Bruce's Blog

a handful of dimes and a jukebox

Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you: he really is an idiot. I implore you, send him back to his father and brothers, who are waiting for him with open arms in the penitentiary. I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth.
Chicolini (Chico): I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll take five and ten in Woolworth.

from the Marx Brothers’ film “Duck Soup” (1933)

I made duck for Thanksgiving this year. There were only three of us, so a turkey would have been overkill, and I really love duck anyway. I froze the neck and wing tips while preparing the duck, and afterwards froze the carcass in anticipation of doing a soup with it. Last night was duck soup night.
First order of business was to make the duck stock. I started early in the day to make the stock so that it’d have plenty of time to cool, making it easier to separate the fat. I probably should have made the stock the day before.

The usual method for making a duck stock “asian style” is

  1. duck “stuff” (carcass, neck, etc.)
  2. ginger (a couple of ounces or so)
  3. whole garlic cloves (4 – 6)
  4. whole shallots (4-6)

You need to cook it at a very low simmer for a couple of hours.  If you cook it with too much heat, the fat breaks down and won’t separate, making the stock very greasy and cloudy.  I was very pleased with how the stock came out, very rich and brown.  I threw in the remainder of the wings which were roasted, since there’s not much meat on them anyway, and the roasty flavor and color add to the stock.

I was after an asian style duck soup — mostly Thai influenced.  So I chose baby bok choy, mushrooms, cilantro and minced green onions, all fresh from the Hollywood Farmers’ Market that morning.    To start with, I minced some shallots and the white part of the green onions and sauted them in some olive oil.  I firmly believe in what Marcella Hazan calls “insaporire” or “making tasty”, which is achived by building ingredients upon each other, and not combining them before they are ready to be combined.  In other words, if you throw everything in the pan and saute it all at once, it won’t taste as good as if you had combined them in a way where each one will enhance the next one.  When the shallots had, in my view, achieved “insaporire”, I added the duck stock, which had cooled and the fat congealed on the top, allowing me to easily remove it.

I added to the stock a little soy sauce (1 or 2 tablespoons), thai fish sauce  (1 or 2 tablespoons), a little sugar, juice from one lime,  and some dried japanese hot pepper.  There is a concept in thai food of achieving a balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.   I wanted the duck to still be the principle player, and a little of these flavors go a long way, but it’s amazing how much subtle complexity they can bring to a dish.
As it began to simmer, I added the mushrooms and pieces of  left over duck meat, and then started the noodles.  Did I mention noodles?  Oops. 🙂  Yes, being that this is an asian influenced soup, it requires noodles.  I had some dried udon noodles, and I started those cooking.  When the noodles were close to ready, I added the baby bok choy.
When the noodles were done, I turned the heat off the soup and put the cilantro in the soup and stirred it. I first placed the noodles in the bowls, and then added the soup, and finally put the minced green onion on top.  I must say, I was quite pleased with how it came out.  If I didn’t know the soy sauce, fish, sauce, etc. were in the soup, I’m not sure I would’ve guessed.  The stock itself tasted light and very pleasant so that even when we finished the enourmous bowl of soup and noodles, we felt very full, but pleasantly so.   But not so full that we couldn’t finish off the remaining homemade cherry pie with homemade vanilla ice cream, also leftover from Thanksgiving.   My wife said she was very sorry to see the cherry pie go away.  Alas!  But there are always more pies and ice cream to be made.

Categories: Cooking

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