Smoked Duck with Spiced Pecans, Louisiana Strawberries, Celery Leaves, Mint and Strawberry Vinaigrette

Smoked Duck Salad
one whole large duck (preferably mallard)
2 cups pecan halves
8-ounces Louisiana
1 bunch celery
3 large shallots
2 cups mint
1 pound baby arugula
2 tablespoons canola oil
Creole seasonings to taste (such as Tony Chachere’s)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Preheat smoker or grill with soaked wood chips to 250 F. Pat the duck and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place duck in smoker or on grill and cook until internal temperature reaches 160 F, approximately 2-2 ½ hours. Remove duck and let cool on a cookie sheet for at least 20 minutes. Once cool, remove and discard skin and pull meat from the breasts and legs. Thinly slice.

* If you are unable to smoke the duck, simply roast it for 2-2 ½ hours at 250 F.

Strawberry Vinaigrette
8 ounces Louisiana strawberries
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup
2 large shallots
1 cup Steen’s Pure Louisiana Cane Vinegar
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups canola oil
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and puree until smooth. While the blender is running on high, pour in the oil until emulsified. This will make approximately 1 quart of dressing. Any left over dressing can be saved in refrigerator for up to one week.

Set aside ½ cup of pecans for garnishing salad and toss remaining pecans in canola oil, salt and Creole seasoning. Roast at 350 F for eight minutes. Cut the bottom off the bunch of celery and seperate the stalks. Pick and keep all the central leaves and any other light-colored, mid-sized leaves. Dice the inner stalks. Cut tops off of the strawberries and slice to a medium thickness. Halve and thinly slice the shallots. Soak them in cold water until ready to assemble the salad. Combine duck, celery, celery leaves, mint, strawberries, shallots and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Dress salad with strawberry vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Thoroughly toss salad. Lightly dress arugula with strawberry vinaigrette. Place arugula on plate or platter and top with a generous amount of duck salad. Top with spiced pecans.  Serves 4-6

Chef Evan Benson serves as executive chef for Joel Catering & Special Events. When he’s not in the kitchen, he is outdoors hunting duck or dove or fishing for redfish and trout. He and his wife, Chef Cara Benson, reside in Algiers Point with their two children.