When Is A Fish Taco Really A Cherry Balsamic Duck &Amp&#59; Spinach Salad ? - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at Allrecipes.com - 222796

Swampy's Kitchen

When is a Fish Taco really a Cherry Balsamic Duck & Spinach Salad ? 
Feb. 14, 2011 10:02 am 
Updated: Feb. 22, 2011 5:56 am
During this past Super Bowl, one of the dishes I made was described as a Cherry Balsamic Duck with Spinach & Goat Cheese Panini. It was far & away my favorite dish out of the many that I made that day. The dish actually walked away with the coveted MVP Award and it did get to go to where it was honored with a parade. I placed the recipe in my hall of fame never to be deleted file and then proceeded to obsess about it all last week. It got so bad that I had this conversation yesterday with my wife.

One Track Mind Me: “So since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I won’t get home in time to cook you dinner, what can I make you for dinner tonight ? You name it, I’ll make it.”

My Extremely Better Half: “Really ? You are going to cook dinner for me tonight ? You would do that ?”

Feeling Pretty Good About Myself Me: “Of course I will cook dinner. I always cook a Valentine’s dinner for you. Last year it was either Lobsters or Stuffed Turkey Burgers, I can’t remember. So what can I make for you this year?”

The Woman of My Dreams: “Oh thank you honey. I would love your fish tacos.”

Not Hearing The Answer I Wanted To Hear Me: “Fish Tacos ? Really ? What about the Duck Paninis from last weekend ?”

The Love of My Life Who Didn’t Catch My Hint: “Ooo – those would be good too but we haven’t had your fish tacos in a while and I LOVE your fish tacos.”

Hearing Nothing But Those Would Be Good Too Me: “I will check to see if ShopRite has any duck breasts and then you can decide what I should make. Do we still have any of the dried cherries ?”

(As you can see, communication is key to a successful relationship)

So with my shopping list in hand (with both Duck & Fish Tacos ingredients on it) I headed for the store. I bypassed the produce & seafood departments like they were yesterday’s news as I made a beeline straight for the duck. Last week I had been thwarted by a sale on duck breasts and had to settle for duck legs. This time however, the culinary gods were smiling on me and there were 5 duck breasts just sitting there waiting to jump into my basket. I circled back to the front of the store, once again completely avoiding the seafood counter for fear that I might see a great sale on mahi mahi or snapper or grouper & get sucked back into the fish taco vortex, and grabbed a box of organic baby spinach leaves, a Vidalia onion, a bag of dried cherries, a big slab of goat cheese and a bag of Portuguese Rolls because nothing flattens in a Panini press better than those rolls. I also grabbed a Red Velvet Cake to be used as a shiny distraction for when I got home with bags of groceries that obviously did not include the fixings for some Pre-Valentine’s Day requested By My Wife Fish Tacos.

(As a complete off topic aside, did you know that February 13 is also known as “Mistress Day” since Valentine’s Day belongs to the wife ? I didn’t know that little fun fact until I was sitting on the couch with my beautiful bride while we were watching the Grammy Awards and let me just say, that it is also one of those bits of information it is always good to know AFTER the fact.)

As I did work around the house the rest of the day, I started to feel a little guilty (not really but my lovely wife might be reading) for ignoring the request that was made by my adoring wife for fish tacos. I also got to thinking that maybe Paninis  really weren’t “classy” enough for a Valentine’s Dinner so, even though I had a bag of those great Portuguese rolls, I would sacrifice them for a more elegant plated dinner that played off the Panini ingredients. I also decided that we should have sweet potato fries because the orange color would look great on the plate and I also knew that we had a bag of Ore Ida Sweet Potato Fries in the freezer (another thing I learned from the Super Bowl – quit trying to make them myself). My vision was now clear, a Cherry Balsamic Duck & Spinach Salad for my wife and Cherry Balsamic Duck with wilted spinach & sweet potato fries for the kids.

The fist thing I tackled was the sauce that I would eventually cook the duck in as well as use as a dressing for the salad. The ingredients were as follows:

½ large Vidalia onion sliced thin & chopped
½ cup dried cherries – chopped
2 TBS olive oil
¼ cup cherry balsamic vinegar
½ cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste

While this was cooking & reducing, I set the oven to 400 degrees (mainly for the sweet potato fries) for the finishing touch. I also fired up my grill pan while sprinkling some red Hawaiian sea salt (I always go to the crutch ingredients I can’t live without) & cracked black pepper on the scored duck breasts. When the grill pan was hot enough, I laid the duck breasts skin side down and listened to them sizzle. After a few minutes I turned them over so the breast side would also start to cook. Another few minutes and it was a quick transfer to the sauce pan. Turn & Turn to coat both sides and then it was straight into the oven, skin side up, to finish.

