Archived entries for ducks

Easy Entertaining: Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

I’ve said it before; entertaining on a weeknight requires advance planning. While some dishes can be thrown together last minute, you need a least a few minutes for that. And my mission this Friday was woefully short on minutes for last-minute prep. In fact, I didn’t really have a minute all week.

I started a new job, and within a day found myself clumsily attempting to man the site’s main queue while my new coworkers traveled to Austin, California, Seattle, Chicago, Madison, and other places. (Yes, they went to ALL of those places this week. It’s madness in the name of a looming book deadline.) It was a trial by fire for me, which is likely the best way to learn (and to figure out what I need to learn), but then all of a sudden it was Friday and my husband Matt’s birthday and there was a dinner party to be thrown.

Enter the freezer. You can make this umami-rich duck ragu the weekend before (or even earlier than that) and pop it in the freezer till the morning of the party. Defrost the sauce, boil some pasta, throw together a quick salad, and dinner for eight is served, your title as Kitchen Master retained.

I kept my crown. This dish is a winner, savory with slow-cooked duck and earthy mushrooms, and quite a bit of wine. I must apologize: the recipe below is a little loose, but it’s more or less what I did. Be sure to salt the final dish, it needs it. The secret ingredient is a package of frozen porcini I found at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. I wasn’t sure how good they’d be, but chopped finely enough, they add a serious hit of flavor. Dried porcini simply do not compare.

This is a perfect dish to serve with Pinot Noir—the duck and the mushrooms bring out the delicate earthy qualities of the wine, and the wine cuts the richness of the sauce. We savored a wedding-gift bottle from Patricia Green Cellars—magic.

Looking for other make-ahead dishes for weeknight entertaining?

Try this lamb and duck cassoulet or these port-braised lamb shanks.

My mom’s chili is another great choice, as is this Moroccan chickpea stew.

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Take that, swine flu! Comforting duck noodle soup

It’s the cardinal rule: thou shalt not blog about work. And so I shan’t, except to say that for reasons best left unelaborated, I’ve spent the last week or so hearing an awful lot about Swine Flu; a very bad state of affairs for a certified hypochondriac such as myself. That being the case, I’m sure you can imagine how I reacted when Bench revealed to me on Monday that he was feeling a bit, shall we say, under the weather. That’s right. SWINE FLU*. Cue the sirens and the respiratory mask.

Duck soup!

*Note: Bench does not have swine flu.

After my hysteria subsided, I decided that the best thing I could contribute to the situation was soup, for both our sakes. Specifically, duck noodle soup. Conveniently, I still had the remains of the duck from the Cherryaki duck experiment kicking it in my freezer; I also had a lot of fresh scallions, some star anise, some udon noodles, and a long-standing desire to replicate the rich, delicious duck soup from Q2 thai in midtown. All I needed was a reason, and here it was: Bench was sick, and I needed to come up with A Project to keep from hovering and making it worse. Win win!

Udon 2

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giant duck salad

When Matt and I went to France last fall, we rented a tiny apartment in Montmartre for the week so we could pretend to be locals. Montmartre seems like the Carroll Gardens of Paris: the place where regular folks can actually afford to live, and though it’s not quite in the center of things, there are cheese stores and nicer apartments and perfect neighborhood restaurants to brag about. Each day we took the subway to the more central parts of the city to see museums and markets, and while we enjoyed some fancy meals there, our favorite dinner was in a casual place a few blocks from the apartment.

It was at Le Relais Gascon that I had my first French Cassoulet. It was eye-rollingly delicious with creamy beans and meltingly rich meats. But sharing the spotlight was the salad of my dreams. These are serious salads—the menu warns that they are “Salades Géantes”. I think we laughed out loud when it arrived in its hulking bowl. Each salad is topped with a mountain of freshly fried, fragrantly garlicy potato slices. Inside, lardons and warm goat cheese, crisp greens and perfect vinagrette. You could order it with tomatoes and green beans, foie gras or sausage, ham, smoked salmon, duck, etc, etc. I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since.

A trip to Essex market provided the excuse. I picked up three beautiful bits of cheese at Formaggio, and while we could make a whole meal out of that unbelievable cheese, a salad would serve as a good foil. I chose a loaf of bread and some bitter frisée, some cheap red peppers and endive. I added some potatoes for the essential salad topping. To gild the lily, my new best friend Jeffrey the Butcher sold me the duck.

