Salmis (Sal-me) is one of those classic French preparations I love to make whenever the weather turns cool. We’ve actually had cold weather here in Sacramento — the mercury dipped to 42 degrees this morning. That’s cold for here at this time of year.
As we are on our “empty the freezer” binge, I thought a random smattering of legs and wings done as a salmis would be in order. What makes a salmis a salmis? To my mind, it’s the red wine, the meat — typically game, but at the very least domestic duck, goose or rabbit — and the repeated cooking and reheating that makes the dish smooth and luxurious.
I know some of you are wondering about the radiator pasta; not very traditional. Yeah, I know, but I was too tired to make polenta or mashed potatoes, which would have been better.
There are two ways to eat a salmis: You can do as we did last night and eat the sauce with a starch and slip the meat off the bones as you go — it will be literally falling off the bone — or you can eat it in more of an Italian method, like a sugo, and pick the meat off the bones beforehand and serve the salmis as basically a pasta sauce or topping for your starch. Either way is good.
You will want to add something fresh and herby at the end. Salmis makes a murky sauce, and the dish as it is lacks any sort of bright notes. The easiest way to get these is with some chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives or in this case minced green onions.
SALMIS OF DUCK or GOOSE
A salmis is a long, slow-cooked braise that is the perfect meal to make when you have lots of legs hanging around — do it on a Sunday in a big batch, and because this dish requires reheating to really become a salmis, it is perfect for those after-work nights during the week.
Don’t use breast meat for this recipe. Save that for fast, quick cooking or poaching. Use only legs, thighs, wings, hearts or cleaned gizzards for this. They appreciate long, slow cooking. The absolute best choice of meat would be wild goose, followed by pheasant, wild rabbit, wild or domestic turkey, wild duck, domestic duck, domestic rabbit or, in a pinch, an old chicken such as a stewing hen.
Keys here are Armagnac, although you can substitute Cognac or a good domestic brandy, and fresh herbs, both for the stewing and to garnish at the end. Oh, and a word on the wine: Don’t use anything you would not drink. You’ll notice it in the final dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
- 3 pounds duck legs, thighs and wings
- 3 tablespoons duck fat or butter
- 1/2 pound diced pancetta or Spanish ham
- 15 peeled shallots, left whole
- 5 chopped garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups red wine
- 1 quart duck stock, or pheasant or chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 small sprig of rosemary
- 1 small red chile, minced
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons Armagnac or other brandy, plus another 2 tablespoons
- Minced parsley, chives or green onion tops
- In a large frying pan, heat the duck fat or butter over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all side in batches, adding more oil if needed. Do this slowly and thoroughly; take your time. Set the legs aside as you go.
- Heat the oven to 275 degrees.
- When the legs are browned, add the pancetta, shallots, chile and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add a little salt. Do not let the garlic burn. Add the 4 tablespoons of Amagnac off the flame — then flame it to burn off the alcohol. Watch those eyebrows! Stir well and cook for a minute or two.
- In a Dutch oven or brazier, arrange the rosemary, bay leaves, thyme and chopped parsley, then top with the legs so that the skin side faces up. Sprinkle with salt.
- Add the flour to the frying pan and mix well, cooking it to form a roux for about 3-4 minutes. Slowly add some red wine, mixing all the way. When it is incorporated, add some stock and bring to a boil.
- Pour the contents of the frying pan over the legs. Move any shallots, etc, off the skin of the legs and — this is important — only allow the liquid to come up about midway to the legs. Do not submerge them. Add more wine or stock if you need to.
- Cover the Dutch oven tightly and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Remove from heat and let cool, then put it in the fridge. Could you eat it at this point? Sure, but it will not be as good as it will be the next day, or the next.
- When you reheat the salmis, bring it only to the barest simmer. Do not boil. Let it heat the meat through, then when you serve, taste for salt and add the remaining Armagnac. Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta. Garnish with the chopped chives, parsley or green onions. Looking for a wine? Try a California Petite Sirah, a Cotes du Rhone blend, an Italian Aglianico or Nero D’Avola, or, if you are feeling flush, a Chateauneuf du Pape.