Fuyu Persimmon and Duck Salad with Hazelnut-Sherry Vinaigrette
What in the world is a Fuyu persimmon? The Fuyu (pictured at the right) is a non-astringent persimmon variety. It is sweet and delicious when it becomes orange to orange-red in color and is still firm. The Native American persimmon grown in the southern U.S. and the more common pointed Hachiya persimmon are astringent varieties that do not lose their bitterness until the fruit becomes soft.
Why do we care? Ripe Hachiya persimmons are great for making cooked dishes such as chutneys, relishes, steamed puddings or even pies. The Fuyu persimmon is perfect for this salad because its sweetness will cut through and balance the richness of the duck while maintaining its crisp texture.
For the Duck
2 duck breasts, boneless, skin-on, trimmed of excess fat
kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
For the Hazelnut-Sherry Vinaigrette and Salad (Makes approximately 1 cup)
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 shallot, finely minced
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons hazelnut oil
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups spicy baby greens
2 Fuyu persimmons, cut in half and then cut into wedges
1 cup hazelnut-sherry vinaigrette
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
To Prepare the Duck: Place a large, cast-iron pan over medium heat. Score the duck breasts by cutting through the skin in a criss-cross pattern without cutting the meat. Season the breasts with salt and pepper. Place duck breasts, skin side down in the hot pan. Cook the breasts until the fat has been rendered and the skin is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Constantly drain the fat from the pan as it renders out of the skin. Turn the breasts over onto the meat side and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the meat is red but is warm on the inside.
Remove the duck from the pan and drain on paper towels. Let the duck breasts rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
To Prepare the Vinaigrette and Salad: In a small stainless steel bowl, place the sherry vinegar, shallots salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in hazelnut oil and vegetable oil, whisking constantly, until ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Place the greens in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl. Gently toss the greens with half of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
To Serve: Place the duck breasts, skin-side down on a cutting board. Cutting in the opposite direction of the grain of the meat, cut each breast into thin slices. Place a quarter of the greens in the center of each plate. Place several wedges of persimmon on one side of the watercress. Place several slices of duck breast on the opposite side of the persimmons. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the greens and drizzle remaining vinaigrette around the plate.
Advance Preparation: The duck breast can be sautéed ahead of time and served chilled, if you prefer.
Substitutions and Options: Brown Turkey figs or Black Mission figs make a wonderful sweet, fruity addition to this salad. For the duck breast, I recommend using a Margret duck breast from a female Muscovy duck. Long Island (Pekin) or Moulard duck breast will also work for this recipe but I believe the Muscovy has better flavor and texture. Muscovy breast meat is extremely lean and the skin of this duck variety has 50% less fat than the Moulard or Pekin duck varieties.
To cook the duck, I recommend using a cast-iron pan because of its even heating properties and its virtually indestructible nature. If you use an aluminum or stainless steel sauté pan, watch the duck breast carefully to make sure the skin is being evenly rendered.
Wine Notes: A toasty, oaky-style Chardonnay from California or a Burgundy-style Pinot Noir from Oregon will match the accompanying flavors in the salad without getting lost behind the richness of the duck.
Recommended: Shafer, Red Shoulder Ranch, Chardonnay, Caneros, California or Wine By Joe, Pinot Noir, Oregon. For a sexier match try a dry sherry with nutty, caramelized flavors and a clean, long finish: Berrys’, Fine Dry Oloroso Sherry, Spain.
Makes 4 appetizer servings
Recipe adapted from my cookbook, The Sustainable Kitchen – Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests and Oceans.
image source: Kanko, under an Attribution License