I probably should have sprung for the breast. The magret duck breasts were huge, more expensive than Shiv’s entire Long Island duckling. I chickened out (ducked out?), saving my money for our fancy cheese plate, and just chose a leg. I think I’ve learned tonight that duck legs are good for braising, and for making confit, but really nothing special roasted. Nothing special, except for one thing—the fat. One duck leg provided the perfect amount of amazing, fragrant, musky fat to crisp up our potato slice topping. Divine. But when I try this again, it won’t be with the leg.

Not much meat is needed for this recipe, especially if you’re serving it with a cheese plate. But go with your own appetite. And feel free to riff on the vegetables—kirby cucumbers are a good addition, or tomatoes if they’re in season. Corn cut off the cob would be great. I experimented with a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, a touch of soft goat cheese, and a few blackberries, but your favorite simple vinagrette may work better.

Giant Duck Salad
Inspired by Le Relais Gascon

1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 dried chipotle
1 duck leg (or try a breast, cooking time will vary)
2-3 medium waxy potatoes
1 head frisee and 2 heads endive (or substitute greens of your liking)
vegetables for salad: red peppers, cucumber, etc, sliced
vinaigrette (your favorite recipe)

1-2 hours before cooking, break chipotle in to three pieces or so in a small bowl. Pour a half cup of warm (not boiling) water over, let sit five minutes. Rub duck leg with Five Spice and garlic. Place in a sealable plastic bag, add orange juice, soy sauce, balsamic, and honey. Add chipotle with its soaking liquid, seal bag and shake a bit to mix ingredients and distribute the marinade. Marinate an hour or two, turning to coat the duck leg if you remember. Preheat oven to 350. Remove leg from marinade, let excess drip off. Heat an ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron) to low-medium heat, and place leg, skin side down, in it. No grease is needed since the duck will give off fat. Let brown for 10 minutes, then turn and cook five minutes more. Meanwhile, slice potatoes about 1/8″ thick, leaving skin on. Add potatoes to pan when browning is complete, turn duck leg skin side down, move skillet to oven. Cook 40 minutes, flip potatoes and turn duck, then cook another 40 minutes or until duck is cooked. Meanwhile place salad and salad vegetables in a bowl, and make the vinagrette. When duck is cooked, let rest a minute. Remove skin and cut meat from the bone into small pieces. Add to salad and toss with vinagrette. Place crispy potatoes on top and serve.

In other P&C news
Thanks to the magic of Craigslist, I have acquired a digital SLR of my very own! Perfect to celebrate the hundredth post of Pithy and Cleaver (and the recent birth of my baby neice!) Please bear with me as I learn how to use it.

Everything but the Quack: 100 posts, two ducks.

Hey! It’s our 100th post! We’d like to thank you all for joining us on the journey so far. We don’t know about you, but we’re having a blast!

We celebrated the milestone by having brunch at Spitzer’s Corner and then taking a field trip to the Essex Street Market (also known as Shiv’s New Favorite Place Ever). Our first stop while there was Jeffrey’s Meats, an institution that’s been filling the Lower East Side’s butchery needs for more than 75 years. The shop (booth 36 at the market, if that helps) is run by the charming, eccentric Jeffrey himself, who flirted shamelessly and gifted us with goat’s cheese as we chatted with him about the duck products we were after. Unsurprisingly, we walked away happy–I with a whole duckling (everything but the quack!), Maggie with a gorgeous leg–and charmed by the promise that when we next came by, we could even get the quack, if we’d just call ahead.

Admittedly, I’m trying to live quack-free these days, so I probably won’t be taking advantage of that offer. I will, however, be cooking the bejiggety out of that duck tomorrow night (as will Maggie); watch this space to find out the outcome of our Adventures in Waterfowl!

Here’s to a hundred more, a thousand more, a zillion more!

P.S. Has anyone else heard about PETA’s new campaign to rebrand fish as “sea kittens“? Does anyone find it as bizarre as I do? Like, sufficiently bizarre that you’re not sure whether or not it’s a joke?

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