Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roast Duck Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette

Chinese roast duck is one of life's guilty pleasures.  Duck is such a rich meat and when done right it hits all the right notes.  Crisp skin, dark meat glistening with fat, it is great by itself or as an accent to a dish.  It's a bit of a pain to cook, however, a bird that requires some practice to get just right, and not something you are likely to cook often.  Fortunately, if your city has a Chinese or Vietnamese community, you should be able to find at least one shop that knows how to do it justice.

As an ESL teacher, I have students from many countries and cultures.  I often ask them where they buy the foods from their countries in Sacramento.  When I first returned to Sacramento from Vietnam about 15 years ago, I asked a student where she thought the best char siu was in town.  Although she lived in the south area, she steered me to Cheung Hing market near the corner of 11th and T.  I have been a regular there ever since my first visit.  

Besides great char siu, Cheung Hing also produces wonderful salt chicken, roast duck, soy sauce chicken, and roast pork.  I've also ordered a whole roast pig there several times for different celebrations over the years.  They draw a fairly decent lunch crowd for their set lunches which include a meat dish, chow mein or fried rice, a vegetable, and a piece of har gow or siu mai for about $5. Or you can get one of their roasted meats over rice for about the same price.

I honestly don't remember where I first saw these pear chips.  I think I saw them on Foodgawker or Tastespotting, but I don't recall.  I used them with a blue cheese dressing for another salad and liked their flavor and texture.  I think they go particularly well with the duck and the hoisin vinaigrette.  They take some time to make, but not much effort.  They make a nice addition to salads, if you can keep from snacking on them by themselves.

This is a salad that can be served by itself or with other dishes as part of a meal.  You can easily adjust the vinaigrette to your personal taste and preferences, adding a little heat if you like or perhaps a touch of sesame oil.  I'd recommend the greens be lightly dressed so the duck, the pears, and the walnuts don't get overwhelmed by the dressing.

Roast Duck Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette

1/2 roasted duck, meat and crisp skin removed and shredded
1/2 cup "honeyed" walnuts (I use Susanna Foo's recipe)
2 bosc pears, sliced about 1/8 thick with a mandoline
1/2 small head of red cabbage finely julienned
2 cups micro greens and/or arugula
1/2 red pepper, julienned

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 TBS rice vinegar
3 TBS canola oil
1 tsp kecap manis
1 TBS finely grated ginger

To make the pear chips, dip the slices in the reserved syrup from making the walnuts, place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake in a low oven (225-250º F) until crisp, one to two hours, flipping the slices every 30 minutes or so. They'll be light brown when finished and will cool to a brittle crispness.  If you find you haven't crisped them quite enough, pop them back into the oven and bake a little longer.

To assemble the salad, lay two to three pear chips on a plate, and top with a mixture of the duck, greens and other ingredients.  Lightly dress with the hoisin vinaigrette (you'll have some left over).  Serve with one pear chip placed on the side of the salad.  Serves 4 to 6.