Duck Confit Spring Rolls and more for Nina’s Birthday Party!

by Irvin on April 25, 2010 · 12 comments

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Duck Confit Spring Rolls by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love. www.eatthelove.com

My friends Aric and Nina had moved here a couple of years ago from New York but unfortunately Aric works crazy insane hours and we never really have a chance to hang out with him. His job requires him to be working both east coast AND west coast hours. I believe it has something to do with finances (hedgefunds maybe?). He’s explained it to us about twenty-six times, and I still don’t quite understand it. Basically it’s one of those “grown-up” jobs that I always imagine adults did when I was child – vague and kinda important and long hours, but probably makes lots of money, as the people who had these grown-up jobs when I was a kid always drove shiny new cars and lived in big houses.

My job as a designer at a small boutique design shop, is usually to make things look pretty. It is so NOT a grown-up job.

On top of that, they recently had an incredibly insanely adorable baby which I am sure is preoccupying their time even more. Nina, if you remember, was my friend for my former post about the bake sale, who proclaimed “OK. Today REALLY IS the best day of my life!” when I presented her those cookie bars at the hospital bar the day that her baby was born. Yep. That Nina.

Regardless, Aric is one of the sweetest guys out there. For Nina’s birthday he organized a “semi-surprise” party for her. I’ve actually never had a surprise party thrown for me, but I’m not a huge surprise party type of guy so no loss. Despite my busy “social calendar” (I use that term loosely because I actually think I have about six friends, but AJ seems to disagree with me about that, as we are always running off to parties or other events during the weekend) I’m actually a pretty private guy and need a lot of downtime. The idea of going home and expecting it to be a mellow evening by myself, or with AJ and then to be thrust into a setting where I have to socialize with people when I wasn’t expecting it…doesn’t sounds too appealing.

However a “semi-surprise” party sounds ideal! Aric had told Nina that something was up and that they were going to be doing something special that day, but didn’t give details. The guests all showed up a half hour early, hung out and drunk wine, and then “surprise!” Nina and Aric arrived!

Turned out it was one of the funnest parties I’ve been to in awhile! The event was located in a private kitchen in the warehouse district of San Francisco called SOMA (South of Market) that is quickly becoming gentrified. However this particular part of SOMA was DEFINITELY not gentrified at all. When we pulled into the sketchy alleyway we were directed to park in, the owner of the space directed us to park in front of his car. As we pulled up and AJ started to back, I totally looked behind and said quickly. “STOP! Don’t back up! There’s a guy passed out under his car right there!” So AJ made an executive decision to park on the other side of the alleyway. Good thing, as parking on the man probably would have been a buzzkill for the party.

The space was part of the San Francisco Wine Center, a private wine storage cellar, where wine collectors could store their wine in a secure climate controlled environment. Think mini refrigerated self-storage units for the rich (something tells me people aren’t storing their cases of 2 Buck Chuck there). The kitchen was available for the collectors to go and drink a glass of wine with friends, before heading out for dinner or a club/bar/party.

Aric had organized a cooking class with Mariposa Kitchen Cooking Classes for Nina’s birthday celebration. The menu was a list of some of Nina’s favorite foods, and all of them super easy to make. There was a list of six different appetizers and hors d’oeuvres that we were making during the party. Most food took about an hour or two to make, and so we split into groups of two or three per station and started up.

The food was mostly Asian inspired (with a few Spanish tapas style items thrown in). And, of course, there were fantastic wine pairings to go along with all the food. AJ and I decided (well actually I decided, and AJ just followed me along) to make the duck confit spring rolls with sour cherry compote. It seemed the most challenging dish, though in reality it really wasn’t that much at all. The most complicated thing about it, the duck confit, was already made, shredded and measured for us. The instructor said she made the duck confit at home herself, buying a whole duck, cutting it up and freezing the breast for another use while sticking the legs in the vat of duck fat she keeps in her refrigerator for that sort of thing. I wish I had a vat of duck fat in my fridge. But I think AJ would squawk if I started storing duck fat in our fridge. We have enough stuff in our fridge as it is that goes unused/rarely used.

