I love eating fresh ingredients but sometimes the idea of eating a cold salad, in a cold house, with the visual of winter outside every window your eye happens to graze across, simply does not sound really wonderful. The work around here is a warm salad – still a salad, with healthy, fresh, and yes, cold ingredients but with warm, cooked components. Warm salads help sustain me through the wintertime, along with some cozy soups. Especially when I’m trying to distract myself from the fact that there’s probably fresh cookies around every corner of my kitchen and pantry.
One day while searching for edible inspiration in my favorite grocery store . I saw some fresh duck legs and simply couldn’t help myself. The butcher immediately wrapped them up with paper and I fled to the produce section. Once there I followed my general understanding of French ingredients and flavors to construct one of my favorite winter salads. I kept it light on the amount of duck, because of its rich, fattiness and the general amount of calories it contains. Pair the fatty, unctuous duck with the intense flavor of reduced wine mingled with fresh herbs and earthy mushrooms that burst with amplified flavor of the sauce, like little sponges. Everything is balanced beautifully with the mildly cooked kale, the carbs from the wild rice to keep you full, and the tang from the red wine vinegar.
This will be sure to make for a very satisfying dinner; maybe by the fire, maybe alone with a glass of wine, or maybe shared, just maybe. There’s nothing better than sharing your day with the ones you love across a dinner table or coffee table over a fresh, delicious meal that will make you feel luxurious without making you feel gluttonous or guilty. (You can save that for the cookies!)
Makes 5 servings
What You’ll Need
1 cup wild and brown rice blend
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, divided (3 teaspoons)
2 duck legs
1 cup small baby portabella muschrooms, quartered
1 cup shitake mushrooms, halved
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 leaves fresh sage, slapped
2 bunches dinosaur kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar for serving (2 tsp)
The How To
In a small covered saucepan bring your rice, water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Once boiling give it a quick stir, replace lid, and simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Set aside with the lid on.
While the rice is cooking preheat an oven safe skillet over medium high heat. I use cast iron. Score the skin of the duck legs in a crosshatch pattern, careful not to cut into the actual meat and clean off the excess fat. Season the legs with 1 teaspoon of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper, on both sides. Once your pan is hot add the legs skin side down for about 10 minutes or until the skin is deeply browned, crisp and the fat rendered. You can toss in some of that extra fat here if you’d like. Flip the legs over and cook for 2 minutes for a quick browning. Remove the legs from the pan and set aside for later.
Pour out all excess duck fat into a heatproof jar and save for another day. There should be a a little fat still coating the pan. Add your shallots and mushrooms to the fat and cook for about 8 minutes until they start to brown.
Add the red wine and bring to a rapid simmer for a minute. Use this time to season your sauce with the remaining teaspoon of salt and some more fresh cracked black pepper.
Return the duck to the pan skin side up and pour in the chicken broth, careful not to cover the skin. Place the thyme sprigs and slapped sage leaves around the pan in the stock and place the pan in the oven. Let the duck braise for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
While the duck is cooking start sauteeing your kale in a large skillet over medium heat. You may need to do this is two batches, 1 tablespoon of olive oil in each. Your kale will shrink as you cook it. I like getting some toasty, brown bits to my kale to deepen that delicious, toasty flavor. As soon as they’re done remove from heat and set aside.
Remove the duck from the oven and remove the thyme and sage leaves. Now you can assemble your salad bowls. Evenly distribute all of your prepared parts amongst 5 dishes or tuppperware if meal planning like me. Start with the rice then add the kale and finally the duck and mushrooms on top, along with any residual sauce. Serve each bowl with about 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, or to your taste. The acid will brighten the dish and help cut through the fat of the duck. If you can’t find red wine vinegar, a sugar-free balsamic vinegar would work nicely as well.
Store in the fridge and eat within 5 days.