Salty, sweet, hot & sour. These four words describe the flavors of Thai food. Thai food is all about balance and that is one of the things I love most about it. The flavors hit your tongue on every level. There is an element of all of these tastes in every bite. The beauty of Thai food is that none of the flavors overpower the others, they all exist harmoniously on your palate and it is some of the most unique food you will ever have.
One of my favorite things to have in warmer weather are summer rolls. They are light and refreshing with a nice bit of crunch to satisfy the need for some texture. The ingredients can be anything you want them to be, so if you are in the mood for these but need to use what is already on hand, no worries.
From traditional summer rolls to the ones I’ll be making today; which are a bit of a twist on tradition, they are a great summer meal and best of all, they are easy on the wallet and on the waist.
Duck Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1 magret duck breast (if you don’t like or can’t find, omit or use chicken)
- 6 rice paper spring roll wrappers (find in asian markets or some grocery stores)
- 1/2 bunch mint, chopped
- 1/2 bunch thai basil, chopped (use regular basil if you can’t find thai)
- 1 large carrot, julienned or shredded
- 1 med. seedless cucumber, julienned
- 1/2 of an avocado, thinly sliced
- 1/4 pkg. cellophane noodles
The first bit of business here is to cook the duck breast.
– Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
– Score the fat and season with salt & pepper. When scoring the fat you need to have light touch. The purpose is to get through the fat without touching the meat.
– Put on a low flame and let the fat render out.
– Once the skin is a deep golden brown, turn the duck over & put it in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
(Duck cooking in it’s own fat… I mean be serious here! does it get ANY better than that?!)
Duck isn’t something I usually just have laying around, but I happened to have one and thus a recipe evolved… It is my luxury item here, as it isn’t cheap but well worth it.
– Once the duck is cooked, remove from heat and let it rest. Never, ever cut into meat right away. It needs to be left alone so the juices can re-distribute and it will be juicy. If you cut it open right away, all the flavor will end up on your cutting board instead in your food.
– For the vegetables: if you own a mandoline it is easiest to julienne or shred them on that. If not, use a box grater. We all have those and while it won’t be exactly the same, it still works. (Many stores sell Japanese mandolines, which is what I use. They are inexpensive, versatile and worth every penny).
– The cellophane noodles just need to soak in nearly boiling water for a few minutes and they are ready to go. The same goes for the rice paper wrappers (except less time).
Before you start assembly, it is important to have everything ready to go. The rice noodles should be soaked and drained, the meat cut into thin slices, the vegetables shredded and the herbs chopped. This little bit of prep will make the process go more smoothly and will save you time in the long run.
Slide the wrappers into the hot water, one by one, and let them sit for about 30 seconds. Pull them out (carefully) and lay them out on a flat work surface. Try to leave a little space between each one so they don’t touch, they tend to get sticky and if they do get stuck together, pull them apart very slowly so you don’t tear them.
Lay the ingredients on top of one another in a line along the bottom third of the wrapper.
Begin rolling up, when you are at the halfway point, fold in the two sides like you are making a burrito and continue rolling to the end.
Lay seam side down so the weight of the filling will help hold the seal. When all the rolls are done, set aside and start the sauce.
Spicy Peanut sauce
- 1/2 c. peanut butter
- 2-3 TB hoisin sauce
- 2 TB rice wine vinegar
- 1 TB sesame oil
- 1 1/2 TB Sriracha (hot sauce)
- 3-4 TB soy sauce
- 2 TB tamarind paste (if you can’t find, omit)
– Whisk everything together until it is a smooth paste and thin with water until desired consistency.
And the libation of choice with this delicious summer supper? The new ginger lemongrass drink I’ve been working on, of course… Recipe coming soon!
Happy Eating xo