I’m back and I have another recipe for you guys! BOOYAH! This time, I’m featuring duck! That’s a lot of exclamation points, isn’t it? Anyway, this is Skillet Duck with Spinach & Arugula Salad and it was inspired by Jacques Pepin. I love watching him cook on Create TV (I swear this post is not sponsored) and one particular episode, he was making all sorts of game. Venison, quail (I actually picked up 6 of those to cook for next week) and duck. The duck won out because he fried it up quickly in a skillet, and it wasn’t nearly as french as I expected. Basically, I didn’t have to go all over the free world looking for ingredients, and didn’t have to learn how to do any special techniques.
In his recipe, Pepin serves this with red oak and arugula salad, but I worked with what I had which was a bag of spinach and arugula salad. I’m a HUGE arugula fan. The spiciness of the leaves pairs well with vinegarettes like what is made to go along with this dish. For as long as I can remember, I have always liked duck. It’s super juicy, and because it is such an active bird, most of its meat is dark. It’s also extremely fatty, and the fat rendered from cooking it is a hot commodity. For this dish, we cut the extra skin off and chopped it into bite sized pieces to render the fat to cook in AND get a bonus of duck crackling. HELLO! I have a feeling that if I met Jacques Pepin, he and I would get along spectacularly. He likes crackling. It’s a wrap.
Everything can be made in one skillet as well, so you don’t have to worry about pulling your entire set of cookware out for this dish. Other than making the salad in another bowl, you’re all set with your large skillet and gear to pull the duck out. I also pulled my kitchen shears out to cut the duck into pieces because the first time that I made this, my knives and I didn’t particularly like chopping. Also, my duck came from the Chinese Market, and the Hong Kong Markets respectively, and included their heads and feet. I kept them, because I’m sure that there is something that I can do with them. A stock, something. I also removed almost all extra skin so that I could toss it in the skillet like above, and get as much of the liquid COOKING gold as possible. I’m thinking that a great dressing can be made with the almost cup and a half of duck fat that I collected.
Overall, it takes a little over 30 minutes to prepare this meal as well. So far, I’m two for two in the kitchen. If you count prep time, it takes about 45 minutes. The duck is cooked in its own rendered fat, and fried until the skin becomes a deep brown. I can’t talk enough about how great the flavor is. My kitchen shears did a great job cutting through the bone.
I will tell you one thing that I’m not fond of. I’m not particularly fond of being popped with hot duck fat. That’s precisely what happened to me BOTH times I made this dish. Yes, I made it twice. Once at 9 pm, and it was definitely too dark to get particularly good photos. I have one more duck in the refrigerator, and I think that I’m going to try my hand at some sort of oven cooked bird so that I don’t have to worry about popping oil. I know that there are screens for that, but I don’t have one, so I had to deal.
If you’re interested in trying the recipe, I’ll put the ingredient list below, along with the instructions from Jacques Pepin. Like I said, I switched out the red oak lettuce for spinach, and I did just fine. Let me know if you try it!
- 1 duck about 5 pounds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup fruity dry white wine
- 1 medium garlic clove crushed and minced (1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons duck fat peanut oil, or olive oil, or a mixture of the fat and oils
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 bag spinach and arugula salad
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs beaten with a fork
- Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a sharp heavy knife or poultry shears cut the duck lengthwise in half, slicing through the carcass bones. Then cut each half into 2 pieces: the leg and the breast, with wing attached. Reserve the duck neck, gizzard, liver, and heart.
Heat a large skillet or saucepan, either nonstick or heavy aluminum, until hot. Place the duck pieces skin side down in one layer in the pan, sprinkle with the salt, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Lift the pieces to dislodge them from the bottom of the skillet and lay them, still skin side down, back in the skillet. Add the duck neck and gizzard, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. The duck should be cooking in a deep layer of fat and its skin should be very brown at this point.
Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and cook for 30 more minutes. (The duck pieces should be almost immersed in the fat.) Add the liver and heart, cover, and cook for 5 additional minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
Remove the duck pieces to a large baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Pour the fat from the skillet into a bowl and let cool. (Covered and refrigerated, the fat can be used as needed for up to 2 months for sautéing potatoes or other vegetables.) There will be a small residue of glaze, or solidified juices, in the bottom of the skillet. Add the wine to the skillet and stir to melt the solidified juices. Keep warm.
FOR THE DRESSING: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir gently. The dressing should not be homogenized but should look separated.
Toss the salad greens with the dressing and arrange the salad on four serving plates. Place a piece of duck in the center of each, and sprinkle the pan drippings on the pieces of duck.
FOR THE EGG GARNISH: Heat a skillet for 1 minute. Add the butter, and when it is hot, add the beaten eggs and stir gently over high heat to scramble. Season with the salt and pepper. The eggs should still be runny.
Arrange spoonfuls of the egg around the duck on each salad. The pieces of duck should be lukewarm to warm, the salad at room temperature, and the eggs warm. Serve.
I omitted the egg garnish for the sake of time during this go round, although it will definitely kick the swankiness of this recipe up a notch.
By Natasha Nicholes
Adapted from Jacques Pepin