While those were in the oven getting a little color & some crispiness on the skin, I quickly rinsed the on sale organic spinach and set it aside. I also got the plates out. Small plates for the non-salad eaters and low flat pasta bowls for the salad eaters. I also got some crushed pecans out of the cabinet because I would hate to have one of the pompous judges from CHOPPED condemn my salad because there wasn’t a “crunch” to offset the “texture of the meal”.

When the skin was golden brown and the duck looked ready, I pulled it from the 400 degree oven and let the breasts rest on a nearby cutting board. I threw a couple of handfuls of spinach into the pan with the sauce and stirred it all together until the spinach was well cooked and then placed it onto the non-salad plates with some of the cherries & onions from the pan. In the other bowls, I just put the raw uncooked spinach into the bowls in anticipation of the sliced duck breasts. Then I thin sliced the duck breasts and tried to fan them out as artistically as possible on the plates & beds of spinach. A crumble of goat cheese, evenly distributed atop the duck slices in the salad bowls, was followed by spoonfuls of the hot cherry balsamic sauce drizzled over the top. The sauce slowly started to melt the goat cheese. A sprinkle of pecans for garnish & crunch and Voila ! - the forgotten fish tacos were a thing of the past.

Ridiculously simple. Ridiculously elegant. No leftovers. Not even a duck scrap. My lovely easy to please no high maintenance wife afterward commented that this could be a dish that we could serve at a dinner party. I think I scored.

Now if you did want to make Paninis instead, the only real change comes in the plating. Last Sunday all I did was take the duck, spinach, goat cheese & sauce and stick it all between halves of a Portuguese roll and then press it flat. In this case, you get to eat the serving plate instead of washing it.

