A Menu For My Salad Days

6 July 2007

Cleopatra’s Duck
hoisin glaze, fried rice

Greens in Judgement
garlicky stir-fried romaine

Cleopatra’s Duck
Don’t be fooled: this recipe doesn’t have anything Egyptian or ElizabethTaylorian about it. And it’s not something you need your mummy to make (groan). But I like the phrase “my salad days,” and I like wikipedia so there you go. Anyway, this is a pretty simple recipe for duck breasts. I’m not always that happy with duck breasts purchased separately; on this occasion, I only had a whole duck to hand, so I cut it up (WARNING: link is NSFV (not safe for vegetarians)). We found them to be much more tasty than the usual duck-breast-in-cellophane. On the other hand, the long brining may have been a factor. Incidentially, Harold McGee tells me that one should always defrost in liquid, not out in the air on the countertop, nor in the fridge (don’t even TALK to me about defrosting in the microwave). I’ve found that defrosting in brine gives amazing results.

For 2 people:

  • 2 duck breast halves, with or without skin at room temperature (cold, they’ll be more likely to stick)
  • 2 t neutral oil
  • 1 T hoisin sauce
  • 1 T mild vinegar, such as rice
  • 1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 T sugar or fake sugar
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (optional)

Season duck breast thoroughly on both sides with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat oil in a heavy shallow pan over high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, carefully add duck breasts, skin side down. Sear for 5 minutes, then flip over, taking care to loosen the skin from the pan gently first. Sear on the other side for 2 minutes, then removed breasts from pan and place in a warm oven while you make the glaze. For the glaze, carefully discard as much of the duck fat as you can pour away, and add the hoisin, soy, sugar and vinegar off heat. Stir, scraping up any left-behind duck bits and return to medium heat. Stir continuously until the sauce is very syrupy. Remove the breasts from the oven and carefully into slices. Arrange on top of the fried rice and drizzle the glaze over. Scatter with scallion, if using, and serve immediately.

Greens in Judgement
I believe I’ve mentioned that I don’t like lettuce very much. At least not lettuce that’s even slightly bitter. I’m a big fan of smothering such leaves (and, in fact, almost anything) in creamy, garlicky dressings. But such dressings aren’t really in my current eating plan, and our friendly organic box company has been sending us a lot of lettuce lately. I’ve read about stir-fried lettuce before, I’ve cooked and eaten lots of other greens (with relish), but I’ve been afraid to fry plain old run-of-the-mill lettuce. The result? This is really, really fantastic. Really. Don’t take my word for it. Cook it. As soon as possible! Even if you like salad already (this means you, Mom).

Note: based on this recipe from Grace Young.

  • 2 t neutral oil
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced (don’t make them too thin or they will burn)
  • 1/2 t kosher salt or to taste
  • 1 t sugar or fake sugar or to taste
  • 1 T mirin (optional)
  • 1 t sesame oil OR 1/2 t chili oil (optional)

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves well, then tear the leafy bits off of the ribs. Keep the leafy bits in one pile and the ribs in another. This is a good job for your sous-chef/significant other. Heat the oil in a well-seasoned wok over high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and toss well. It should start to brown almost instantly. As soon as all pieces are a little browned (we’re talking seconds), add the ribs and toss. Stir frequently 2-3 minutes until the ribs are tender, then add the leafy bits and toss a couple of times until the leaves wilt slightly. Remove from heat and sprinkle with salt, sugar and optional seasonings. Toss well and serve immediately.

Note: don’t you just love the phrase “serve immediately”? How on earth, you might say, am I supposed to serve all of those things together, immediately? Its actually not possible in a small kitchen with one cook. Ok, here’s what you do: Fry the rice, leave it in the pan. Cook the duck and put it in the oven. Plate the rice and put that in the oven. Make the sauce and leave it in the pan on the stove but off the heat. Fry the lettuce and leave that in the pan off the heat too. Remove plates from the oven, cut the duck, place on rice, drizzle with sauce. Add the lettuce. Serve. Immediately.


One comment

  1. Oh I love the phrase “salad days!” Your post just brought me back to the wonderful times I’ve had reading Antony and Cleopatra. And the food sounds delicious. Love the note about serving immediatly!

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