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The Best Leftovers Ever
by Matthew Amster-Burton
March 6, 2001
This one goes out to my Seattle crew.
Last week Laurie and I went where every restaurant-hopping Seattleite must go sooner or later: Wild Ginger, the pan-Asian circus that last year moved into a huge space across from the symphony hall. There's little I can say about it that hasn't already been said; it's the kind of restaurant so roundly praised and beholden to so many audiences that it can't help but be good and can't possibly be great. That's not a criticism; there will always be a place for restaurants that you can take anyone to with confidence.
Of course we had to order the signature Wild Ginger Crispy Duck, most of a delicious roast duck marinated with soy sauce, star anise, and other tasty Asian ingredients with well-crisped skin. As with most roast ducks, this one had a few pockets of subcutaneous fat that had failed to render in the oven. Soon I would use this to my advantage, but for now we enjoyed the dish, which was served with six warm buns to slather with dipping sauce and fill with tangy bits of duck. As two people always do at an Asian restaurant, we overordered and ended up with quite a bit of duck left over, as well as some dry-fried string beans. Our other dishes were several satays (a supposed WG specialty that they really don't do any better than the Malay Satay Hut does at a third the price) and a Thai-style fish salad that was too one-dimensionally sweet.
Now there was duck in my refrigerator. What to do? We didn't have any of the buns left, not that they would have reheated, and just microwaving the leftovers wouldn't have begun to recapture the crispiness of the skin. The oven would dry it out. It was time to make hash. I divided the duck into lean and fat (some of the fat was attached to skin and we had eaten most of the lean skin) and hand-shredded the meat into small shreds. In a nonstick skillet I rendered the fat over medium-low heat and poured it into a ten-inch cast iron skillet. While this was going on I had a large peeled russet potato boiling on the back burner. When the potato was cooked, I let it cool, diced it, and tossed it onto the plate with the duck. I minced half a medium onion and threw that in, too.
The duck fat was hot. I spread the hash mixture in the skillet, listened to the satisfying sizzle, and added some salt and pepper. About twelve minutes and two stirs of the spatula later, it was done. We devoured it with the leftover string beans. It was better than eating at Wild Ginger.