A closer look at Chef Stephanie Izard’s latest foray into Chinese-inspired duck at Duck Duck Goat in Chicago.
Duck Duck Goat is the latest collaboration between prolific, Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group and celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, who took home the title of “Top Chef” in 2008 and hasn’t slowed since, opening her popular Girl and The Goat restaurant followed by Little Goat.
In preparation for Duck Duck Goat, Chef Izard invested two years into research, including weeks traveling in China, Taiwan, and through the Chinatown neighborhoods of different cities—including her favorite, Flushing, New York. She scoured countless cookbooks, cooking videos, and other sources to prepare for her newest restaurant: a straight-up blend of the authentic, family-style dining and festive décor common in Chinese restaurants combined with the modern passions for shared, inspired dishes, craft cocktails, and good beer.
While Izard is known for the seafood preparations at her first restaurant, the late Scylla, and of course for her goat dishes, she has eagerly delved into fowl play with a focus on duck.
“We did Chinese for our Sunday supper at Little Goat a couple of years ago and just had a great time,” she recalls. “When I took the leftovers home, my husband and I got to talking about how fun a Chinese concept could be. Duck is such a huge part of Chinese culture and cuisine, so it was fitting. Some of my most memorable food experiences growing up were going to local Chinese restaurants and then re-creating those dishes at home with my mom.”
The history of the Peking (or Beijing) roast duck can be traced back 600 years to the Ming Dynasty, when chefs from all over China traveled to work for the emperor in the palace kitchens—and brought their duck-cooking techniques with them.
At Duck Duck Goat, the giant-sized, whole Peking duck served on a platter is certainly the star of the show. Chef Izard follows the classic route to get that super crispy skin and rich, juicy flesh: pumping air into the duck to separate the skin from the fat before roasting. In this case, using something as simple as an air pump from Home Depot. Then, she pours a mixture of boiling water with spices and sugars over the skin to infuse flavor, and then hangs the duck in the cooler for a couple of days to dry out the skin, producing an even crispier result after roasting.
Arriving partly whole for gnawing, the duck breast and legs are sliced to make perfect “wraps,” which are wrapped up with homemade hoisin sauce, cucumber slices, pickled ramps, and other fixings in delicate and thin, steamed Chinese pancakes.
Sourcing the highest-quality duck is another critical part of the equation and Izard gets hers from Culver Duck Farm in Indiana. “As with every protein, you want to get it from a reliable source where you know the ducks are raised humanely and without [added] hormones,” she says.
Duck makes its way into other parts of the lengthy menu. For instance, duck hearts left over from the roasted ducks are marinated in a simple soy-based marinade, grilled on a wood-fired grill to medium, and served with sesame-horseradish mayo. “If they are too raw, they are tough to eat,” Izard cautions.
Duck egg rolls are prepared in the vein of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the first dim sum place to open in New York City’s Chinatown and, Izard explains, is thought to have created the original egg roll in the form of a thin egg crepe wrapped around filling before being battered and fried like a chili relleno.
At Duck Duck Goat, the fried rice is elevated by the richness of duck meat, crispy skin, and even a duck egg that has been soft-boiled in a packet of black tea and soy in an immersion circulator. A studding of fresh peas helps balance the richness and creaminess.
If you want to literally drink your duck, Chef Izard’s team has developed a duck fat–washed bourbon cocktail called the Tiger Dog, with Old Forester, sweet vermouth, plum, and root beer bitters. Now that’s one fowl game we can play.