Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pecan Crusted Duck with Spinach and Sausage

When I was in Cleveland for the Memorial Day weekend, in addition to the bridal shower, it was also really great to spend some time with my parents.  The weekend festivities were so much fun and all the girl time was great, but relaxing with my mom and dad on Sunday was also a much needed breath of fresh air.  

Actually, just being in Ohio in May is a breath of fresh air; around the spring-summer transition, the Midwest is a wide expanse of green carpet, with baby blades of pure green grass, thick foliage on the trees, and colorful flowers growing everywhere.  It is a stark contrast to the dry landscape of southern California at this time of year.  I can almost feel the trees breathing in and out and increasing my oxygen flow; meanwhile, the blue sky soothes away all my worries and cares while the sun warms my face.  All in all, pretty heavenly.  Since the dead of summer is reliably humid and at least 90 degrees every day, I think May is one of the best times of the year in Ohio.  

Most of the time when I go back to Cleveland, either my mom has some special recipe planned that she wants to make for me (in the last couple of years I have been making recipes for her too!), or we have decided to make one of our classic meals for the holidays or a summer cook out.  No matter what, there is always food and eating, and lots of it!  More recently, my parents have also become budding foodies themselves, so it was no surprise when my dad told me he had picked up some duck legs at a kosher shop.  He was really excited about making this recipe (his very first chef idol was Emeril Lagasse), and I was looking forward to it as well since I had never made duck at home.    

When we were making it, everything seemed fine; we went through all the steps for the recipe without a hitch, and I think my dad really enjoyed being the head honcho in the kitchen while I worked as his sous-chef.  I gave my mom a wink when I called him "Chef" once, and I think out of the corner of my eye I saw him puff up with pride.    

I thought the finished product tasted really great, especially for our first attempt at making duck!  Maybe I am just used to tackling complicated recipes in the kitchen, but my dad thought it was too much work and not worth the effort.  I guess if I am being critical, this wasn't really up to the caliber of the duck I have eaten in fine dining establishments, but I think it was quality enough for a Sunday dinner for three.  The presentation was really lovely, the flavors blended together surprisingly well, and I especially enjoyed the paring with the spinach for extra texture.  When you cut each leg, the crunchy breading gave way to the succulent meat, and a bite of the duck with a little spinach and sausage was wonderful.  I expected the dish to taste rich, and it did not disappoint.   

So here is my question: The recipe was originally called "Pecan Crusted Duck Confit."  As I mentioned before, when we made the recipe, I just followed the directions and didn't think too critically about any aspect of the cooking (I was tuckered out from the bachelorette party the night before, can you blame me?).  Later on when I really thought about it, I couldn't understand how this recipe was "confit." From what I know, or have read, confit is usually prepared by salting the duck and keeping it chilled for about 24 hours, then cooking it in rendered duck fat in the oven at a low temperature for several hours.  The original recipe included none of those elements; how was this presented as confit?  

Maybe I am missing something here, so I am hoping that some of my more experienced readers might be able to chime in with some knowledge on the subject.  Please leave a comment if you can provide some insight.

Either way, confit or no confit, I really enjoyed this dish.  Perhaps I remember it so fondly because I got to sit out on our deck at twilight in the cool air, and eat with my parents.  Eating good food is nice, but eating good food with those you love is exceedingly more memorable.   

Pecan Crusted Duck with Spinach and Sausage

1 cup sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onions
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups spinach, cleaned
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups flour
Emeril Essence (mix of paprika, salt, garlic powder, black and cayenne pepper, onion powder, oregano and thyme; find measurements here)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
4 duck legs, including thighs, washed, dried, and seasoned with salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In a large, oven-proof pan, saute the sausage for about 3-4 minutes, until it releases fat and is lightly browned but not cooked through (break up any large pieces).  Add the next three ingredients, and saute for an additional 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. Transfer the sausage-onion mixture to a medium bowl using a slotted spoon (leave excess fat in the pan for cooking the duck).  Add the balsamic vinegar to the bowl, mixing well, and follow by whisking in the olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.  

To prepare the duck, first make the breading.  In a food processor, pulsing the pecans, 1/2 cup of the flour, and a few pinches of Emeril Essence to form a fine crumb.  Place breading in a small bowl.  Transfer the remaining flour to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  The egg wash should be in a small bowl as well.  For breading the duck legs, first dredge them in the flour, shake off any excess, then in the egg wash, and then in the pecan mixture.  Each leg should be coated completely with the pecan crust.    

In the same oven-proof pan you used before, re-heat the remaining fat over medium-high heat.  If you don't have much left, add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  When hot, add the duck legs to the pan, and fry them for about 3-4 minutes per side.  Then transfer the pan to the oven, and cook for 10-13 minutes.  I didn't estimate that our legs were overly large, but they took a longer to cook through than the original recipe suggested.  Adjust your cooking time depending on the size of your duck legs, but don't overcook or they will be dry and rubbery.

