Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds we’ve been seeing the last few years: hot, hotter, no rain, and yet muggy. Ouch.
But at least we have blackberries. That means blackberry sorbet, blackberry sourcream sherbet, creme de blackberry, blackberry shrub. But not blackberry gastrique nor blackberry jam, of which we still have plenty. We eat them. We freeze them. Me make juice. We sell them. It’s blackberry time, I tell you.
It’s also hot. So, preparations with minimum applications of heat are ideal. And blackberries, with their sweet-tart flavor, lend themselves well to savory dishes.
Recently, I prepared a smoked duck salad as an appetizer for a 32-guest lunch (inspired by this recipe from the James Beard Foundation). I simplified the James Beard Foundation recipe by using smoked duck breasts prepared by The Whole Ox Butcher Shop in Marshall, VA (which sliced paper-thin with their meat slicer); changed the sauce a little bit… and reduced the plate to appetizer size.
An easy dish and attractive that’s great for a crowd, as all the components can be prepared ahead and assembled up to 30 minutes before serving (because we are using robust greens that can stand to the sauce).
So there, Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad – Appetizer for 12
First make the sauce:
In 2 Tablespoons duck fat (or lacking it, olive oil), saute on moderate 2 minced shallots until very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust heat as needed.
- 1/2 C port
- the juice and the grated zest from 1 large juicy orange
- 3 tablespoons blackberry shrub or blackberry gastrique
- freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring to boil, then simmer a few minutes until slightly thickened. Add 1 cup blackberries and remove from heat and (as they warm the blackberries will turn red and release some juice). Let the dressing cool completely.
Meanwhile, if you have not asked your butcher to thinly slice 2 smoked duck breast, go ahead and do it now.
Set aside about half the dressing with all the blackberries.
Use the other half to dress 4 to 5 cups of sturdy and assertive greens such as frisee, watercress, arugula, baby salad mustard leaves, baby beet leaves etc (at least 2 mixed together). Divide dressed greens between 12 plates. Drape slices of smoked duck, drizzle with remaining dressing & cooked berries, and add a couple of raw blackberries to each plate.