When I worked at Cayenne in Belfast, we had this duck salad that was always on the menu, or at least, it had been for as long people seemed to remember. It didn’t sound very glamorous, but when I tasted it, boy did I change my mind. A bed of baby gem lettuce was chopped to order, and then we topped that with mango sliced to order, thin-sliced red chilies (cayenne or serrano peppers), pickled thin-sliced shallots, toasted peanuts, toasted white and black sesame seeds, and finally, a confit duck breast, crisped and boned to order. The dressing was a little soy number.
I could go on for hours about that duck breast. After hacking the joints off, marinating them in dry seasonings overnight, rinsing them, cooking them in rendered duck fat until they were falling off the bone, refrigerating them under solidified duck fat, then scooping them out one at a time and frying them in more duck fat (to crisp the skin), we would use two quick swoops of the knife to slide the bone out (our fingers blistering in the still crackling grease), then chop it once down the middle, twice horizontally, toss it on the salad, and say goodbye.
THIS post, however, is not about duck, lol. It’s about my salad philosophy and this kale salad made of superfoods (eye roll) that keep people in the age range between 25 and 35 from gaining one pound a year, on average. Just read the article, it’s better than me babbling on about the merits of kale and eggs.
Anyway, my experience with the ubiquitous duck salad at Cayenne got me thinking about the necessary components of a good salad: the substance-y foundation, something crunchy, something sweet, something fatty, something unctuous, something sour. This salad has all of those components without sabotaging your cholesterol–seriously, there are stories of people eating a duck leg and immediately having a heart attack…or maybe it’s just a culinary legend…The sick thing is that I know that story made half of you want a confit duck leg even more. Good luck, they’re ten dollars a piece in Waco, last I checked.
This salad really started coming together after a friend let me borrow the Momofuku cookbook, which has all these great simple recipes for pickling anything and everything. I got some peppers from a local farm, and things took off from there. These pickled shallots and peppers are what really make the salad stand out. Be careful, though, they’re hot, and I mean it.
I used blanched kale as the base. I find that kale skeptics who can’t necessarily eat it raw are way happier with this par-cooked version. It’s not sautéed or fully steamed, so it still stands up a bit, especially to the super spicy pickled veg.
Adding pomegranate for my something sweet was a no-brainer, and the toasted cashews seemed like a nice variation on the kale salad with hazelnuts I’ve been seeing everywhere (even on Crandlecakes). Swap a poached egg for the fatty duck leg, and you’re ready for elevensies.
Superfood Salad with Pickled Peppers and Shallots and a Soft Poached Egg
One head kale, any variety
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup cashews
Pickled Peppers and Shallots (see ingredients below)
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
Olive Oil or Sesame Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Pickled Peppers and Shallots
Adapted from David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku cookbook recipe for Vinegar Pickles
1 cup very hot tap water
½ cup rice wine vinegar
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
3 shallots, thinly sliced in rounds
2-3 cayenne peppers, thinly sliced, seeds in
Note: there will be a ton of extra pickling liquid, but that spicy liquid is kind of what I was in it for. If you don’t want that much excess liquid, add a ton more shallots, I suggest.
1. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt, and warm water and stir until sugar and salt dissolve completely. Thinly slice the shallots and peppers, seeds and all. Add sliced vegetables to the pickling liquid, put in a sealed container, refrigerate overnight. <–OVERNIGHT
2. Wash and chop kale. Steam (make sure water is not touching the kale) for 5 minutes, then turn kale out into a bath of ice water. Working quickly, cool kale by stirring in water, then remove ice cubes and drain kale. Spread into a flat layer on a kitchen towel and press with towels to dry.
3. Toast cashews: Set oven to a low broil and toast 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring as needed. Turn out onto board and chop roughly.
4. Boil water in a medium saucepan with lid and add white vinegar. Crack eggs into two separate small bowls. When water is boiling very rapidly, quickly drop each egg in on one side of the pan, put the lid on, and remove from heat. Let sit 3-6 minutes, depending on how done you want your eggs. I let mine sit for 5 minutes for a soft poach. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
5. Assemble the salads. In two bowls, spread a layer of kale, fluffing with your fingers if it got smashed while you were drying it. Sprinkle with cashews and pomegranate seeds. Use a fork to grab some shallots and peppers and sprinkle over salad. Use a spoon to get extra pickling juice (taste it first! spicey!). Place egg over salad and drizzle with olive or sesame oil, and soy sauce, to taste. Finish with cracked black pepper. Enjoy! Feel the nutrients absorbing into your body as you become more like Popeye, or the Hulk, or some superhero who is involved with greens.