Duck

Hi everyone, being that it’s a holiday week, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some of my favorite holiday-friendly roasts and vegetable accompaniments.

Honey and Citrus Glazed Ham
Maple and Bourbon Glazed Pork Loin
Roasted Leg of Lamb
Roast Duck with Winter Vegetables
Roast NY Strip Loin
Simple Roast Turkey

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Oven Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
Winter Slaw
Skillet Roasted Winter Vegetables
Roasted Asparagus with Bearnaise Sauce
Roasted Cabbage Steaks

Hope you folks have a great holiday weekend – we’ll be keeping it quiet here in Virginia as I keep plugging away at the manuscript for my new cookbook. See you next week!

Guess what? It’s getting noticeably cooler here in Virginia, which means it’s just about roasting weather. I love making roast dishes once the temperatures dip, because it’s an easy (and aromatic) way to warm up the kitchen during chilly weather. In truth, I developed this dish a few months ago, when I was working on a particular chapter for my upcoming cookbook, but decided to hold off on sharing this recipe until we had appropriate weather.

Roasting duck can be daunting. I know this because I spent the first 30 years of my life not roasting any ducks, because it seemed like an intimidating bird to cook (although to be fair, I wasn’t roasting much of anything during the first 16 years of my life). Turns out roasting duck is in many ways more appealing than roasting chicken, because a) the whole duck could basically be classified as “dark meat”, which means it is more forgiving if you overcook it, b) duck can be served at a wide range of internal temperatures (135F-165F), depending on how you like it, and c) duck skin is so fatty that you’ll inevitably render a bunch of delicious duck fat to use in other recipes.

For today’s recipe, we’re going to trim the excess skin from the duck (around the neck and cavity), render it separately, and use that fat to roast the vegetables. I like this technique because you can then use the fat that accumulates below the roasted duck for other cooking adventures. My recipe from The Ancestral Table also rendered duck fat to roast the veggies, but the vegetables were placed under the duck as it roasted. This technique required one fewer step, but it is always a challenge to get everything finished at a reasonable time; too often, my duck was ready while the vegetables were still cooking. By separating the two cooking processes, we have more control over the timing of each dish, and makes for a more synergized eating experience.

One last step, which I think is worth mentioning. I have found that it’s worth it to refrigerate the duck overnight, uncovered, so that the duck skin is nice and dry. This technique is used by Chinese restaurants when making Peking Duck, albeit more elaborately (using a bike pump, blanching, and stationary fan), and gives you a layer of crispy duck skin that pulls away easily from the meat.

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I love the idea of a good salad. They are simple to put together, and can be immensely satisfying under the right conditions. For me, a salad should be about varying tastes and textures, while still fairly satiating; after all, nothing’s worse than sitting down to 15 minutes of chewing and not feeling satisfied. In terms of satiety, duck breast is pretty high up there – it only takes a little to feel full, especially compared to something leaner like chicken breasts.

So I threw together this duck breast salad, paired with the opposing tastes of apple and bacon. Not too flashy, but it makes an excellent midday meal. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to properly cook a duck breast, but I really like my method: crisp it skin-side down in a skillet, then flip and transfer to an oven until it’s ready. It’s an easy process, assuming you have an oven-proof skillet. If you don’t, no big deal – simply leave a baking sheet in the oven as it heats, and transfer the breasts to the hot sheet instead.

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WAIT!! Don’t turn away just yet. If the idea of duck tongues is too much for you, know that you can make this exact recipe with shrimp instead and it’s equally tasty; in fact, this recipe is based on Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾), a common Chinese dish that’s one of our favorites. I’ll probably do up the shrimp version of the recipe in the future.

Okay, now that I’ve coaxed you into staying, let’s talk about duck tongues. They’re very different from what you may be expecting from tongue – usually considered dense, muscled, and tough – and are instead tender and succulent. They carry an inherent richness which reminds me of escargot. They have a tender bone in the center of the tongue, that’s mostly cartilage; many people come to relish the slight crunch of eating the whole tongue, bone and all. They’re also very affordable considering their status as a delicacy: US Wellness Meats offers a pack of 50-60 tongues (which I used in making this recipe) for well under $10.

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