Come back next time when we talk about something else entirely different. I think.
Cherry Balsamic Duck & Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese
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Cherry Balsamic Duck with Spinach & Goat Cheese Paninis
Photo Detail
Feb. 14, 2011 10:13 am
you know, you've made me crave duck now! :) I actually just tried it fr the first time donw in Mexico (well, my husband ordered it, but I snuck a forkful), and I really did enjoy the flavour! I am going to filch your recipe and surprise hubs in a week or two with it! (minues the goat cheese, we both are not fans of it)... Great blog Doug, again as usual! ;)
Feb. 14, 2011 10:16 am
Thanks Gitano - I have tried duck a lot of different ways (blackberry merlot, orange sauce etal) but I do believe that this version will now be one of my go to dishes
Feb. 14, 2011 10:29 am
Great blog Doug, sounded like a conversation with my lovely bride when querying her about what she would like for supper. Aren't dried cherries the bees knees? Your dish sounds a mouthful!
Feb. 14, 2011 10:33 am
Hey Raedwulf - I keep running out of the cherries because i keep eating them as I cook. Have a great day.
Feb. 14, 2011 10:42 am
Hi Doug! You ARE the consummate cook. Please tell us wifey's fish tacos will show up sometime this week for din din! We love us some fish tacos!
Feb. 14, 2011 10:45 am
I love fish tacos too Cathy but they are going to have to wait a couple of weekends. We go to Idaho next weekend and I think Lamb Tacos are in order there.
Feb. 14, 2011 10:49 am
My brother, Jimmy, is a huge sport fisherman - lake, streams and ocean. He lives in Meridian, Idaho, and cooks and smokes all his catches. Needless to say, his family and friends love his backyard grills! Now if I could only get him to send me some smoked fish. Tuna, please!
Feb. 14, 2011 10:53 am
If he is in Idaho Cathy, he should be sending you some smoked trout
Feb. 14, 2011 11:04 am
I love duck, but the wild ones. Have never tried tame duck. Sounds delicious. And Feb 13 is mistress day? That is unfair, it should be the 15th:P
Feb. 14, 2011 11:11 am
Shucks, Doug! I don't care for trout - too gamey for me. So my husband would be thrilled to have all to himself. He likes to spread chive cream cheese on cracker, topped with smoked fish.
Feb. 14, 2011 11:15 am
Hi redneck gramma - can't say I have ever had wild duck though the ducks in my neighbor's pond were eyeing me warily yesterday afternoon. Thanks for checking in (and personally I think we can do without mistress day altogether)
Feb. 14, 2011 11:16 am
I'm not a big trout fan myself Cathy - it's all we caught as kids so I got real tired of it real fast
Feb. 14, 2011 11:22 am
Great blog, Doug! You know, I have never tried duck, but after reading your blog I can't wait to try it! :)
Feb. 14, 2011 11:23 am
Duck is so good Nurse Ellen, you will wonder why you never tried it before. I really only started cooking it about 3-4 years ago myself.
Feb. 14, 2011 11:41 am
Huh, never knew that about 'Mistress Day'! Do you know what March 14 has been dubbed, a.k.a. "Valentine's Day for Men" (yes, it's also Pi Day). Google it, I think I'd get in trouble for posting it here!
Feb. 14, 2011 11:42 am
Oh and I don't mean the "White Day" holiday they have for men in Japan..
Feb. 14, 2011 11:47 am
Hi Alex - yes I have heard of that particular wannabe "holiday". I believe it got started by something like Maxim Magazine. I learned about Feb 13 while I was reading the New York Post - another bastion of literary greatness but still the best 50 cents in NYC
Feb. 14, 2011 11:54 am
I've never heard the origins of that other holiday, but Maxim sounds about right! I just don't really see why they'd put it a month away, lol - you'd think if a guy was all that put out about having to do something special for Feb 14th, he wouldn't want 4 weeks for 'his' day!
Feb. 14, 2011 11:56 am
Alex - It probably got pushed back a month because it takes about that long for the guys to make up for the screw up they had on V Day.
Feb. 14, 2011 11:59 am
LOL good point! I sense years of married man experience behind that wisdom :P
Feb. 14, 2011 11:59 am
OK Doug, why does your son get an ugly doll for Valentine's Day?
Feb. 14, 2011 12:00 pm
16 1/2 years as of yesterday Alex - I think the Duck might have bought me at least a couple more weeks
Feb. 14, 2011 12:03 pm
redneck gramma - Mainly because kids love Ugly Dolls - http://www.uglydolls.com/ - and he would pitch a fit if I gave him a flower "like a girl"
Feb. 14, 2011 12:23 pm
OMG those are friggen hillarious, never heard of them before. My youngest would have loved one of those when he was young LOL
Feb. 14, 2011 5:33 pm
I've got to find a place that sells duck! Around here, it's got to be beef or pork. I think we imported our taste buds from Texas. As for mistress day? I can't see why any mentally stable man would want to take on double the trouble. One is far more strain on the wallet than it can stand. Two? Insanity!
Feb. 15, 2011 4:41 am
They only had pink ones left when I got to the store redneck gramma and there was no way my on would settle for that
Feb. 15, 2011 4:44 am
good morning Mike - I always find the duck at the store on the edge of poultry but closer to the sausages - I even saw duck bacon the other day - that will be my next impulse purchase
Feb. 15, 2011 5:51 pm
