Why a Duck? Nigel Slater’s Roast Duck + 3 recipes with the leftovers

from The Kitchen Diaries, pp. 372-74.

I had an organic Mary’s duck in my freezer. The temperatures are soaring into the 100s. That frozen bird, I knew, would not last until fall. I had to roast it no matter how hot it made the house. Not only is roast duck out of season, but the recipe I chose to make — because it’s the most straightforward — is Nigel’s early Christmas lunch. You can’t get much less seasonal than that at the end of June. Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pound.

But I also decided to eke as many meals out of that one duck as I could. I’ve managed four: roast duck and potatoes; pasta with duck; another pasta with duck; and duck broth for soup. Plus, I saved all the fat (you can strain it, if you’re fussy about the clarity of your duck fat).

First, Nigel’s basic recipe (bookmark this for the fall holidays):

a large duckling, weighing about 2.5 kg [or 5 1/2 pounds]

potatoes, such as Maris Piper — 6 medium [I used Yukon Gold]

pancetta — 150 g [or about 5 oz; or the same amount in unsmoked bacon]

olive oil, mild, not fruity [this means not extra-virgin]

onions — 2 medium

thyme — 5 or 6 sprigs

bay leaves — a couple

a wine glass of Marsala [Shadowcook: I used Madeira]

Preheat the oven to 200 C [or 400 F]. Remove the giblets from the duck, rinse the bird inside and out and pat it dry with kitchen paper. If you can do this an hour or so before you begin to cook. leaving the duck in a cool place, then all to the good.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into finger-thick slices, dropping them into cold water as you go. Cut the pancetta into cubes, then put it into a large roasting tin [or pan] with a tablespoon of oil. [Shadowcook: Use as little oil as possible; the duck will release rivers of its own.] Warm it over a low heat, letter the pancetta flavour the oil but without letter it colour. Introduce the slices of potato, shaken dry, into the fat and let them cook slowly.

Whilst this is going on, peel and cut the onions first in half, then each half into about six. Add them to the potatoes along with the thyme leaves stripped from their stems.

[Shadowcook: It’s sweet of Nigel to give us the benefit of the doubt and order the steps of this recipe as if we were all flash peelers like he no doubt is. But if I were you, I’d peel and cut up the onions before I started sweating the pancetta and frying the onions. Get all your ducks in a row, as they say, before you begin cooking.]

Turn everything over gently as it cooks, letting the potatoes and onions colour very slightly. Season with salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves, then remove from heat.

[Shadowcook: Actually, I put the bay leaves into the cavity of the bird.]

Price the skin of the duck all over with a fork, then season it inside and out with salt. Lay the duck on top of the potatoes, then put it in the oven and roast for an hour and a half, until the potatoes are soft and both they and the duck are golden. From time to time, push the spuds, particularly those that are browning too quickly, to one side, and spoon a little of the cooking juices over any that appear dry. During the cooking, carefully tip off most of the fat taht is pour out of the duck and that has not been absorbed by the potatoes.

[Shadowcook: The danger here is that the potatoes will burn, like some of mine did. In addition to keeping a close eye on the roasting pan, pouring off the fat will help avert the danger of burnt potatoes.]

Test to see that the duck is done. there should be no sign of blood in the juices and the skin should be crisp and singing. Remove the potatoes to a warm serving dish.

[Shadowcook: And then again, there’s the meat thermometer. At this step, I’d remove the bird at 165-170 F and proceed.]

Turn the oven up to 220 C [425 F]. Put the duck back in the oven and let it crisp for five minutes or so, then transfer it to a warm dish. Quickly pour the Marsala [or Madeira] into the roasting tin [or pan] and place it over a moderately high heat (you don’t want it to boil away), scraping at any stuck bits in the tin [or pan]. The idea is to get any pan stickings and sediment to dissolve into the gravy. Whilst the sauce is bubbling, carve the duck and serve it with the potatoes. Check the pan juices for seasoning — they may need a little salt — then spoon over the duck.

Enough to serve 2 generously. [Shadowcook: I’ll say! I carved off a leg and saved the rest for the following recipes.]

Now, my turn:

1. Sauteed cherry tomatoes and duck meat over fresh pasta

1 serving

1 – 2 teaspoons duck fat and NO MORE

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

somewhere between a 1/2 quart to 1 quart cherry tomatoes, as many as you would like, halved

[In the photo above, most of what you see is cherry tomatoes reduced to a sauce]

the meat of one of the breasts from leftover carcass of roasted duck, chopped or sliced into thin strips

salt and pepper

3 oz fresh pasta

flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

1 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

First, put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Then put a pasta bowl into a warm oven to keep it warm.

