Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Hot Smoked Duck Breast

It’s always nice to see Fall return so I can start using some of my favorite ingredients again. Only after making this dish for a table did I realize that a lot of folks shy away from many of the ingredients of this salad; it seemed that most didn’t have a positive attitude towards beets, Brussels sprouts and duck. By the end of seven courses, however, most of them were still talking about how much they enjoyed this dish. I think most of our opinions on food are formed early as kids at the table, and most people probably remember bitter canned beets, overcooked and mushy Brussels sprouts, or chewy duck.

For the beets I used red and golden beets, and roasted them in the oven at 350 degrees for about and hour and a half. Check their doneness with a skewer, making sure that you can push it through with minimal resistance. Once they come out of the oven you can drop them in an ice bath to cool them down quickly. Then, use a paring knife to easily peel the skin away and portion. I served these at room temperature, seasoned lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The greens for this salad were Brussels sprout leaves, cutting them away individually and reserving the cores for later use. I blanched the leaves in heavily salted water then shocked them in an ice bath to halt the cooking and stay the color. I tossed the leaves in a warm pancetta and caramelized onion vinaigrette before serving.

For the hot smoked duck ham, I used a recipe out of “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. The recipe is as follows:

2 quarts water

¾ cup kosher salt

¼ cup sugar

¾ ounce pink salt (4 tsp)

½ cup maple sugar, or ½ cup maple syrup

½ cup Madeira

1 bunch of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tbs juniper berries

1 tbs chopped sage

6 whole boneless Pekin (Long Island) duck breasts, about six pounds, skin on

1. 1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.

2. 2. Add the duck breasts to the brine and weight them down with a plate to keep them submerged. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

3. 3. Rinse the breasts under cold water and pat them dry. Refrigerate them on a rack set over a plate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours.

4. 4. Hot-smoke the duck to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, about 2 ½ hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This preparation of duck is great served cold or room temperature, on a salad or on a charcuterie plate.

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