Island Cooking

Duck Tacos!

• by Jenn Farmer •

It was the best way to spend a misty evening on Nantucket.  I was on the rooftop of the Starlight Theatre and Café.  It was a little surreal, watching the fog roll in, listening to the music and pleasant conversations drift up through the grape vines on the outdoor patio.  The chef and part owner of the restaurant/bar/live music/movie theatre Chef Jeff Weiner was with me.  We were finally sitting down to have a chat that had been postponed for a long time.  It was a venue where I had once been chef, a few years before he was involved in the business.  Now I was sitting with the current chef, and we both had a lot of stories, and notes to compare.  It was pretty busy, the music had many couples up and dancing, the atmosphere was very pleasant, and fun, and the perfect setting for our restaurant talk.

Chef Weiner’s career started began in French cuisine, at a young age.  It was in his family’s restaurant, in which he practically grew up.  Like many restaurant kids, he was put to work young.  Chef Weiner remembers from an early age being sent to go count bottles of gin in the liquor room.  What was a fun pastime to him as a child, he now understands was a way for the adults to have him help with inventory.  He fondly remembers eating onion soup nearly by the quart, and looking forward to Grand Marnier chocolate mousse.  It is easy to understand why he was drawn into the business.  Some people are also born with a natural knack for certain careers.   More than once Chef Weiner mentioned cooking was very much second nature for him, so much so, that sometimes it was difficult for him to explain a recipe or method of preparation to another cook.

Jeff worked for many different businesses on the island, but he was closest to EJ and Robin Harvey and family.  He worked at a highly respected island favorite, The SeaGrille for many years, and explained that was really the place where he learned how to be a cook and have a restaurant career, and grow as a person. SeaGrille was also a place where he learned about running a business.

I want to thank Chef Jeff Weiner for taking time from his busy schedule to chat with me, I could write a short book about the stories we swapped, but instead am passing on something better, his Duck Tacos recipe.  They are delicious, but be prepared as they are time consuming—well worth it, though.  Plus it is one reason they are so special.  Be warned that the duck confit must be made 2-3 days ahead, and the Kim Chi a week ahead.  Like many restaurant chefs, Chef Weiner does not really use measurements when creating recipes.  Cooking comes naturally, so the following measurements were based on approximations from recipes I had on hand or had learned over the years.  So they are not exactly how Chef Jeff makes them, but that give you the freedom to adjust them to your taste.  Enjoy.

Duck Tacos with Kim Chi & Scallion Pancake

  •  Dynamite hot sauce (Asian hot sauce)
  • Sweet soy sauce
  • Duck Confit
  • 4 duck legs and thighs
  • 4 duck wings
  • 5-6 cups duck fat
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ginger
  • 5 spice powder
  • Garlic

Rinse the duck pieces in salted water to help wash off any bacteria and impurities, dry very well with a clean kitchen cloth, and place the pieces in a glass baking dish or other non-reactive pan, not overlapping if possible.  Allow the duck to air dry in the cooler for at 2-3 days uncovered, or lightly covered with cheese cloth.  The skin should look a bit dried out, but that is good in this case.  Meanwhile mix together all the spices, and rub the duck with the mixture.  Cover with the duck fat, and slow cook the duck at 250-300 degrees in a 250-300 degree oven.  Check the duck after 2 hours to see if it cooked through continue cooking if it is not fork tender.  Remove the Duck from the fat very carefully, discard nothing.  Allow the duck to drain and cool a few minutes, or until it is not too hot to handle.  The skin should be removed and set aside.  The fat should be strained, and kept for re-use (I usually label and freeze mine).  The skin should be placed on a sheet pan, and cooked in a 350 degree oven until crispy.  Chop the duck skin for cracklings.  Pull all the meat off the bones, taking care to save the bones for Duck stock, and the chopped confit meat for the tacos.

When making kim chi, remember that it is naturally fermented, so a few pieces of advice before attempting this, or any other fermented recipes.  Iodized salt or salt with caking agents should not be used in the recipes.  It inhibits proper fermentation.  Another thing that can inhibit fermentation is chlorinated water; always use filtered or spring water to wash the vegetables and when it is an ingredient in the recipe.

Kim Chi

  • One half cup water
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • One third cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon mirin rice wine
  • 2 tablespoon chili paste
  • 2-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon pickled ginger, fine chopped
  • 2 pounds cabbage (1 medium head)
  • 2 Peppers, julienne
  • 1 Onions, julienne
  • 2-3 Carrots, julienne

In a pan heat together water, sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, touch mirin, and chili paste with garlic. Bring to a boil then cover veggies and wrap tight and let chill in cool dark place for week.  Yields about 1 quart

Scallion Pancakes

  • One half cup warm water
  • One and a half to 2 cups flour
  • Baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoons, minced
  • 1 teaspoon shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped

Mix together all the dry ingredients, and separately mix together all the wet ingredients.  Then mix the two together, alternating wet with dry until the batter easily pourable

Heat a flattop griddle, or pan on medium heat, add few drops of duck fat and cook cakes by dropping pancake batter  by small ladle onto the hot skillet, and they cook to a golden brown, flip them and cook that side until also golden brown.  Set aside and keep warm while cooking the rest, and reheating the duck. To serve, add a pinch dynamite (Asian style ) hot  sauce in center of pancake add duck skin chopped then duck meat garnish with some kimchi and garnish with sweet soy sauce and chopped scallions Eat immediately.

Articles by Date from 2012