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Monday Night Special: Chopsticks and Elbows
November 14, 2009 | Frank Bonanno
My favorite shift at the Osteria is Sunday nights, when Alex roasts the pigs. I love the way the rotisserie glows yellow and flares to orange when the fat hits the fire; the way suckling pig draws families and couples and foodies down the stairs and into the dining room; the way the pork smells permeate the empty spaces. . .
I’ve had it in my mind to do something similar at Bones, something to fill the tight room with families and couples and foodies on Monday nights—and I’ve been thinking whole roasted duck for two. A dish that’s fun, made to dig into and enjoy with wonderful, satisfying fixings. I’ve been imagining a duck that’s roasted with that super-crispy, tasty skin—-almost, but not quite Peking style. Where we implement every part of the foul–the liver as a pate to smear across toast points; the bones to make a nice, clear broth bowled with a simple noodle (ramen, maybe), topped with a straightforward mushroom (like shiitake). Shredded duck with Moo shu pancakes, steamed buns, kimchi. Pickled jalepenos (and other house-made pickles), hoison. Sambal, splash of soy sauce. Fresh lemon juice.
A small table filled with elbows and chopsticks and the rich, complex smells of duck.
Jared and I decided to give it a go this week. For the first run, Jared brined the ducks for six hours in soy with a bit of brown sugar, salt, and white wine. We then air-dried the ducks for 24 hours and put them in the oven overnight to slow cook at 225. The cooking method had the exact effect I wanted on the skin—a wonderful crunchy crispness. The breast meat, though, was total rubber—overcooked, dry.
Back to the cutting board.
For the next batch, we brined the ducks the same way, followed by the same full day air-dry. This time, though, Jared cut the ducks in half to cook them, and confited them overnight. A success. The duck fat rendered the breast significantly more moist and tender than dry-cooking had. To serve, we decided to re-heat the ducks in the deep fryer. A semi-success. Too greasy; not as tender.
Next try. For this plating, we re-warmed the duck in a pie tin at 500–to reinvigorate the crispness of the skin without adding fat yet still maintain the flavor and texture of the white meat.
We’re testing it out tonight on select guests, and by their reactions so far, we should be ready to roll. By next week: Duck for Two Mondays at Bones.
Now Mondays are strictly family for me, so the four of us will go to Bones and see if it’s what I imagined.
Full table, chopsticks and elbows and laughter. Steamy plates, cold sake, and the rich smell of duck to fill the empty spaces.