In my “former life” as a corporate chef, I was always on the lookout for new main course salads. This one is simply one of the best salads I have ever had the pleasure of making and serving! I have adapted the recipe from Gourmet Magazine. My husband and I used to make our own duck confit every fall following the instructions in “Mastering The Art of French Cooking Volume Two” by J. C. and Simone Beck. I would encourage you to do this if you have the time, it’s so delicious and keeps very well in the fridge covered with duck fat!! Don’t be put off from making duck confit. There are good recipes for much quicker/easier ways to make it or buy all ready made. Back in the day I was unable to buy them ready made…things have changed since then and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it now.
Makes 4 Servings
For The Dressing:
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
5 Tbsp. EVOO
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
Salt & pepper to taste
For the Salad:
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 confit duck legs
2 – 3 firm-ripe pears (preferably red skinned & local in-season)
8 cups mixed greens that includes baby spinach
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 cup Shaved fresh fennel (opt.) but a really nice addition
Preheat oven to 180 F.
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 4 Tbsp. of the oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified, then whisk in the shallot. Set aside until ready to assemble the salads.
Toast the walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, season with a bit of salt. When the skillet has cooled down wipe out any of the nut bits.
Heat the skillet with a tiny bit of oil on moderately med-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown duck on all sides until the skin is crisp, about 5 minutes. Or alternatively do this step in a 400 F. oven. Transfer the duck legs to a cutting board, remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite-sized pieces, discard the bones. Keep the duck warm, covered, on a baking sheet in a 180 F oven.
Halve and core the pears (a melon baller works like a charm for this task); cut the pears lengthwise into ¼” thick slices. Mound some greens on each of the four plates, combine the pears, duck, cheese and nuts with the dressing, season with salt and pepper to taste. Mound the pear/duck mixture on top of the greens & serve the salads immediately.