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.