One of my favorite annual rituals after the end of the hunting season is to host a duck dinner and invite many of my hunting partners and their significant others over for some wild game cookery. It undoubtedly ends up being as much about good times with outrageous stories from excursions of the past season as well as an introduction to a new way to prepare our favorite quarry.
This year I invited several new couples into the fold so I wanted to do something a little different. Something that would be memorable and, frankly, would impress these newcomers to the party.
After racking my brain I decided to do an Asian theme with Duck Lettuce Wraps being the main entree. This is a simple recipe that can be whipped up relatively quickly. It can also be easily increased to feed a pile of folks at a large party. The result was a hit. Heck, even the non-duck-eating-ladies at the party even gave it whirl. Here’s how it goes…
2 head iceberg or butter lettuce leaves (whichever you prefer).
Sauce: (Below ingredients can be found in almost any grocery store Asian food isle).
3 tbs soy sauce
5 tbs Oyster sauce
2 tbs Hoisin sauce
3 tbs dry sherry
3 tsp sugar
3 tbs sesame oil
2 inch-long slices ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
2-3 lbs. duck breast meat, cubed
1 ½ red pepper, seeded and diced
1 can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
Pulling it Together:
Cut the end off the head of lettuce, gently peel off each leaf, wash and pat dry. Set aside. This process is a bit tedious because the leaves are fragile and want to tear. Just take your time.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a glass bowl, stir well, and set aside.
Heat 2 tbs. of sesame oil in wok or frying pan on high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant – but be careful not to burn.
Add the duck and cook just until duck is medium rare. Remove the duck from the pan and set aside. Give the duck a few pulses in the food processor to break down into a rough chop. Not quite ground, but nicely broken down from the cubes.
If there is residual liquid in the pan, pour off. Add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil, the red pepper, water chestnuts, and celery to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the sauce ingredients, Shiitake mushrooms and cook at medium heat. Add the duck back into the pan. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, stirring, to heat through and well combined.
Remove duck to a large platter and surround with lettuce leaves. Encourage guests to spoon a heaping portion of the duck mixture into the middle of a lettuce leaf. The lettuce wraps are designed to be eaten "wrapped," with the mixture folded into a package.
For a side dish I did a simple vegetable stir fry – light and fresh. Serve with a nice bottle of red wine (or two) and you’ll have a party on your hands. The richness of the duck with the Oyster and Hoisin sauce makes a wonderful complement to the red wine. Heaven.
In fact, we were having such a great time that I totally forgot to take the photos I had planned to take while the dish was coming together. I blame it on my sous chef Diana who was making sure that the cook’s wine glass didn’t get below half full. I did manage to pop one shot of the finished product, but it doesn’t do the evening justice. Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all.