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FOOD : The Salad as Star : Duck and Pasta in a Do-Ahead Dish Suitable for Lunch or a Light Supper

May 29, 1988|BETSY BALSLEY | Betsy Balsley is The Times' food editor.

NOTHING COULD be easier to prepare or more elegant to serve for a holiday weekend celebration than a do-ahead main-dish salad. This one combines duck and pasta and a variety of unusual flavors. Instead of roasting--the usual procedure for cooking duck--the recipe calls for simmering the duck in red wine. This method not only infuses the meat with a rich flavor but also eliminates much of the fat. The shredded duck and pasta are tossed with slivered water chestnuts and Orange Mustard Dressing, spooned into butter-lettuce cups and garnished with orange segments. Serve it with warm crusty bread and a light, dry red wine such as a Gamay Beaujolais, then complete the simple menu with some first-of-the-season fruits and choice cheeses.

DUCK-AND-PASTA SALAD 1 5-pound duck 1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine 1 cup water Orange-Mustard Dressing 1/2 cup water chestnuts, cut julienne 6 to 8 green onions, including green tops, cut julienne 2 to 3 cups cooked thin spaghetti, chilled 1 to 2 small heads butter lettuce 1 orange, peeled, seeded and segmented Green-onion brushes Place duck in large kettle, cover with wine and water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until duck is fork tender. Cool duck, remove meat from bones and discard skin and bones. Shred meat (there should be about 2 1/2 cups meat) and toss with enough Orange-Mustard Dressing to moisten. Stir in water chestnuts and chopped onions, cover mixture and chill well.

When ready to serve, toss duck mixture with spaghetti, adding more dressing if needed, and pile mixture into lettuce-leaf cups. Garnish with orange segments and green-onion brushes. Any remaining dressing can be served on side. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Orange-Mustard Dressing

cup Dijon mustard 1/2 cup red-currant jelly cup orange marmalade 3 drops chili oil Dash ground thyme Dash crushed oregano leaves Combine mustard, jelly, marmalade, chili oil, thyme and oregano leaves in small saucepan. Heat over low heat and stir constantly just until jelly and marmalade melt and mixture blends together. Remove from heat and cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 1 cup.

Photographed by Jennifer Y. Cheung /Food styled by Norman Stewart/ Plates and Glassware courtesy of Lynne Deutch Ltd.

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