Warm Cabbage Salad with Duck Fat

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I first prepared this salad at the Balboa Café in San Francisco in 1979. It was a popular success beyond my wildest dreams, especially because I thought at the time that cabbage and duck fat would be the last two things to capture the taste buds and imaginations of Californians. To this day, there are people who will not come to the restaurants without my promise that the cabbage salad will be available. Sometimes I do not use goat cheese but just bacon or pancetta, Italian bacon. Sometimes I add chopped shallots and use walnut oil instead of duck fat. But the procedure for a warm or “wilted” salad is the same: Mix the salad, seasonings, and acid beforehand, pour over the hot oil or fat, toss, and serve.

Ingredients

  • 1 red cabbage
  • 8 slices bacon or pancetta
  • 8 slices white bread, preferably baguette or country bread
  • ½ cup walnut halves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup rendered duck fat
  • 4 one-ounce rounds fresh white goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Method

Cut the cabbage in half through the root end. Cut out the core from each half. Turn the halves cut side down and slice crosswise into ⅛-inch pieces.

Lay the bacon out flat on a rack and bake or grill until crisp. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch lengths. Keep warm.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread slices and walnuts on a sheet pan for 10 minutes. When the bread is cool enough to handle, rub the croutons with the garlic. Keep the croutons warm and let the walnuts cool.

Put the cabbage in a bowl. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and the salt and pepper and toss the cabbage thoroughly.

Heat the duck fat in a pan and put the cabbage in it. Toss quickly but thoroughly for 30 seconds. Add the bacon and walnuts and toss again for 1 minute.

Serve immediately on warm plates. Put the cheese in the center of the cabbage, sprinkle with the parsley, and put the croutons on the plates.

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