Recipe Sleuth: Proof’s Crispy Duck Confit with Spicy Salad

Photograph courtesy of Proof restaurant.

At Proof, a wine-centric restaurant in Penn Quarter, chef Haidar Karoum puts out trendy and eclectic dishes, many of which nod to Asia and the Mediterranean. Everything is designed to complement the wine list, which shows more than 1,000 labels. The menus change with the seasons, but duck remains a fixture.

“Duck is probably my favorite meat," Karoum says. “I buy about 300 pounds of whole duck a week, which leaves me with quite a lot of duck legs.” What to do with all those extra legs? Karoum makes a couple types of crispy duck confit.

The version on the lunch menu, which one reader wrote in to request, is served over a mound of spicy cabbage salad that’s dressed in nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce. “The salad is clean, light, refreshing, and the flavor profile is a perfect foil for a duck-leg confit,” explains Karoum. “The meat is crispy on the outside, soft and rich on the inside, and the salad cuts the richness.”

For the home cook, preparing the duck confit may be the most trying step: “It’s not difficult, but it’s a very slow cooking process, so patience is required,” the chef says. Also, the salad is very versatile and pairs well with almost any other protein. So if you don’t dig duck, try substituting a chicken leg or breast, pork chop, steak, or shrimp.

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Proof’s Crispy Duck Confit with Spicy Salad

Makes 6 servings.

Make the duck-leg confit:

6 duck legs
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
12 star anise, crushed
8 cups duck fat

In a large bowl, combine the duck legs, salt, garlic, and star anise, and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a sauce pot set over medium heat, melt the duck fat. Place duck legs in a roasting pan or ceramic casserole dish. Pour the melted duck fat over the legs and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 2 hours. Allow the cooked duck legs to cool in the cooking vessel.

Make the spicy salad:

1 cup Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, julienned
½ cup daikon radish, julienned
½ cup mint, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons toasted peanuts

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Set aside.

Make the nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce):

2⁄3 cup water
½ cup fish sauce
½ cup sugar
½ cup lime juice
½ garlic clove, minced
½ stalk lemongrass, finely minced
1 fresh Thai chili, minced

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Adjust seasonings with lime, sugar, water, and fish sauce to balance. Yields about 2 cups.

Make the red-pepper/lime emulsion:

¾ cup piquillo peppers, roasted
1 cup nuoc cham

Combine in a blender and purée. Yields about 2 cups.

To serve:

½ cup nuoc cham
Cilantro, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the duck legs, uncovered, in the oven and roast until the skin is crispy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Gently toss the spicy salad with the nuoc cham. Place a portion of spicy salad on each of 6 serving plates. Spoon the red-pepper/lime emulsion on top of the salad and around the plate. Place a duck leg on top of the salad. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

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