I love duck. I have always felt that it’s an acquired taste for most people, but I can remember enjoying it even at a young age. My first memory of duck was eating it with my dad and my brothers at a Chinese restaurant when we lived in California. My mom was out of town, visiting my grandmother in Canada, I believe, so my dad took us all out for dinner, which we adored, of course. My dad always, and I mean ALWAYS, orders too much food, but I’ve got no problem with it whatsoever. It’s fun to see a table completely full of mouthwatering dishes, just waiting to be eaten, plus, when you go out with my dad, you are guaranteed to go home with a plethora of leftovers to enjoy as a late night snack (which I am most guilty of) or for breakfast/lunch/dinner the next day (doubly guilty). I distinctly recall not being interested in the duck, as I was about 10 or 11 at the time and not too open to new things, but my dad ordered it and promised it’d be delicious. My brothers, on the other hand, have always been extraordinarily adventurous eaters, and still are. For example, they happily dig into the duck tongues that my dad’s coworkers are kind enough to bring back from China, where his company is based, among other delicacies. They are true food warriors, and it definitely makes my parents proud. Back at the restaurant, I remember the waiter putting down a plate of paper thin pancakes, a big bowl of plum sauce, and a heaping pile of piping hot roasted duck with bits of crispy, almost fried skin strewn throughout. My dad demonstrated how to pick up a pancake, hold it in the palm of your hand, slather on some sauce, and then pile the pancake high with roasted duck. We all followed suit and were, of course, surprised as how amazing Chinese roasted duck was. If I’m not mistaken, that was one dish that we finished completely – there certainly weren’t any leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, but that was alright. My dad instilled in us a love for duck, and now, when I go out for Chinese, it isn’t the same without at least some form of it on our table.
When I bought a duck a few months ago, I wanted to be sure that I got as much as I could out of it. I started by roasting the duck very simply and serving it with some scallion pancakes. I saved as much fat from the duck as I could, and used it to make some of the crispiest home fries ever. Finally, I used some of the leftover duck meat to make pumpkin and duck ravioli (with homemade pasta, of course). After all of that, I froze the carcass for use at a later date. I actually made this split pea duck soup a few months ago, but it got lost in the mess that are the files on my computer (such is life). I was rummaging around in the freezer, trying to find something to make for the coming weekend, when I unearthed the remains of what was once a roasted duck. I thawed it out and used it to make a rich duck stock, which was perfect for this split pea soup. Most, if not all, split pea soups call for using a leftover ham hock or bone, so why not use a duck? I added a pinch of Chinese 5-spice and smoked paprika for depth of flavor, but really, the duck still had a lot left in it and made for quite a delicious meal. Kramer and I ate it for two days, as it makes a BIG pot of soup, then froze it and thawed it out later for a quick weeknight dinner. You can really do this with any leftover bones, be it chicken, turkey, ham, or duck, and you’ll feel good about using almost every single part of the animal you purchased – and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Place your carcass and onion into the pot. Simmer until all of the meat falls off the bones and the liquid is no longer clear (congratulations, you’ve made stock). Be sure to skim off any foam/fat that accumulates during cooking.
While you can always do this in your stock pot, I was in a hurry, so I cooked my vegetables a bit separately. You don’t want to just add them to your stock, because they will become overly soft and mushy.
After you’ve picked all the meat off your duck bones, add the meat back to the soup along with your split peas, vegetables, wine, and seasonings. Simmer and cook until the peas are tender.
- 1 duck carcass, with meat still on the bones
- 12 cups water
- 2 large onions (1 peeled and quartered, 1 peeled and diced)
- 1 pound dried split peas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 4 large carrots or 1½ cups baby carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary, leaves only
- ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Place the duck in the largest pot that you own, then fill it with water and add in your 1 quartered onion. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, uncovered, skimming off any fat that rises to the top periodically.
- After 1 hour, add the peas to the pot. In another pan, add the olive oil and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add in the diced onion and saute for 5 minutes or so, then add in the potatoes, celery, and carrots and cook for 15 minutes or so, until the carrots and potatoes have softened a bit on the outside and browned slightly. Add in the garlic and stir for 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove the duck bones and as much quartered onion as you can from the pot. Pick the meat off of the bones and return it to the pot along with your diced onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Simmer for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the peas are softened. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. This keeps well in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.