My idea of a triumph is finding something at the grocery store that is way priced cheap, because no one else really gets what a great deal it is. So you can imagine my delight, the day I went, awestruck, into the Pacific Ocean Market, the Asian market near me. It’s the size and variety of Chinatown inside, I swear, and I wandered the aisles in a kind of trance. Frozen dim sum. A real fish market with real fish (live crab! fish with heads on! fish I’d never heard of!). Seventy kinds of seaweed. Rice, rice, rice. Roast duck, real Chinese roast duck.
Duck wings. Yes. Duck wings. Packed together. 99 cents a pound. DUCK WINGS. NINETY NINE CENTS A POUND.
The Hallelujah Chorus played loud in my head as I tenderly ushered two pounds into my shopping cart. Did I mention they had duck wings? For ninety nine cents a pound? Yes, I thought I did.
Duck is my favorite meat. Duck broth is my favorite broth. And the bony bits of anything edible are my favorite bits of edibles.
So I chucked them in the freezer against the inevitable day when the Beloved Husband would fly off to a film festival, or drive off to a camping trip. And when that inevitable day arrived (yesterday), here is what I did:
Turned the oven on to 400 degrees. Peeled and quartered about five carrots (peels and ends into the dog stodge bag in the fridge to make said stodge later in the week). Peeled about a head of garlic (aside from duck, what I really love is garlic).
Pulled out a large pyrex baking dish. Tossed the duck wings, the carrots, and the garlic with a little salt and spread around the dish. No oil. Duck has enough fat even in the wings, bless it. And very tasty fat it is, too.
Then I shoved the whole lot into the preheated oven. Poured myself a big glass of red wine (aside from duck and garlic, what I really love is red wine), and settled down to watch a day old Stephen Colbert on the Internet. Got up whenever there was one of those stupid Internet commercials on, and stirred the whole wonderful smelling mess around. The house filled with the smell of duck and garlic. The wine glass levels dropped, and were replenished before dropping again.
Watched The Daily Show on the Internet. Continued my evasion of commercials by stirring duck wings and adding just a smidgen more red wine to the glass.
After about an hour, hour and a half of this (at some point, I also started reading a P.D. James novel), noticed the carrots were caramelizing, and the duck wings were nice and brown. I did think I was going to have some of this for lunch the next day, but it didn’t work out that way.
I piled half of the wonderful smelling pile on a plate, poured out a little more wine, and had at it with my fingers.
Gave a happy sigh. Got up, scraped the bones into a soup pot. Gazed at the remaining roasted duck wings and carrots and garlic. Shrugged, gave in to fate, and poured the rest on my plate.
When it was all over, dumped the rest of the bones in the soup pot. Added a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves, a scrubbed broken up carrot, a washed piece of celery, a couple of sprigs of parsley, and a bay leaf. Turned the heat on high underneath, and let it come to a boil while I did the dishes. Turned it down to low, turned it off before I went to bed, turned it back on when I got up. Cooked a couple of hours more, strained it and then….
Now I did turn that duck soup into onion soup, because I had found a whole bunch of ninety nine cent a pound organic onions at the local market the other day.
But here’s another really good idea, just in case you have some duck broth in your freezer, and you just happen to have a bunch of mushrooms hanging out in the veggie drawer.
Mushroom Duck Soup.
Even better: CREAM of Mushroom Duck Soup.
Melt a little bit of butter in a soup pot. Whisk in the same amount of flour (I use Wondra, but plain is fine); cook for five minutes or so. Stir in a half cup or so of white wine. Then add about 3 cups of duck broth, and a little dried thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, simmer for about ten minutes. Salt and pepper as desired.
Now–and this is the clever part–you’re going to add RAW mushrooms and onion and cook them just lightly. I got this idea from Michael Roberts’ PARISIAN HOME COOKING, and it’s a corker. He purees about a pound of mushrooms and a half an onion in the food processor, but I find if I just chop them fine (and don’t worry too much about the quantities, either, having done this with 1/2 a pound of mushrooms and a whole onion with great success) that not only works, but gives the soup a nice texture.
The lightly cooked mushrooms and onions give the whole soup a really lovely flavor. Add them raw to the simmering broth, add a little cream to taste, and simmer just till cooked through, about five minutes.
Serve hot, and feel happy. As I hope is always true for you and yours at the end of every meal.