Every once in a while, I like to go overboard and cook a really elaborate meal. While this meal wasn’t really elaborate, it was very tasty. I wish I had taken pictures of it, because everything turned out perfectly and tasted great. I had decided early in the week that I wanted to make a roast duck for dinner this weekend and began gathering recipes early in the week and reading them over. When I finally settled on one, then I needed to add some side dishes. Through the world of Twitter, I asked some renowned chefs what they would recommend to make with the duck. Geoffrey Zakarian replied back with what they make at his restaurant, The Lamb’s Club, in NYC:
Well I looked up his menu online and it was little more work than I wanted to get into, so I waited to see if anyone else would reply. Christopher Kimball, founder of America’s Test Kitchen, came back with this answer:
@IguanaFlats The French love lentils with duck — we have a few very good lentil salads at Cook’s.
So I looked up the recipes at Cook’s Illustrated and found one that I really liked and went with it. I was glad I even got a few responses as I wasn’t sure I would hear back from anyone at all. I then found a roast duck recipe I liked through the New York Times and I had my meal. First, I had to make some appetizers and I had been promising Sean I would make homemade mozzarella sticks for a while, so I knew I had to make them. I am not a cheese eater, but these actually turned out pretty good and they weren’t hard to make. This recipe, from Giada De Laurentiis, makes a lot of mozzarella sticks, so I cut it in half.
1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs ( I used homemade and added a little bit of Italian seasoning; I think homemade makes a big difference here.)
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks of pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
Stir the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat them completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the cheese in the breadcrumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and breadcrumb mixture to coat a second time. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days. (I did it for about 4 hours and they were well frozen)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve with marinara sauce.
I served the mozzarella sticks and some calamari as appetizers (I have made the calamari before, and you can get the recipe here). Then it was on to making the main course. I can tell you, I was cooking most of the day, so it was some work, but it was worth it for the dinner.
Roast Duck With Blueberry Sauce
1 Granny Smith apple
1/2 onion, peeled
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 whole star anise or 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
Grated zest of 1 lime
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 whole ducks, trimmed of excess fat, giblets removed
Prepare the blueberry sauce: Peel, quarter and core the apple. Place the apple in a food processor with the onion and finely chop. Place in a saucepan with the blueberries, sugars, star anise, zests and vinegar. Place the mixture over high heat to bring it to a boil, then simmer until pulpy and beginning to thicken, about 30 minutes. (The mixture will be quite liquid after about 20 minutes, but begins to thicken up by 30 minutes, and will thicken even more once cold.) If whole star anise was used, remove and discard them. Transfer the sauce to a container, cover and allow to cool. For the best flavor, allow it to rest one day before serving (I just served it and it tasted fine to me).
Prepare the ducks: Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Score the duck skin all over to help fat drain off while cooking. Place the ducks on a rack in a roasting pan. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours, periodically draining off the fat. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and roast an additional 30 minutes to crisp the skin. Remove the ducks from the oven and place on a carving board. Cut each duck into 4 pieces. Cut away the meat from the rib cage, discarding the rib bones. Arrange on a serving platter, crispy skin side up. Serve with the blueberry sauce.
I made three side dishes with the meal: some jasmine rice, the lentil salad and sautéed carrots and parsnips. Here’s the recipe for the lentil salad recommended by Christopher Kimball.
Lentil Salad with Olives and Mint
1 cup lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
5 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup (roughly 10) coarsely chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
In a bowl, place the lentils and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with 4 cups of warm water and soak for 1 hour. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the lentils in a heavy pan with water to cover by about 2 inches, garlic, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the drained lentils, olives, mint and feta (if using) and toss. Serve, topping with salt and pepper to taste.
These lentils turned out delicious. They were tender and had great flavor, and complimented the duck very nicely. Now for the carrots and parsnips.
Sautéed Parsnips and Carrots with Honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound carrots (about 4 large), peeled and cut into sticks
1 pound parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into sticks
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and parsnips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are beginning to brown at the edges, about 12 minutes. Add the butter, honey and rosemary, if using. Toss over medium heat until heated through and the vegetables are glazed, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.
It was a lot of cooking but it was very good. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and we were all full afterwards. However, I did make dessert too! I know, I am not a baker, and not a dessert person, but I did make a couple of things yesterday. I promise to post the desserts I made a little later on today since this post already is quite long. I will say they are both quick and easy desserts and only one of them involved actually baking. I will be back later to tell you about them, so until then, enjoy your day!