Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever—or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples—or your seasonal produce—every which way.
Who can say no to a Peking Duck? The idea of roasting and serving an entire bird, in all its glory, is pretty hard to resist. A whole bird brings out the primal side of us and evokes images of our medieval ancestors, seated around a fire, making offerings to a Mighty Kitchen Deity. But let me share a secret: Duck when it's broken down is much more fun! It's a blank canvas for endless kitchen imagination—it's a world of treasures. When treated with a hearty dose of kitchen love, one duck can produce an entire menu; it will gift you with a soup, a meat course, a jar or two of crispy skin cracklings, and a couple of good jars of duck fat.
One duck can easily produce five dinners. I call it the Duck Project. It starts with one 5 1/2- to 6-pound Long Island duck and a little bit of courage needed to take it apart. If you are good at duck butchery, great! If you mess things up in the process—do not feel bad about it—it's perfectly okay. We will use everything, no matter what shape it's in. So, let’s get to work:
Duck “Ramen” This is not a true Japanese ramen. No pretending here. But it's still a delicious, intensely flavored duck soup. The duck holds hands with noodles, scallions, shiitake mushrooms, pickled carrot, and of course, a soft-boiled egg. The base for this ramen is an intense duck broth made from roasted duck bones and roasted vegetables. To make it, bake the duck bones in a hot oven to lightly brown them, then steep them simmering water for up to 4 hours. Once the duck bones have steeped, add roasted vegetables and spices to the pot and allow it to reduce further before serving with ramen noodles. (Beware, the broth is so good that you may decide to skip the ramen altogether.)
Baby Spinach with Duck Cracklings, Pecorino Romano, and Red Pepper Flakes My very best use for duck cracklings (duck skin pan-fried in its fat) is as a late-night snack—in place of dark chocolate. My second best use is in a salad, in place of croutons. The cracklings provide an amazing crunch, a touch of saltiness, and a hint of duck flavor. I like how they pair with sharp pecorino and red pepper flakes and—needless to say—the opportunities to add them to any kind of salad you'd like are endless.
Crispy Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes There are no roasted potatoes like those roasted in duck fat. Period. Case closed. Potatoes roasted in duck fat and sprinkled with sea salt are the very definition of heaven on Earth. They work as a side, snack, brunch, lunch, and dinner. They are a feast; once you bring these little fellows to the table, you can forget about the other dishes, because no one will want anything else. To make them, simply cube and boil potatoes in salted water, toss them in duck fat, and roast them on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 425º F.
Croissant Bread This is a rich bread, full of flavors; it makes a wonderful meal when served warm and accompanied with freshly cut tomatoes or a simple salad. To make it, make a basic croissant bread by kneading together active dry yeast, flour, salt, olive oil, and sugar, substituting the traditional lard or butter for duck fat. Allow it to proof several times, then bake it at 425º F for 35 to 45 minutes. Once you've made this, you'll want to replace the butter or lard in any bread with duck fat—you won't be sorry.
Duck Meatballs à L’Orange Remember Duck à L’Orange? This bourgeois dish from the '60s embodied French food for all mankind outside of France for a long time. This plate of meatballs, made from coarsely chopped duck meat and seasoned with scallions, coriander, cumin, and thyme is a first cousin to this almost-forgotten dish and an easy substitution for the more demanding original.
Serves 4 to 6
For the meatballs:
1 ounce plus 6 ounces breast and dark meat from a duck 1 tablespoon sunflower oil 1 large garlic clove, minced 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground cumin 3/4 cup minced scallions 3 to 4 tablespoons milk 1/2 cup breadcrumbs 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the sauce:
1/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup fresh orange juice 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar 1 pinch salt 1/4 cup white wine 1/2 cup duck or chicken stock (or water) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour A couple slices orange peel, pith removed
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.