The City Magazine Since 1975

Smoked Duck, Black Mission Figs, Leonora Cheese, Fried Green Peanuts, & Greens Salad with Lemon-Champagne Vinaigrette

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For the duck breasts:

2 qts. water

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig sage

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

4 duck breasts (6-8 oz. each), skin on

For the lemon-champagne vinaigrette:

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 

2 Tbs. fresh orange juice

2 Tbs. local honey

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. black pepper

For the fried green peanuts:

1 lb. green peanuts in the shell (yields 8 oz. of shelled green peanuts)

3 cups peanut or canola oil

1 Tbs.  kosher salt

For the salad:

2 cups hardwood chips

10 oz. baby salad greens (preferably a mix of baby arugula, baby tatsoi, baby chard, and baby spinach), washed 

1 lb. fresh black mission figs, washed, patted dry, and cut into wedges

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. Leonora cheese, crumbled (goat cheese can be substituted) 


For the duck breasts:

Combine the first six ingredients in a large saucepan. Whisk well to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve and simmer over medium heat for five minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Pour into a rectangular container with a lid and refrigerate for one hour. Place the duck breasts in the chilled brine, cover, and refrigerate for six hours, turning them once or twice. Remove the breasts and pat them dry with paper towels. Score the fat on the breasts by making quarter-inch-deep cuts spaced a half-inch apart across the fatty side. Place the breasts in a container, cover, and refrigerate. This process can be done up to two days before cooking the breasts.

For the lemon-champagne vinaigrette: 

Put all of the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until they’re combined. The vinaigrette will keep for up to four days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and shake vigorously again before using.

For the fried green peanuts: 

Shell the peanuts but leave the skins on. Put the oil in a home fryer or heavy-bottomed pot and heat it to 350°F. Working in batches, fry the peanuts for six minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Put in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let cool to room temperature. The fried peanuts can be stored in a tightly closed container for up to two days.

For the salad:

Soak the hardwood chips in water for 30 minutes. Heat a smoker or charcoal grill to 200°F.

Drain the wood chips and add them to the smoker or grill. Place the duck breasts on the rack, close the lid, and smoke for 45 minutes. The idea is not to cook the duck but to impart the flavor of smoke. Remove the breasts.  

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place the duck breasts fat-side down in the skillet and cook them until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp. Turn the duck breasts over and continue cooking them until their internal temperature reaches 135°F and they’re cooked medium-rare, which should take five to seven minutes. Place the breasts on a cutting board fat-side up and let them rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into quarter-inch slices.

Combine the greens, figs, salt, pepper, and most of the fried green peanuts (reserve a few peanuts for garnish) in a bowl. Shake the vinaigrette vigorously until all ingredients are combined, add your desired amount, and gently toss the salad. Divide the salad and duck slices among the plates. Garnish with the crumbled cheese and reserved fried peanuts.