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.

Chicken & Duck Liver Mousse with Truffles

French is a homeland of many delectable recipes. Today, we are featuring a delicious French appetizer which would be especially suitable for a Sunday dinner or a gourmet party reception – Chicken & Duck Liver Mousse with Truffles. Traditionally, it calls for fresh chicken and duck livers, about 1 1/2 pounds each, 1 or 2 tbsp truffles (very finely chopped), 1 cup crème fraîche or piima cream, 2 cups clarified beef or duck stock, 1/2 cup dry white wine of cognac, 2 tbsp each of butter and extra virgin olive oil, 2 eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. The best stock for this recipe is home-made, while crème fraîche or piima cream, as well as indispensable duck livers and truffles, can be purchased from European gourmet markets. Although making this appetizer might be quite costly and time-consuming, we guarantee the fantastic result!

Sauté whole livers in small batches in a mixture of olive oil and butter until they turn brown. When all are ready, return them to the pan and pour over wine or cognac and 1 cup stock. Boil rapidly until almost all liquid evaporates and let cool. Carefully mash together the livers with 1 cup cream and 2 raw eggs until they reach a creamy consistency (you can use a food processor for that). Transfer the creamy mixture to a bowl, season generously, and stir in the truffles.

Pour the mixture into a buttered loaf pan, spread the top smoothly (best to use a 1-quart pan that will be about two thirds full) and cover tightly. Place in a bigger pan of hot water and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the mousse from the oven and let cool. Open and pour over the remaining 1 cup stock, cover again, and chill well in the refrigerator.

To serve, slice the cold mousse thinly and arrange the slices neatly on top of French croutons or sourdough bread and decorate with pickled cucumbers. Makes a perfect starter for any great occasion!