as they cook. You want them to be almost covered by liquid, not quite. Add more stock or water as needed, leaving about half an inch of potatoes sticking out. 
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are thoroughly softened. Let cool a little to make the soup easier to handle. Remove bay leaves and celery leaves, if using. 
  • Blend soup with cream and lemon zest on high until perfectly smooth, about 2 minutes. Reheat gently on the stovetop. Serve with a slice of lemon and some chopped tarragon, if desired.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!