Then, in a smallish skillet, heat the 1 or so teaspoon of duck fat over medium low heat. Add the minced garlic and shallot. Sauté until softened. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, turn the heat up a little, and leave to sauté for 3-5 mins. As they soften, mash some of the tomatoes with the back of the wooden spoon, and stir. When the tomatoes have released juices and created a sauce, turn down the heat, and add the chopped duck meat. Season to taste. Simmer on low until the pasta until sauce is reduced to your liking. Keep warm until pasta is ready.

Cook the fresh pasta 4-5 minutes, drain, and without shaking the extra water off immediately transfer the pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle chopped parsley over and stir. Transfer to warmed pasta bowl and grate parmesan over. Eat.

2. Sautéed artichokes, duck, and sorrel over fresh pasta

several small artichokes

quarter of a lemon

1-2 teaspoons duck fat

1 shallot, minced

the meat from one breast of a roasted duck

1/4 to 1/2 cup white white, preferably a sauvignon blanc, not an oaky wine

French sorrel or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 oz fresh or dried pasta

Don’t start the water until you’re ready to sauté the artichokes. Put a small bowl of water to the side. You’ll put your artichoke pieces in it to prevent them from turning brown. Squeeze into it the juice of a quarter or half lemon.

To prepare the artichokes, break off all the leaves until you get close to the center, where the leaves are more yellow than green. Cut off the top part, above the rim of the artichoke heart. With a small paring knife, peel the stem and smooth the underside of the artichoke where you’ve broken off the leaves. Then cut out the center of the choke so that you have a small hollow. Your little artichoke should look like a baseless goblet. Cut it into quarters or eighths, depending on how big it is. Drop into a bowl of lemon water.

Now, put a pot of salted water on to boil. Go on with the recipe, but put the pasta in the water whenever it’s ready. Heat the oven to its lowest setting and put a pasta bowl in to warm it.

Put one teaspoon (or more, depending on how many artichokes you use, but a little goes a long way) in a skillet over a medium low flame. Add the chopped shallot and stir. Watch to make sure it doesn’t brown. When the shallot has softened, drain the artichoke pieces, shake off the excess water, and then add to the skillet. Stir to coat them with the fat. Turn the heat up a little and sauté them for about 5 minutes. When the artichokes have softened a little, add the duck meat. Stir to coat the meat and let cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the wine and adjust heat so that the liquid reduces but only so fast as to keep pace with the cooking pasta. If necessary, add water to keep it all moist.

Drain the pasta. Try not to shake off the excess water, if the artichokes and duck are a little on the dry side. Add the pasta to the skillet, toss, let it heat, and sprinkle the sorrel or parsley over it. Pull the warmed pasta bowl out of the oven and tip the sauce over the pasta. If you want to add parmesan, go ahead, but I prefer it without.

3. Vietnamese Duck Soup with Noodles


The broth:

1 duck carass with lots of shaggy meat on it (although you should cut off chunks or slices to put in the soup at the end)

1 onion sliced up

2 cloves

1 star anise

the seeds of 1 cardomon pod

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce

Put all the ingredients in a stock pot. Fill with water to a couple of inches above the carcass. As the liquid heats, skim the scum off the surface of the broth. Bring to a boil. Once it’s at a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

When the broth is ready, strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve lined with either cheesecloth or a paper towel.

You’ll have more than you’ll need for a big bowl, so pour into a saucepan four cups of the broth. Freeze the rest of keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

The soup:

4 cups duck broth

1 serving size fresh ramen noodles or any other fresh Asian noodles you like

1 serrano chile, minced

cilantro leaves, whole

green onions, sliced thin

bean sprouts

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Lightly untease the fresh noodles and drop them into the water. I prefer what Ramen Fanatics (of which I am merely a wannbee) call “less boiled.” Fresh noodles should not take more than 2 minutes. I keep testing the noodles a little before and after four minutes.

[Shadowcook commenting on myself: The James Beard of Japanese Cooking, Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, recommends bringing the water back to a boil after you’ve added the ramen, then adding a cup of cold water, and bringing it back to the boil again. After 3 or 4 times of this routine, taste the noodles. Why does he boil them this way? I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with the preference of Japanese cooks to avoid boiling their food. A gentle, rolling simmer to broth and stew preserves the delicate flavors of Japanese soups. Boiling, I gather, leaves bruises. Then again, I could be making that up.]