The first time we had Duck was in Las Vegas. And, we fell in love with it. We have not cooked any yet. But, this recipe looks so good, I think I might have to try it.
Feb. 15, 2011 5:53 pm
BTW, my husband has hearing likes yours. He ALWAYS asks me for my advice, what I'd like to eat, where I'd like to go, etc. And, then he does, we eat, we go where he wanted to in the first place. (he's a terrific man, I'm just saying.......)
Feb. 16, 2011 4:40 am
Good morning Candice and thanks for stopping in - I prefer duck breast to duck legs but both are good - the skin is very fatty so be ready for that when grilling or searing - good luck
Feb. 16, 2011 4:41 am
oh and Candice, your husband sounds alright to me
Feb. 16, 2011 10:10 am
Your duck sounds lovely! Your interpretive hearing is the same as my husband's but least you cook duck & fish, mine won't eat either:(
Feb. 16, 2011 11:05 am
Thanks Cat Hill - it may be the best duck recipe I have ever stumbled across and your hubby won't eat duck or fish ? That is just wrong. Thanks for stopping in.
Feb. 16, 2011 3:38 pm
Hi Doug! How sweet of you to make dinner for your wife. BF surprised me- he made chicken enchiladas, and they were really good. I have never had duck either, but your salad looks divine! I have been with others when they have ordered duck, and everyone always comments on how greasy it is. Is that just the way it is, or was it maybe not prepared properly? I have heard that you have to be pretty precise with your cooking time. I would like to try it sometime, but it sort of intimidates me. I have never had goose either- have you tried your hand at it before?
Feb. 16, 2011 4:36 pm
Good evening Puck - I love chicken enchiladas. It's the duck skin that is really greasy so you have to be careful with it. My wife has me cut it off before I serve it to her. I will say that I think when you do cook duck, it's all about the sauce that you serve it with. It plays well with fruit based sauces. I served it recently with a blackberry merlot. As for goose ? Never had it. We have too many of them around here for me to even find them remotely appetizing. Have a good one.
Feb. 16, 2011 5:15 pm
It's called "selective hearing" - and my hubby and I had the same conversation just the other night. "me" - Do you want soup and sandwich for dinner? "him" - did you say steak and potato? "me" - It will only take a minute to warm up the bisque and grill a ham & cheese. "him" - Is the grill ready to throw on a steak? "me" - Yes, it's your favorite. "him" - My favorite steak? "me" - Come in honey, dinner's ready. We've been married 26 years next month - believe me, the selective hearing gets better with time. I absolutely LOVE duck! Your wife and kids are one lucky group. My grandfather was a "fowl" hunter so we often had duck, quail, geese, pheasant - and I love all of it. When hubby & I go out to a fine dining restaurant I will order the duck. If you ever make your way down to Florida - I highly recommend a restaurant in St. Augustine Fl - called "The Raintree" - a big old Southern house that has been converted into a fine dining restaurant in historic St. Augustine. The chef has mastered the art of cooking duck - meat moist, skin crispy, sauce to die for. "Kudos" on your Duck Dinner - it looks and writes delicious.
Feb. 16, 2011 5:31 pm
Good evening luv2cook - I hear you loud & clear. It's 16 1/2 years for us and my hearing gets better every day. Last time I drove through St. Augustine I stopped at an alligator farm but they weren't serving or selling any. We are going out to dinner on Friday night and if the restaurant we go to isn't serving duck, my girls may storm the kitchen. Have a great night.
Feb. 16, 2011 5:35 pm
Doug - since you are still experimenting with the sweet potato fries - I did some experimenting myself tonight - and pulled my hubby in as my guinea pig. I had told you that a restaurant I worked in at one time did some great sweet potato fries as an appetizer. We made a tempura batter and dredged frozen sweet potato fries through the batter and then dropped them individually into hot oil to fry. Well - I tried them at home tonight and did them a couple of different ways. I made one batch with just the plain tempura batter - made another batch with cinnamon and sugar added to the tempura batter. My hubby liked the plain battered SP fries with a Ranch/horseradish sauce - although he said there needed to be a little salt added to the batter. I think it either needed a little salt added to the batter or right after they come out of the fryer then sprinkle some sea salt on them. The second version of the cinnamon and sugar added to the batter made them come out like a dessert - I could see them as a dessert with some real whip cream served on the side to dip them in. OOOHHHH warm sweet potato fries with cool whip cream - it'll make your tongue slap your eyeballs! And another option would be to add some spice to your batter - then it's "South of the Border" Sweet Potato Fries - - you've got to give them a try and tell me how your family likes them.
Feb. 16, 2011 5:47 pm
the duck salad was great! i loved the goaat cheese! that gave it a little twist. it was a perfect V-day meal! Thanks a lot!
Feb. 17, 2011 4:56 am
you know luv2cook - that sweet potato story is almost a blog within a blog - I love it. Sweet potatoes as dessert really work well. There is a great sweet potato poundcake recipe on this site that I have won baking competitions with in the past http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Sweet-Potato-Pound-Cake/Detail.aspx
