Happy New Year~Roast Duck & Green Papaya Salad

3 01 2010

My New Year cooking got pushed off a few days due to a freezer shut down and needing to cook about 9 pounds of pork.  After making tamales, needing to roast pork for pulled pork or anything else wasn’t high on my list, but there it was nonetheless.   3# of pork went to pulled pork for sandwiches, another 3# went to Pork Bolognese (came out beautifully!), and there’s 3# of ribs I’m not sure are worth the effort due to freezer burn and age.  I’m thinking dog treats.  But…I”m really tired of pork right now!!  So, that I had planned roast duck for New Years was still a welcome idea.  I followed a recipe I ran across on line for 5 Hour Duck.  The sauce is incredible.  The duck was a little dry…I think I’d cook it at a slightly lower temp…more like 250°-275° next time.  But the skin was incredibly crispy and lacquered and ever so good.  What goes with duck?  Mandarin pancakes…or sticky rice.  Oh, but I love sticky rice.  It’s time to learn!  Something else is needed to balance things out…mmmm…green papaya salad! Som Tum!!  That’s good…all fingerish food, and all things that will go well together.   And you have to love a recipe that cooks with virtually no attention, except for the occasional turn for 4 hours!  Yes, it cooks for 5, but the 5th hour is a little more busy!

This is a meal that starts a day in advance though.  The duck needs to sit out in the fridge so the skin can dry overnight, and the rice needs to soak at least several hours, better overnight.  As soon as we got home with the papaya, rice and steamer, I put the rice on to soak.  Secretly I’m very excited. I love sticky rice.  I purchased a medium sized sticky rice steamer basket from a local Hmong market, along with 5# of sweet rice, and a green papaya.  They always ask if I have a recipe for Som Tum.  *Ü*

I should have gotten the steamer urn as well.  It’s oddly shaped, but it’s shaped that way for a reason I guess.  It looks like a spittoon.   But, the shape funnels the steam directly toward the rice in the basket.  I used a big kettle, and after 15 minutes, I concocted a collar to keep the steam focused on the steamer basket.  After an hour, the rice still wasn’t fully cooked, so then I covered the pot for the next 15 minutes, and that did the trick.   So the tricks seem to be: make sure the steam is directed toward the basket, a foil collar will work, and cover the rice for at least part of the cooking time.  I finally achieved singular, glossy, translucent grains that were chewy in texture and rolled nicely in the hand.  Yes! But that was during the final hour and resting period of cooking the duck!

The duck went in filled with aromatics…ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and some lemongrass because I had it handy.  It roasts at a low temp, 300° in her recipe, for 5 hours, being turned each hour.  The basting sauce goes on during hour 5 only.  What could be easier?

It was so easy, I managed a good hour long soaky bath while my duck roasted.   Sunday is my “spa bath” day/night, and I spend about an hour reading and whatever else I need to do aside from scrubbing my bodkin.  This week I finally picked up our Cook The Books read…A Taste For Adventure by Anik See.  Oh my gosh…how funny is this!  I’m reading about Som Tum and Anik See in Thailand, and I’ve got a papaya salad going in the kitchen!  This must be my dish! LOL!

I love green papaya salad.  There are so many little things that go into it!  It’s hard to imagine each of those things making such a difference, but they do.  I followed Anik’s recipe somewhat, as I actually had frozen dried shrimp, and thought that would add a slightly different twist on the salty aspect.  I also couldn’t get fresh Thai chiles so I used red pepper flakes to taste.   We have added palm sugar to our pantry now, and we had fish sauce and lime handy.  I had a bit of trouble getting the tangy balance right, and finally decided it was because the limes were too sweet.  I added a little more fish sauce and some rice wine vinegar for the sour, and that finally solved the imbalance.  I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, but I did have frozen dried tomatoes, so I added those to the salad, and they pounded up just fine, maybe better than raw tomatoes would.

Here’s the duck in all it’s glory~

I carved each of the breast halves off the frame along with their crispy skin, and served that with the sticky rice and the papaya salad.  The rice was in single serving plastic bags to keep it warm and moist until we needed it.  As I mentioned, the breast was a bit dry, but a little additional sauce solved that.  I have to admit that a piece of crispy skin wrapped around a little ball of sticky rice with a morsel of duck meat was pretty yummy.   The sweet-salty-hot-sour papaya salad was a great foil for the rich duck.  This was not at all a bad way to welcome in the new year…even if it was a few days late.