Archived entries for duck

A distinct disinclination towards the proper precautions: Hoisin Duck Spring Rolls.

It’s a well-documented fact that I am something of a physical disaster in the kitchen. This is in keeping with my general character and way of navigating the world–I’m clumsy, I fall over a lot, and my balance is terrible. As such, it makes perfect sense that I rarely make it out of the kitchen unscathed (as I may have mentioned before, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the face of Jesus or Kate Middleton appears in the tangle of burn scars on my right arm). Knowing this, you’d think I might have the sense to avoid such extreme sports as, say, deep-frying without proper supervision or tools. You’d think I might consider ways in which to avoid obtaining a massive hot-oil burn on my fingertips. You’d think I might show some inclination toward self preservation.

You’d be wrong.

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For all the damage it does to my insurance premiums, however, my cavalier attitude in the kitchen frequently nets some really glorious dishes–like the hoisin duck spring rolls I made the other day. For one reason or another, I found myself with an excess of duck meat and a craving for something fried; and, given that my pantry almost always looks like an asian grocery store exploded inside it, a spring roll seemed like an excellent way to deal with both my reality and my desire. Plus, I hadn’t injured myself in a while, and it really was time.

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As woman cannot live by duck and oil alone, I opted to bulk up the filling with some braised savoy cabbage–with plenty of ginger and garlic, it’s about as addictive and savory as anything you’d ever hope to eat–and added a little crunch with some chopped scallions. The lightness of the cabbage was an excellent foil to the the rich roasted duck, and the sweetness of the hoisin made it complex, unctuous, and oh-so-irresistible. And, surprisingly, much easier than I expected! Of course, don’t limit yourself to this particular combination–I bet it would be equally lovely with tofu and carrots, or chicken, or anything else delicious that you’d like to fill the spring rolls with (I, personally, will probably try it with chicken and avocado next time).

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A quick note before you attempt this, however: no matter how nimble you are, no matter how ninja-like and quick, RESIST THE TEMPTATION to flip your spring rolls over in the oil using your finger. I promise you, you are not fast enough to avoid sacrificing a fingerprint to the gods of molten oil. Trust me on this one.

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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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Ducks in a Row

I casually picked up a duck breast at the farmer’s market today without much of a plan. The Hudson Valley Duck folks assured me that the Lola variety is leaner and more flavorful than standard Pekin or Moulard. “It’s a bit gamier,” they said, “but if you’re a duck lover you’ll love it.” When I confirmed my membership in that particular club, they suggested that we use any leftovers for duck and eggs in the morning. Duck and eggs for breakfast? I think these people are my people.

We’ve been reviewing Grenache for my Serious Eats column (here are the cheap ones, and here are a few more under $25), and every wine we taste seems to beg for duck. There’s something about these wines–they’re rich with a hint of herbs, licorice and lavender, blackberry and seeded raspberry jam. They’re smooth and cherried and a little beguiling, somewhere between the bravado of Shiraz and the silky whispers of Pinot Noir. They call out for a little decadence, but there’s something subtle about them, something steak wouldn’t really ignite. Lamb works fine, but duck is really the perfect, luscious match.

To pick up the berried and spiced flavors in the wine, I added a handful of blackberries and star anise to the pan sauce. The berries soften and become infused in the sauce without adding too much sweetness. Each ingredients gives a little and mingles with the rest. A bite, a sip, and you’ll lose track of where the duck ends and the wine begins. Which is a very good thing.

Want more duck?
Try Shiv’s Roast Cherriyaki Duck or this Giant Duck Salad.

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Beyond Pork and Beans: Lamb and Duck Cassoulet

Matt and I rented a studio apartment a few years ago for a week in Paris—Montmartre to be exact. We bought cheeses from the store across the cobblestoned street, picnicked outside the Louvre, and wandered around until we’d exhausted ourselves.

At a casual bistro up the block from our little apartment, we ordered cheap wine and a giant cassoulet. There was something so elemental about it, so rustic and warming and luscious, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’ve made a number of attempts to duplicate it with mixed results.

I hosted an evening of beer tasting the other night, and I needed a main course to serve after the tasting that could wait patiently in the oven until we had rendered our verdict. This is often the case when entertaining: whatever you’re serving needs to be flexible, in case someone is caught on the train, or stuck in the office, or you’re just serving leisurely appetizers. It’s good to have a list of dishes like this: not necessarily low-maintenance, but definitely low pressure in the hour before serving.

Since some of my guests don’t eat pork, I was determined to create a rich, decadent spin on cassoulet without it. I’m a bit surprised to say this, but we didn’t miss the pork at all. (A little lamb belly and duck confit do a bit to calm that particular yearning.) This cassoulet isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it was darn tasty.

I cooked the beans according to a quick no-soak method I learned on The Paupered Chef. If anything, the beans ended up overcooked—you’re probably safe leaving them quite al dente at first, since they’re going to keep cooking in the 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!

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