Meanwhile, saute the red onions in a large skillet until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Then add the spinach and toss together with the onions until the leaves are wilted; add the sausage vinaigrette to the pan and mix everything together well.  To serve, place a portion of the spinach and sausage on a plate in the center, and top each with one duck leg.    


  1. What a fun time with your parents. I'm learning to value the time I spend with mine as I get older. Even though I don't know what your dad looks like, I could imagine what you meant when you said he puffed up with pride when you called him "chef". How sweet.

    Sorry can't help you with the confit question but I had to pop in and say how delicious you dish looked, confit or not.

  2. Another lovely meal:) As for your question...Maybe I can add. The word "confit" is to "preserved". Your assessment to my knowledge is quite accurate. But I believe the term has taken on a meaning that is not the full result. The curing with salt and the cover of fat once cooked, were both old world processes of preservation of the meat. Anyway I am at a bit of a loss as well, unless the process of using the the fat from the sausage to re-heat and then apply the duck? Not one to go up against Emeril, but I am thinking that the term is now used to describe something different and the original meaning is something not really preformed in current day. Wow, way over kill, hope it helps a bit. Regardless your rendition is amazing!

  3. OK one more note: So glad you had a warm and wonderful time with family...Love the mentions of your parents:)Sorry, but I went a bit technical on the lats comment and forgot for a sec what I really wanted to say. Again superb meal, just wonderful!

  4. No need for an apology, I asked for some input because that was what I wanted, and your comments were definitely helpful! Plus, lets not forget that I have the mind of a scientist so being a bit technical is right up my alley. :) Thanks so much, both for your insight on confit and your compliments for my dish!

  5. Looks delicious!
    I'm glad you got to spend time with your parents, especially since it seems you live so far from home now.

  6. What a wonderful meal. This looks and sounds delicious. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  7. wow...now that is a beautiful plate...I love encrusting fish with nuts, I have never tried it with pork what an excellent idea!
    thanks for the inspiration

  8. NIce! I can make it with chicken or fish or pork.... so yummy

  9. I don't think my dad's cooked a meal in his entire life so it was great to read that your dad's now a foodie. Maybe my dad'll head in that direction. Then again, probably not. Oh, and I love that Emeril has his own essence!

  10. Sounds like an amazing recipe! Definitely nothing like a traditional confit, as far as I can tell, but I think it's rich enough without going through the trouble of confit-ing the duck. :P
    Putting this one away for the next time I need an impressive meal for guests!

  11. Another beautiful recipe! Great post, I love to spent time with my family!

  12. It sounds delicious. Love the outdoor photo with red wine!

  13. The dish looks great and what a wonderful meal to enjoy with your family. Sounds like the memories from making this dish are worth the effort to prepare it. :)

  14. I'm loving the idea of pecan crust for the duck! An excellent dish!

  15. What a gorgeous meal. I absolutely love duck but have never made it myself. I have made pecan-crusted chicken thighs, though, so I know the topping was excellent on your version!

  16. Can you believe I've never had duck before? I know, it's kind of weird. But I haven't. This makes me want duck.

    Also, I gave you an award over on my blog. Woot.

  17. Looks like a great dish and you prepared it beautifully. Your definition you listed for how make confit is correct. I wonder if the recipe writer took some creative liberties and added the word "confit" to put a fancy spin on it??

  18. I want to be sitting on your deck eating THAT!!! Address please, coming over...

  19. It looks very yummy, I never made duck, my hubby love it. I cook with duck fat sometimes. Great recipe. Loved the backyard picture.

  20. Gorgeous dish! I think you guys must have had fun preparing it and eating it too! Love the bright color of those spinach, simply beautiful. Duck confit (specialty from South Western France) takes for ever to make. It's basically duck cooked for about 2 hours slowly into its own fat, then it's placed in a jar and covered with its fat, then sealed in an air-tight container. It's a method of preserving meat, so you can keep it for at least one year. Hope it helps...now not sure people use the right terminology, but the duck looked splendid..confit ou pas confit :o)

  21. I just found your blog and it is wonderful! I love the name too! So cute.

  22. This sounds really good, but I can't help but wonder if the skin was crispy, and if the duck fat was rendered since the skin wasn't scored first. The whole reason to cook duck at my house is for crispy skin and fat to cook potatoes in.

  23. This looks so pretty and amazing. Sadly I can never eat duck due to my alliance with Donald Duck. But it looks great!

  24. This dish is gorgeous. Duck is one of my friends favorite dishes! Ill keep this recipe for us to make together! this is amazing!

    mmmm spinach does a body good!

  25. After getting so many great replies on what exactly duck confit is defined by, I think I agree with Lisa, that Emeril was just trying to be fancy so he called it "confit." And Deanna, I don't remember the skin being crispy, and I didn't really anticipate that it would be. Since we were breading it, the skin didn't really get exposed all that much and mostly the breading was just crunchy. :)

  26. What a wonderful meal. This looks and sounds delicious - loving the pecan crust!


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