There’s no question that duck is one of our favorite proteins to work with, but I will admit that we tend to rely on the same preparations for it: the breasts are usually grilled or simply seared in our iron skillet, and the legs and wings (and fat) generally make their way into confit. So when I spotted Mark Bittman’s recipe for a Vietnamese-style duck with green beans a little while back, I was intrigued: it had flavors that we love and don’t play with enough at home, and it looked like a good bet for a weeknight dinner, using things we already had on hand.
Mike volunteered to make it for our Wednesday night dinner, and while he would like to make a few tweaks to the recipe, we were both pretty pleased with the result. In particular, the method of putting the duck pieces in a dry pan and letting them cook in their own rendered fat was brilliant – the whole house smelled amazing, and the duck was intensely flavorful. We’re planning a do-over soon.
Thursday night’s duck dinner was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing: some friends started tweeting about burritos in the morning, which led to Mike and I both developing a massive craving for Mexican food, which led me to start desperately thinking of what I could put together with the stuff we had in our fridge and pantry that night. Which takes us to our ever-present tub of duck confit. It really is one of the best “convenience” foods I can think of, but as I said above, we tend to prepare it the same way. And while there’s nothing wrong with a crackly-skinned, seared confit leg, with potatoes fried in the duck fat and a salad with sharp vinaigrette served alongside, I planned to go in a very different direction.
I started by putting together a quick sort of mole sauce: shallots and garlic softened in a bit of duck fat, some toasted spices (whole cumin, coriander and cloves), toasted almonds and pumpkin seeds, reconstituted dried chiles, a couple of chipotles in adobo, and a bit of thawed, reheated roasted tomato sauce and stock (a chicken and duck blend) from the freezer. This all went into a blender, along with a blob of sesame tahini (we were out of the traditional sesame seeds, so I figured, why not), a bit of tomato paste, some sherry vinegar, salt, canela, Mexican oregano, and unsweetened cocoa powder, and I blended it to a creamy puree. I adjusted the salt and acid until it tasted right to me, and added a little of the liquid left over from soaking the chiles to thin it out a bit.
With the mole done, I set my attention to the duck, shredding off the meat from a leg and a couple of wings, cooking it in the little bits of fat that clung to the meat until the edges were a bit crispy. I softened up some tortillas in a little more duck fat, stuffed each of them with a bit of the duck, then put them in a baking dish and spooned some of the mole all around. I added a mixture of grated cheeses (Smith’s cheddar and Divine Providence) to the top, and baked the enchiladas for about 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
I made a sort of lime crema by whisking a little fresh lime juice into the last of a container of crème fraiche, which I drizzled over the tops of the finished enchiladas, sprinkling some minced scallion and lime zest on for garnish, and spooned some slow-cooked Rancho Gordo beans onto our plates as well.
The rich, flavorful duck was a wonderful match with the flavors in the mole sauce – we liked these enchiladas so much, in fact, we ate the entire batch. I made enough mole to feed an army, and I plan to portion out the remainder and freeze it, so we’ll definitely be doing this version of enchiladas again.