Potato, Leek, and Watercress Soup with Grilled Smoked Duck
The addition of the peppery watercress and succulent smoked duck creates a far more interesting dish than the classic vichyssoise on which this soup is based. The time-consuming aspect of the recipe is the smoked duck, which could also be purchased at specialty food stores. Without the watercress and the duck, this is still a wonderful version of vichyssoise, rich and flavorful. This soup may be made up to 2 days in advance; reheat over low heat, stirring frequently. Some milk or half-and-half may need to be added if the soup has thickened from the starch in the potatoes.
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Water - 1 tablespoon
- Leeks - 6, white part only, chopped
- Celery Stalks - 2, sliced
- Onion - 1, chopped
- Garlic Clove - 1, crushed
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- Chicken Stock - 6 cups (see Cooking Basics)
- Boiling Potatoes - 1-1/2 pounds, peeled and quartered
- Half-and-half - 1/4 cup
- Watercress - 1 large bunch, stemmed
- Smoked Duck Breast - 8 ounces, thinly sliced, (recipe follows)
- Smoked Duck Breast (Makes 12 ounces to 1 pound)
- Fresh Ducks - 1 (4-1/2 to 5 pounds) or Muscovy duck breast
- Warm Water - 2 cups
- Kosher salt - 1/2 cup
- Sugar - 2 tablespoons
- Hickory, apple, or other aromatic wood chips - 2 cups, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Heat the butter and tablespoon of water in a 5-quart saucepan or pot over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks, celery, onion, and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken stock and potatoes to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, lower the heat, and simmer slowly for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Remove the soup from the heat and puree it with a hand-held blender or in a blender or food processor; if using a blender or processor, this may have to be done in batches. Place the soup over low heat and bring to a simmer. Add the half-and-half and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
To serve: Arrange equal portions of watercress in a ring along the outside edge of each warmed soup plate. Pour the soup into each soup plate and arrange equal amounts of matchstick-cut grilled smoked duck breast on each.
Smoked Duck Breast
If using a whole duck, remove the whole breast from the duck, reserving the legs and carcass for another use. Scrape the skin back from the duck to remove the fat, but leave the skin attached to the breast.
Prepare a brine by combining the water, salt, and sugar in a large non-aluminum bowl. Submerge the breast in the brine for 5 minutes, weighting it with a glass jar of food. Remove the duck from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels.
Lightly coat the bottom rack of a smoker with vegetable oil. Drain the wood chips and place them in the smoking chamber. Place the duck breast on the rack and smoke it for 2-1/2 hours, or until cooked through.
Remove the breast from the smoker and grill it over low charcoal or wood fire for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the juices run clear. Or, roast the duck in a preheated 350 F oven for 5 minutes. Let the breast cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it, uncovered, until thoroughly cool. To store, wrap the whole breast tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 5 days. Do not slice the breast until just before serving.