Roast Duck & Smoky Mushroom Vols-au-Vent with Sweet Potato Hash

The most important question I asked myself this month went something like this: What does one do with 729 layers of butter wrapped in crispy puff pastry? My answer went something like this: Serve it with Bacon. Because sometimes the best answers are also the most obvious.

More precisely, I served my vols-au-vent filled with roasted duck and wild mushrooms with bacon, and I finished that with a little red wine. To make things even more festive, I also made a roasted sweet potato and butternut squash hash with rosemary--really because I was craving some holiday fare and the flavors were a nice light, sweet complement to the earthy richness of the buttery, smokey duck entree.

The best part about these components is that you can serve them so many ways. Next time I'll serve the duck breast with the skin on, and finely shred the rest of the duck and chop the bacon and mushrooms smaller for a more refined, less rustic dinner. And the sweet potato hash is great paired with a gamefish like a meaty swordfish for a simple yet flavorful meal.

Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Hash w/Rosemary:

1/2 large butternut squash
3 large sweet potatoes
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt (sounds like alot, but it keeps the dish savory instead of too sweet)
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
4 Tbs. fine chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the sweet potatoes and the butternut squash. (It's easiest if you pull towards you on the squash, since it's skin is more like a rind and doesn't peel easily.) Cut them into 1-inch cubes and place them in high-sided baking dish.

Toss the remaining ingredients with the chopped squash and sweet potatoes, and bake on the top rack of the oven, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork and slightly browned.
Roasted Duck & Smoky Mushroom Vols-au-Vent:

4 large puff pastry vols-au-vent
1 4-5 lb. whole duck
3 large garlic cloves
3 sprigs rosemary
2 medium-sized white onions
5 strips of uncooked, smoked bacon
4 cups oyster and sliced cremini mushrooms, washed
2 cups red wine
1 oz cold, unsalted butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Gratuitous oyster mushroom closeup
Remove the gizzards, liver, ect. from the duck and rinse inside and out. Pat dry and season the inside of the duck with salt and pepper. Smash the garlic cloves and add them and the rosemary sprigs to the inside of the duck. Place 1/2 of an onion in the opening to "block" it and keep the seasonings in. Tie the duck's legs and wings if necessary.

Prick the duck skin all over with a sharp knife, cutting through the fat but not the meat and season with salt and pepper. Roast the duck in an oven at 375 and according to these directions, or rotisserie the duck for 1 hour. (Thanks Mama and Papa BaCon for my awesome rotisserie!) If you use your rotisserie, your skin will be less crispy, but you'll have an easier go.

When the duck is finished, let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Place bacon strips in an oven proof saute pan, and render at 500 degrees until bacon is crisp but not burnt. (Approx. 10 minutes). Remove the bacon and crumble when cool.
Add 1 onion, coarse chopped, and the mushrooms to the saute pan, stir to make sure that everything is covered in bacon drippings, and bake at 500 degrees covered for 5 minutes and uncovered for 10. The onion and mushrooms should be slightly browned and cooked through.

Remove the mushrooms and onions, and drain any remaining bacon fat. Add red wine to the saute pan and simmer over medium-low heat, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pan, until the red wine is reduced to 3/4 cup. Only add salt and pepper after the wine has reduced, to ensure that you don't over-season. Add bacon, mushrooms, and onions to the red wine reduction and toss to coat. Serve in vol-au-vent shells with the duck and the sweet potato hash on the side.

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