French-Style Caesar Salad with Creamy Dressing and Duck Cracklings

French-Style Caesar Salad:

This salad is a traditional appetizer in the Auvergne region of France. It closely resembles a classic Caesar salad (actually, it is a precursor of the Caesar salad), but features a different type of dressing. To make the salad, take a large head of very fresh romaine lettuce, remove tough outer leaves, slice off the end, and open up to rinse out any dirt and impurities in cold running water. Pat dry and slice salad leaves across at about 1-inch intervals. Using the large-holed side of a grater, grate 1 once good quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Reggiano or Gran Padrino (do not use supermarket-bought powdered Parmesan). Toss the sliced lettuce leaves with the grated cheese, a handful of warmed crumpled duck cracklings (see below), and a generous amount of creamy dressing (see below). To serve, add on top 1/4 cup salad croutons (see below). Enjoy as an delicious appetizer for lunch or supper.

French Creamy Dressing:

Mix together in a small bowl 1 tsp Dijon-type mustard and 3 tbsp raw wine vinegar. Slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a fork until the oil is emulsified. Add 1 tbsp expeller-pressed flax oil. Stir in about 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, basil, thyme, or oregano. As a last touch, blend in with a fork 1/4 cup crème fraîche, and serve immediately with French-Style Caesar Salad.

Duck Cracklings:

In order to render duck fat and make cracklings, cut pieces of duck skin and fat into small chunks and cook them in a heavy-bottomed pan for about 30 – 40 minutes, until the pieces have turned golden and a lot of fat has been rendered. Remove cracklings with a slotted spoon, pat dry with paper towels, and store in a refrigerator. Prior to serving with the salad, cracklings should be gently heated.

Salad croutons:

Take 3 slices whole grain bread (preferably sprouted or sourdough), trim off crusts, and spread on top a mixture of 1 clove mashed garlic, 1 tsp French-style herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme, etc.), 6 tbsp butter, and a pinch of paprika. Bake the bread slices in an oven at 250 degrees for about 1 hour, until they are crisp. Allow to cool, and cut into small cubes. Salad croutons can be stored in a container with a lid without refrigeration until needed.