Feb. 17, 2011 4:57 am
Hey Cates - I know you loved the duck - your empty bowl said it all. I think you liked the red velvet cake too
Feb. 17, 2011 6:33 am
I've only had duck once, in a siamese/vietnamese restaurant, and while I wasn't overly impressed, I think I could go for your recipe. Cherry sauces are our favorite (ham steaks with warm cherry sauce...mmm). I've also discovered that my George Forman grill also works as a panini press and a quesadilla pan (kitchen gadgets on teachers' salaries--not a priority, but I can be very creative with what I've got:)
Feb. 17, 2011 6:51 am
Good morning Mangel - I use to use a foil covered brick as a panini press - first time I had duck was in a chinese restaurant - Peking Duck (is it beijing Duck now ?) and was intrigued. Have a great one.
Feb. 17, 2011 5:19 pm
So sorry for "ralph-bunching" your blog - I start talking food and I get carried away. Thanks for the sweet potato pound cake recipe - since I know you've won awards with it, I'm going to give it a try. You keep bloging - and I'll try to keep my comments to a low roar!
Feb. 17, 2011 7:41 pm
Comment on my friend - I love it. Just because I wrote something up there doesn't mean we can't talk about something else down here.
Feb. 19, 2011 2:15 pm
Just ran across your blog, Doug. Duck is a favorite of mine and unfortunately I'm the only one in the house that will eat it. However, this sounds "do-able" for just one, as well. The cherry balsamic sauce is reminiscent of a way I fix tilapia - pan-sear the tilapia with some finely diced sweet onions, salt and pepper, then set aside. Toast almonds in the pan. Then, in the same pan make the cherry balsamic sauce - pour the almond/cherry/balsamic over the tilapia and serve over either wilted spinach or a nice pasta.
Feb. 20, 2011 6:26 am
Have to tell you about the one time we had duck,it was really bad. funny store, but sad too.I was driving into the yard and one of my ducks attacked the truck tires.This time it got too close. Guess what happened! So duck was then on the menu,ducky must of been older than I thought,we couldn't eat it cause it was like shoe leather. Sorry about this story, just had to share!
Feb. 20, 2011 6:31 am
Your recipe sounds great, so I think it's time to try duck again!!Love cherries..
Feb. 20, 2011 12:38 pm
Love the blog! What a cookin' blog should be. I have only found Cherry flavored cranberries - not dried cherries. I will keep looking! I do really like to read the description of you making it. If it turns out well for me and daughter likes it a lot-I'll make it for her 16th birthday.
Feb. 20, 2011 12:39 pm
I just realized it is not an approved recipe. Are you submitting it? That would be great
Feb. 20, 2011 12:51 pm
Me again! I read the reviews on the Sweet Potato Pound Cake. Mostly awesome reviews- but 3 of them stated "dry" and some said "not tasty". Since you've made it several times with wonderful results-what can go wrong? Over mixing the batter? Or over baking it. Must be 1 of the 2, do you think? Thanks, I'm a "wannabe" great baker!
Feb. 20, 2011 4:45 pm
@Maureen - Wegmans has dried cherries, but they are sweetened. Trader Joes is the only place I've reliably found dried cherries that are UNsweetened (if that matters to you).
Feb. 20, 2011 6:27 pm
Thanks kgoller. I don't know if Western NY has a Trader Joe's. I hear it mentioned often on AR. We DO have a Wegman's. Thanks!
Feb. 21, 2011 10:47 pm
Not really a big duck fan, but the rest of it sounds delicious and requires some pondering to fit to another meat that my boyfriend & I like more. However, I was moved to comment that your blog is great- fun and interesting, and I'm sure your All Adoring and Accepting wife understands about the impulses of tasty food. Thanks for sharing!
Feb. 22, 2011 5:26 am
Wow - you go away for a few days and suddenly a sleepy blog wakes up and wreaks havoc - thanks to all for stopping by - time to get to answering a few of these
Feb. 22, 2011 5:29 am
Good morning kgoeller - your spin on tilapia sounds great and not one I would have thought of - I will have to give it a try
Feb. 22, 2011 5:31 am
Good morning jniblett - love the story - guess that old duck was just getting back at you for running it over - thanks for stopping by
Feb. 22, 2011 5:35 am
Hi Maureen - the cherries I used were from Sunsweet and I get them over in the raisin aisle of my local ShopRite - as for the sweet potato pundcake, I find it's the sweet potatoes that matter the most - I tend to use smaller ones and I make sure to wrap them in foil when I cook them. I probably use more than I am supposed to as well in order to get a deeper orange. I also make a orange juice sugar glaze to pour over it. Good luck and thanks for checking in.
Feb. 22, 2011 5:56 am
Good morning Cassandra - give duck a try - I actually went to a restaurant in Ketchum, Idaho this weekend that had cherry balsamic duck on the menu. I felt pretty good about that.
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Doug Matthews

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Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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Mendham, New Jersey, USA

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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