I love leftovers. Not the back-of-the-refrigerator, forgotten-casserole-from-Mom’s-house kind of leftovers, but the had-a-great-restaurant-meal kind of leftovers or the epic-dinner-with-friends kind of leftovers. The best morning hash I’ve ever eaten in my life was from a leftover whole leg of lamb that my friend Tom and I roasted for an epic dinner that went into the wee hours of the morning. Those kind of leftovers are inspiration in themselves; when you have on hand a set of ingredients you’d be very unlikely to go buy for the express purpose of cooking a dish.
So this is more about inspiration than a recipe. That is the way of leftover inspired dishes. How can you start a recipe with “First, roast an entire leg of lamb, studded with garlic and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh rosemary. Then, allow to rest 24 hours. Next, dice 1 cup of lamb meat and reserve the rest for another use…” It’s not practical, but it was truly delicious. This dish will be similar, less recipe and more just inspiration from a number of items we happened to have on hand, leftovers of other past inspirations.
First, confit a dug leg (maybe not practical for a quick evening snack, but we are fans of the duck), and let rest for 24 hours (or you can just buy confit duck leg at a specialty grocer or even online) then shred the meat and reserve the skin and bones. Thinly slice two medium Wisconsin Yellow Potatoes using a mandoline and sauté them in butter (or a carmelized garlic ghee if you happen to have it (I know, I know, but I got it as a gift from daughter and it’s stunning)). Dice a slice of Nueske’s Bacon and render in a medium pan (you should always have Nueske’s on hand), then sauté a handful of kale (center rib removed) with the bacon until just soft. On a par-baked flatbread crust, arrange the potatoes in a single overlapping layer and top with shredded confit duck. Like this:
Then…ok, so here is a confession…the confit duck was served with a full duck breast, with Boulangere potatoes over a bed of bacon-cooked kale at Eddie Martini’s, a quintessential Midwest supper club in Milwaukee. They topped it with a dark cherry “reduction”. The thing is, we’d gone all in and ordered the seafood tower as an appetizer. So I enjoyed the duck breast and half of the potatoes and kale, but simply could not finish. So those directions above? A good approximation on how to get to this stage of the dish. Want to really enjoy yourself? Go to Eddie Martini’s, experience a seafood tower and then order the Double Duck and take half the dish home as leftovers.
Now back to our dish…and a number of unique items we had on hand. We decided to caramelize red onions with our house malt vinegar along with dried lemon thyme from our garden. We had a jar of house-made, macerated Door County cherries from this summer, along with a jar of Door County cherry salsa which was a gift from Mama Holly. Then there was a good bit of The Blue Jay, a juniper studded blue cheese from Deer Creek Cheese.
After caramelizing the onions, we added the reserved duck bones and skin to the pan and let the fat render from the skin, then 1/2 cup of vegetable stock (but chicken stock would work just as well here), allowing it to reduce by half, then repeat with another 1/2 cup of stock. In essence, we’re just making a quick duck demi-glace, removing the skin and bones and letting the liquid reduce until it coats the back of a spoon, like a glazy gravy. Then we added a 1/2 cup of the Door County cherry salsa and let it reduce until we reached that same glazy state, then added halved Door County cherries.
We added the caramelized onions to the flatbread, topped with the Door County cherry glaze, and then crumbled blue. Baked at 425 until the cheese had melted and browned slightly.
The flavors of the confit duck with a cherry glaze and caramelized onions blend beautifully and The Blue Jay offers a stunning, creamy contrast. Juniper berry flavors have long been added to game meats, so it is a combination both traditional and new.
We really…wait, another confession…this flatbread concept is a direct rip-off of a concept developed by our friend Jay. He ran a pizza place that served the Bluesman Pizza, which was barbeque chicken with bacon and blue cheese. It was freaking heavenly. Unfortunately, his place is no longer, but he deserves the shout-out for the inspiration on this dish, which is essentially just a Door County barbeque duck pizza with blue cheese.
But that’s the thing in the end – no idea is completely new and yet each execution of it can be uniquely inspired. This dish may not be made exactly like this again, but that is the beauty of leftover inspired dishes – they feel as if they are a one-of-a-kind creation in the moment we enjoy them. Inspired by the moment, but also by the accumulation of inspirations we had along the way. And this brings us back to our theme within Great Lakes Cuisine, where our dishes hope to be inspired by the ingredients of the moment, but honor the inspirations of dishes past. Find your inspiration and enjoy.