The Food52.com contest for the week of 2/11 was “Your Best Recipe With Tea.” Since I’m not much of a baking and pastry person (I’ll follow others’ recipes, but coming up with my own? Forget it. Way too much trial and error), I wanted to come up with a savory recipe that would highlight tea.
My husband has a co-worker who makes a mean tea-smoked duck, and she was gracious enough to lend me the recipe so I could adapt it for my purposes. I smoked a couple of duck legs, and then they sat in the fridge for a few days while I figured out what to do next.
A couple of flavors kept coming to mind when I thought about what to pair with the duck. Cherries. Pistachios. Rosemary. Mushrooms. While the tea-smoked duck skewed Asian, I didn’t want the finished dish to be Asian-inspired. I figured there would be a lot of similar entries in the contest if I went that way, and I wanted to stand out. So, I figured – what could be the worst that would happen if I just combined all of these flavors, and tossed it with some pasta?
Well, it turned out better than I could have hoped, and I would eat it all the time if it wasn’t so decadent (read: caloric). But, if you’re already eating duck, you may as well just go all out. At least in my mind. A small serving of anything won’t hurt you too much. I just took the dog for an extra loop around the block. I’m good.
This dish uses an Asian-inspired smoking technique to infuse duck legs with a subtle tea flavor, although the finished dish has an Italian slant. Fettuccine is boiled with tea bags so that the pasta has a delicate tea note that echoes the duck. The two tea-infused elements are brought together with ingredients that classically pair well with duck – shallots, mushrooms and cherries – along with a creamy sauce and a sprinkle of crunchy pistachio. This decadent pasta serves 2 as a satisfying main course, or 4 to 6 as a tasting-portion appetizer.
2 duck legs (about 1 pound)
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup ground tea leaves (I took the leaves out of Lipton tea bags)
1/4 cup white rice
1-1/4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
4 tea bags
6 ounces fettuccine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dried cherries, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Rub duck legs with 2 teaspoons salt. Place on rack set over sheet pan, and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. (This step is very important because it allows the skin of the duck to dry out (form a pellicle), which allows the smoke flavor to adhere to the duck).
2. Preheat oven to 275°. Create a smoking chamber: Line a roasting pan crosswise with several sheets of foil, overlapping each sheet by at least 2 inches. The bottoms and sides of pan should be completely covered in foil; at least 18 inches of excess foil should extend over long edges of the pan. Scatter bay leaf, flour, sugar, tea leaves, rice and 1 teaspoon rosemary on bottom of foil-lined pan. Heat pan on stovetop over high heat until rice starts to smoke, about 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat. Place roasting pan rack on foil above smoking ingredients; place duck legs on rack. Fold foil up and over rack and duck; fold and crimp to seal tightly (this process is a little tricky, but don’t worry about it being perfect -if you need to, press an extra sheet of foil across the top to make sure the smoking chamber is sealed tightly). Roast 2 hours or until internal temperature of duck reaches 165°. Remove meat from bone and pull meat; set aside.
3. Heat large covered saucepot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add tea bags and pasta and cook as label directs; drain. Discard tea bags.
4. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallot and mushrooms; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until mushrooms are deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Add cherries and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon rosemary; cook 1 minute. Add cream; heat to simmering over medium heat. Simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until cream is reduced by half. Reduce heat to low; stir in lemon juice and pepper. Stir in duck; cook 2 minutes or until meat is heated through. Add pasta to saucepan and gently toss.
5. Divide pasta mixture between warm pasta bowls; sprinkle with pistachios and parsley.