Friday, December 18, 2009

Duck, Three Ways

I love duck, but Kid Cayenne does not. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for somewhere that sells fresh duck breasts, as opposed to a whole one, with the idea that I can cook myself a nice piece of duck breast while making a chicken breast for Kid. So far, I have only found the occasional frozen breast fillet, often pre-seasoned or sauced, and at prices that don't compel me to buy. Maybe my expectations are too high.


Fortunately, I have discovered that roasted duck is a mainstay at Asian markets. I have always seen them, hanging in the prepared food section with the roasted pork and other takeaway items. I never thought about actually taking any away until my Vietnamese hair stylist and I were discussing congee. I was telling her about how in love I am with the duck congee at The Slanted Door in San Francisco, and how I wondered if any of our local restaurants had it on the menu. (I have since discovered that 9 Roses does, and can't wait to try it). I told her that I enjoy making congee at home, but since I am unable to find reasonably priced duck, I can't duplicate my favorite version of it. She told me to check any Asian supermarket for reasonably priced roasted duck and make it with that. Brilliant girl!

Hong Kong Supermarket in Gretna is where I shop for produce, frozen dumplings, sauces and condiments... pretty much all of my Asian food ingredients plus some. If you haven't been, you really should visit. It is a massive store, filled with all the essentials of Asian cooking and way more. The produce is cheap and abundant. There are shelves and shelves of Pocky. It is everything a good Asian grocery should be.

If you go to the prepared foods area, you will see cooked ducks hanging from hooks. Don't be dismayed. They are delicious. You want them. You can buy a whole or half duck. The man behind the counter will ask you if you want it kept intact or cut. I wanted mine cut. This meant that I received an entire half duck, including the head (discreetly tucked under the rest of the meat), chopped into manageable pieces, along with some pickled vegetables and a sweet dipping sauce.



Since I am the only one in the household eating duck, I found that I could get three meals out of it. The first is the most obvious. Grab slices of duck breast, a portion of the pickled carrot and daikon, and your dipping sauce. Eat exactly as it is. Warm or cold, it is quick and wonderful. I had already begun snacking on mine before I had even left the parking lot and then kept dipping into it all across the Crescent City Connection. I am greedy and impatient that way. If you can wait 'til you are home, cook some rice and stir fry a vegetable or two to eat as a side dish for a quick and delicious dinner.

The second way is to prepare a cold duck sandwich. I shredded more of the duck breast and loaded it into pistolette bread along with slivered cucumber, radish and scallions.



I drizzled a bit of the sweet sauce over the whole thing and had a side of pickled veggies, to use what was left of those. You could use whatever bread and accompaniments you like.




The next morning, I made duck congee, a rice porridge of which some version of seems to be made in just about every Asian country I've ever read about. Congee is warm, comforting, infinitely adaptable and deserves an entire post of its own, preferably written about by someone far more knowledgeable than myself. I will just tell you that ever since I learned that you could make an absolutely wonderful breakfast using only a tiny bit of leftover rice from the night before, I have been addicted. You can change the additions, making it different every time, or you can eat it simple and plain for a nourishing, soothing porridge that is perfect for when you are under the weather. Here's how I made it with the last of the duck.

Take approximately half a cup of leftover, cooked rice and add it to a pot filled with about 2 cups (maybe even 3) of water. Add a small chunk of peeled and smashed ginger (it's not necessary to chop the ginger). Bring the water and rice to a boil and then decrease the heat to Medium-Low. Take a duck leg or any leftover piece of duck you have. Shred the duck from the bone, but don't throw the bone or the skin away. As long as the bone is large enough for you to fish back out, use it to season your congee. Put it all in the pot with the rice and water. Now, you will let it simmer for a good while. Congee takes a long time to cook. You are waiting for the rice to break down and give up it's shape, joining with the water to create a porridge. For me, this usually takes about an hour and a half, but I make very small batches. It can take longer or shorter depending on the consistency you like. Stir occasionally and add water if it seems to be getting too low before you have gotten the right consistency.

Once you have achieved a creamy, thick texture, turn off the heat and fish out the bones, skin and the chunk of ginger. Season the rice porridge with a pinch of salt and a nice bit of pepper. Spoon it into your bowl and add whatever condiments you like. In this case, I added chopped scallion, a splash of light soy sauce and some kimchi. The sharp tang of the pickled cabbage was a perfect counterpart to the rich, warm taste of the duck. It was wonderful. I ate 15 bowls of it or something like that. If you are less of a glutton than I am, you can refrigerate your leftovers and reheat the next day, adding a bit of boiling water to it to thin it out.



Tada! Duck! Three ways!

6 comments:

The Great Beast,  December 18, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

I love duck, and within shopping distance of my house I can buy Chinese ducks tea smoked, barbecued or even Peking'd at no less than a dozen places, but it never makes more than one meal at our greedy table.

Your congee looks awesome--kimchee truly is the condiment of the gods.

NOJuju December 18, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

You have 8000 pho places within walking distance too, don't you? Vancouver must be a magical, magical place.

Lisa December 18, 2009 at 11:00 PM  

I love duck, but I have never made congee. Now I am intrigued.

Ravenous Couple December 19, 2009 at 11:27 AM  

duck congee sounds like a great idea! Vietnamese also have a duck soup called bun mang vit. If you love duck, you'll love this!

NOJuju December 19, 2009 at 3:07 PM  

Wow, RavenousCouple, bun mang vit looks right up my alley. Thanks for the suggestion!

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