Marinated Smoked Duck, Cashew Butter
and Pepper Jelly Sandwiches
with Apple-Celery Salad

I had this sandwich as a perfect, lovely luncheon at Chef Susan Spicer's marvelous Bayona Restaurant, on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. We dined in the courtyard, we drank wine, it was sunny and beautiful, and at the time (1998) the sandwich was only about seven bucks or so. Who knew that such luxury and pleasure could be so affordable? And it goes without saying that the sandwich was fabulous.

If you're looking to make a really special luncheon for some really special people, this is it. Or make it just you and your sweetie, and have another couple of sandwiches the next day!

For dessert at that memorable meal, I had Chef Spicer's rich, superb panna cotta, which I also highly recommend.

The duck:  Trim the duck breasts and legs of excessive fat. Ducks are very fatty, but you want enough fat to render a bit into the pan. In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, cumin, molasses, sambal oelek and chili powder. Marinate the duck meat for at least four hours, or preferably overnight (in the refrigerator, always). In a cold smoker, smoke the meat for flavor for as long as you like, depending on how smoky you like it. In a large skillet, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil until just before it smokes, then sear the duck meat, skin-side down, until the skin is very crispy, then turn to finish the cooking. Once the duck is fully cooked, slice it very thinly and set aside.

The onions:  Slice the onions into very thin rings. Season with the salt and pepper. Grill or sauté the onions until they're just barely tender. While the onions are still hot, marinate them in the vinegar and olive oil and let cool.

The cashew butter:  Roast the cashews and peanuts in a 350°F oven for about 6-8 minutes until they become fragrant. In a food processor, purée the nuts with the honey, molasses and a pinch of salt. Then add the softened butter and purée until you reach the desired "peanut-buttery" consistency. You might need to add a splash or two of warm water. Remember that the cashew butter will be soft when warm, and will stiffen to a better, more spreadable consistency once it cools off. You may chill this in the refrigerator, but remember to let it come to room temperature before spreading on the sandwiches. (CAUTION --  This concoction is almost too good for humans to be allowed to have. Exercise extreme caution that you do not eat it all out of the storage container with your finger.)

The apple-celery salad:  Peel, core and slice the apple very thinly. Thinly slice the celery hearts diagonally, then toss with the shallots, salt, vinegar and olive oil.

Assemble the sandwiches:  Spreaded softened butter on both sides of each slice of bread. Grill the bread on each side for a minute or so, until toasted but not too dark. Spread four slices of bread with cashew butter and the other four with the pepper jelly. Heat the duck meat and onions in a 400°F oven until sizzling hot. Divide the meat and onions between the four sandwiches, giving each sandwich both breast and leg meat. Put the sandwiches together and slice into quarters. Serve with apple-celery salad and a good Chardonnay.

Fat content note:  For those of you watching your weight, I thought that you could probably skip the step of grilling the bread with butter and just toast it dry ... but then again, you're about to add cashew butter to it, for God's sake, which is the fattiest nut around, PLUS this cashew butter has butter in it as well. And duck is pretty fatty too ... oh hell, just eat the damn thing and enjoy it, and the hell with your diet!
YIELD:  4 servings


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)