Shawn Culp, culinary arts department chair at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, got the inspiration for Peanut Shell Smoked Duck Breast from an old Southern secret.
“Historically, hams were smoked with peanut shells to utilize the by-product of peanuts, which are abundant in the South,” Culp says. “Instead of throwing the shells in the garbage, [it’s] here’s what we can do with this.”
When Culp teaches garde manger classes, he focuses a lot on curing and smoking meats and always tells students to consider “smoking media” other than just different types of wood. This could mean dried citrus peel, dried herbs and even grape vines.
“You could do a blend of mesquite or hickory with peanut shells. I suggest a 50/50 blend of wood/peanut shells.”
There are different ways to smoke with peanut shells: add them along with wood in a smoker unit or place them in a foil ball near the grill’s heat element.
For the duck breast, Culp ramped up the peanut flavor with a coating of toasted, minced peanuts, parsley and shallots. To that, he added a port wine reduction—resulting in flavors that echoed something much simpler: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Note: not recommended when you serve folks with peanut allergies.