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Duck, duck, duck - Cooking with Sean
April 23rd, 2010
11:59 pm
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Duck, duck, duck

While in Las Vegas on the company dime*, I experienced a DUCK BONANZA at one of the many restaurants to which Michael Mina has lent his association. Strip Steak is ostensibly a steak house (on The Strip, even), but there's also a bar menu containing many things that aren't beef. One of those things is a plate of duck fat fries. Another is a plate containing a crispy duck thigh and a chicory salad. This was probably the most satisfying meal of my trip.

Meanwhile, there have been two duck legs in the freezer since February. Finally finding the inspiration to cook them (and remembering to be inspired far enough in advance), I decided to try my own hand at pairing a crispy hunk of duck with a substantial salad. Duck fat fries were a bit beyond me, owing to my lack of a deep-fryer or sufficient duck fat.

Although Strip Steak's duck thigh was probably brined and then poached in butter, I was happy just to roast the duck legs in a 300-degree oven for 90 minutes. In exchange for two or three minutes of active prep time, I got crispy skin, juicy meat, and a whole lot of rendered duck fat.

The salad was not quite as simple. Strip Steak's salad included endives, frisee, bacon, a poached egg, and some faintly-detectable vinegar. Finding frisée was beyond my abilities as a non-restaurateur, and I'd forgotten to replace the bacon that had died the night before. I did pick up a Belgian endive, which I chopped, and some arugula, so I was at least close. To replace the bacon, I decided to make garlic chips. Although I burned the garlic chips beyond culinary repair (they taste charred well in advance of turning black), I did manage to transfer a nice garlic flavor to the egg I fried in the same oil. After adding a few dashes of rice vinegar and a pinch of salt to the greens, I topped the salad with a fried egg and called it done.

My dish was not as exciting as the professional kitchen version, but it did come together well considering the circumstances — for a relatively simple meal, this one tastes quite fancy. It can be a lot of fun to try to duplicate a restaurant dish from memory.

Specifics:
For the duck, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. I used a cast-iron grill pan, which I heated on the stove first. The duck legs go into the oven skin-side up and require little further attention beyond setting a timer for 90 minutes and checking once or twice to make sure they're cooking properly.
For the salad, toss your favorite members of the chicory family with your favorite vinegar and a pinch of salt (or crispy bacon, if available). Top with a poached or fried egg and a few grinds of pepper. Shavings of parmigiano-reggiano would probably help both the flavor and the presentation, but I did not think of that in time.

Make duck at home tends to lead me to feel like I'm doing Serious Cooking, but it's really no more complicated than cooking chicken. Getting fresh duck without a hunting license is not easy, but plenty of stores stock frozen duck. Next up: roasting fingerling potatoes in the leftover duck fat.

*Company dime pending approval of expense report

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