Drain the noodles quickly and rinse them in cold water. Make sure they are not clumpy. Put the ramen in a big soup bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the 4 cups of broth, adding minced serrano chile to taste. When the broth is not but not boiling, pour it over the noodles in the soup bowl. Add the cilantro leaves, scallions, and any scraps of duck left over from the carcass. Don’t burn yourself carrying it to the table.

[Shadowcook: Next time I make this — I have about 6 more cups of broth, after all — I want to punch up the broth. Maybe some minced ginger. More fish sauce, less salt. It’s a rich soup. so this entire post is worth bookmarking and returning to in the fall.]

David Kinch: Strawberry Gazpacho

Manresa, 320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue), Los Gatos, CA 95030
408.354.4330

No, I have no lost my mind and added diced bell pepper and cucumber to strawberry gelato. But I am mad enough about gazpacho to eat it in any form. And if there were ever a season for strawberries, now would be it. Until the real gazpacho season comes along, the strawberry version will do very well.

Two particularly generous friends treated my sister to a birthday dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. Manresa is one of the relatively few restaurants in the United States to receive two Michelin stars — for what that’s worth. These diners reported that they had an excellent four-course dinner, among which were two amuse-bouches. The first was a soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom of an empty egg shell, topped with sherry-vinegar whipped cream, chives, maple syrup, and salt. You can find a version of that recipe here. The strawberry gazpacho was the second amuse-bouche. Clearly, David Kinch, the chef, is a chemist. This recipe defies logic, I suppose, only if you don’t understand the chemical reactions of incompatible ingredients, which I certainly don’t. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This recipe is dead simple:

1 pound, 4 ounces strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed

4 ounces white onions, thinly sliced

4 ounces red bell peppers, thinly sliced

5 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 half clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

Strawberries, hulled and finely diced

Chives, finely minced

Red bell pepper, finely diced

English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1-2 tablespoons almond oil

Chervil sprigs (if you can find them)

Put first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the ingredients in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

To garnish, mix together all the minced vegetables and fruit with almond oil. Mound in the center of a soup plate; top with chervil sprigs.

Shadowcook: The only observation I would contribute to this recipe is that it is easy to overdo the garnish. The garnish only exists for crunch, although the almond oil is a nice touch. You’ll appreciate the silky smooth texture of the gazpacho if you remember that less is more.

Update: watch the salt.

Up-update: David Kinch’s recipe is posted online. He provided it to a TV show in which he appeared. Google it, if you feel the need to check me.

Cream of Broccoli and Sorrel Soup

This afternoon, I looked at the big heads of broccoli, abundant sorrel, numerous zucchini, and heads of butter lettuce in my raised beds and thought, “How the hell am I going to eat all this?” I didn’t expect to reach this state of affairs quite so early in the summer. I am barely keeping up with the lettuce, which the rising temperatures are soon going to fry.

The pleasant challenge of vegetable gardening, however, is to find congruent flavors in disperate plants. Today, I decided to pair broccoli with sorrel in a cream soup. The lemon in sorrel, I thought, would complement the broccoli. And I turned out to be right. But first I looked for a model recipe to adapt. For the first time in a while, my cookbooks let me down. Not even ol’Basics, by Ludkin and Russo, had a cream of broccoli recipe. Time to wing it.

I used what I had in my fridge:

About 2 ounces of smoked bacon, cut into lardons

1 yellow onion

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

6 cups chicken stock

Water as needed

2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets and the stemmed trimmed of touch outside skin

a bunch of sorrel with stems removed and leaves roughly chopped

1/2 cup cream

1 ounce soft goat cheese (optional)

In a large 5- or 7-quart pot, fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Nibble at them, if you want a velvety smooth soup. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté a few minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add broccoli and sorrel. Stir to coat with fat. Add the stock and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to steady boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the broccoli is soft.

Before pureeing in a blender, let the soup cool a bit. When the stock is cooler, puree the stock and vegetables in a blender in several batches. Do not fill your blender jar more than a third of the way up. Pour the pureed soup into a small soup pot. When the entire soup has been pureed and poured into the soup pot, pour in cream and stir to blend. Adjust seasoning at this point. Be careful not to add too much, since the smoked bacon will contribute salt to the soup. Having said that, however, try and adjust the seasoning just so. Salt will enhance ever so slightly the flavor of the bacon in the background.

I’ve had this soup hot for dinner and, the next day, cold. At dinner, I crumbled a little soft goat cheese on top before I took my first spoonful.