Warm salad of duck confit, jerusalem artichoke & endive
Inspired by my time in France, this salad is legendary served as a single main course. The J-chokes impart a wonderfully nutty flavour to the duck, and you can also keep the confit in your fridge to save for an indulgent, easy-to-prepare meal shared with friends.
The bitter flavour of the endive or indigo radicchio sweetens when sautéed, which pairs divinely with the velvety sweet chokes and rich duck.
2 duck thighs or legs
1 lb (500g) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed well (and cut into uniformly sized pieces if required)
a handful of kosher or rock salt
aromatics such as juniper berries, bay leaves, star anise, fennel seed, allspice, crushed shallots, or garlic
good quality olive oil, to cover
4 smaller Belgian endives or radicchio, cut into sections
1 crisp early apple such as Aurora Golden or Gala, cored and sliced medium thick
1/4 cup (60g) French green lentils
2 tsp (10mL) soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp (5mL) whole cumin seeds,
dash of white wine or apple cider vinegar juice
zest of an orange, or a spot of balsamic vinegar
mix of rustic, late-harvest greens such as kale tips
winter cress and mix of lettuce
1 dash of cold-pressed nut oil
A bit old-fashioned, confit is a wonderful method, as the slow cooking preserves all the flavour. Confiting J-chokes creates melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, and creamy results. (Classically, a confit is done with duck fat, however it’s expensive, not easy to find, and olive oil works well here because you are not heating things to a high temperature – and this way the duck flavoured gold can be strained and saved for a future confit.) Packing the duck thigh in salt and aromatics the night before is not wholly necessary, but helps to remove liquid – just make sure to brush off the majority of the salt before baking.
In a large roasting pan or Dutch oven, squeeze the artichokes and aromatics tightly around the duck thigh. Bake overnight or for at least 5 hours on a low oven setting, around 190°F. The oil will bubble very slightly when everything has reached temperature, and the duck is done when the thigh is easy to flex from the bone.
Cook lentils in 2 cups (500mL) of water with soy sauce or tamari. Drain when tender, and set aside.
To prepare the salad, remove the duck meat from the leg, pulling into bite-sized pieces. Toast cumin seeds until golden and popping, and crush or grind roughly. Place quartered endive and the J-chokes in a hot pan (no added fat as you’ll have enough from the confit), and toss on medium heat with a sprinkle of white wine or a dash of apple cider vinegar, until things get lovely and caramelized. Add the duck, apple pieces, lentils, and ground cumin. Toss for a few minutes to meld flavours. If you like citrus, half an orange and its zest works well at this point, or you can deglaze with a bit of good balsamic. Season.
This is lovely served warm on rustic autumn greens laced with a good nut or seed oil – try pumpkin, hazelnut, walnut, or sunflower. If you feel bold, garnish with lashings of the thinly sliced, crisp duck skin. On the more simple side, omit the duck altogether and use the confit chokes with lentils, and add a few toasted hazelnuts for some crunch.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Inner City Farms for coaxing a few early J-chokes from the soil for our recipe testing. If you’d like a taste of this urban farm, subscribe to their 2014 CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program. Their list is growing. innercityfarms.com