I had a blast making the spring rolls (AJ made the sour cherry compote and ran around and took
pictures) though I realized I was a bit controlling when it came to making the rolls. At one point the cooking instructor came by and offered to help by showing me how to roll a spring roll and I snapped “No worries! I got it.” She got the hint and scurried off to help with the black cod station. Later she came by and complimented me on how clean my station was. I tried to say “I always keep my mise en place clean and tidy” but then AJ just chuckled and said “You should the disaster area that is our kitchen when Irvin bakes…”

The cooking instructor, and founder of Mariposa Kitchen, Caroline Fey had been trained in both traditional French cooking and pastry work in New York at the French Culinary Institute. She originally had a degree in journalism and had planned to become a food writer, but when she went back to do the cooking program, realized that she loved being in the kitchen. So now she does private parties and cooking lessons. Super fun, super friendly and super helpful, she was a great facilitator, running around helping out at all the stations and constantly cleaning up after everyone with her assistant.

In the end, the food was super fantastic! We all chowed down on yellowtail hamachi sashimi with crispy shallots and yuzu vinaigrette, meatballs in spiced tomato sauce, crispy rock shrimp tempura in creamy schiracha sauce and tobiko, miso-glazed black cod with shitake mushrooms and mizuna & daikon radish sprout salad, Serrano ham and cheese croquettes, and my 5 spice duck confit spring rolls with the soy-sour cherry dipping sauce along with many other dishes. And as a bonus, she gave us a stack of recipes to take home…so we could make the dishes at home as well. I can’t wait to break out the dutch oven and deep fry some spring rolls at home! I just need to gather 12 of my friends together for it, as AJ and I are definitely NOT going to eat 24 spring rolls all by ourselves.

Whilst making these, I did not listen to any music, other than the happy sounds of the kitchen chaos of my friends trying to make food. Which is totally the best soundtrack ever to making food of any type.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

S. B. Hadley April 26, 2010 at 4:47 am

1. Your life is so food-centered yet each event is so different and creative. I wish my life here had those elements to it.

2. How did you include that FB Like feature? When you're out here next can you show me?

3. I'm still in love with your photography. And this time there aren't even pix of spatulas. Them spring rolls look real good, though. But truly, the photos are so pretty that even though they're photos of real people, they don't cheapen your blog. Nice!

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Rita April 26, 2010 at 6:22 am

Fine . . . I will help you eat the spring rolls.

This must've been the best birthday party ever. Awwww! Happy Bday, Nina!!

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Rita April 26, 2010 at 6:25 am

Oh, and everyone looks glowing and adorable. Of course!!

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Angie April 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Such great pics!!

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Karen April 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

That day was so much fun! I only wish we could have stayed to taste everything.

Great write-up, and wonderful photos!

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Mr. Jackhonky April 28, 2010 at 2:29 am

>@Hadley. 1. it seems like my life is food centric, but really it isn't. well, maybe a little but I live in SF. The whole city is food centric. 2. I'll show you, it's easy. 3. Photos of real people never cheapen a blog. Especially if they are real people I am friends with. ALL my friends are fabulous and gorgeous! I've defriended the ugly ones.

@Rita. I will make them and you will eat them. Come up and partake! Also see my comment above about how all my friends are gorgeous and fabulous.

@Angie Thanks! Again see my comment above. it's easy to take great pics when your friends are fantastic.

@Karen. I wish you could have too! The food was DELISH! We'll just have to have Aric throw another one!

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Anonymous April 30, 2010 at 12:06 am

The food looks so good! Would love to try out your recipe! Would you be able to let me know what brand you use for the wrapper and five spice?

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Mr. Jackhonky May 1, 2010 at 11:19 pm

@Anonymous. Sorry I didn't respond earlier, I actually didn't remember what type of wrappers we used, and I had to emailed Caroline over at Mariposa Kitchen to ask!

Unfortunately she couldn't remember either (she directed me to a local asian grocery store frozen section – Mae Wah on Clement Street in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco). So I did quick google search and found them!

They are a Singaporean brand wrapper called Spring Home. The name of the product is "TYJ Spring Roll Pastry" and you can find them frozen in Asian grocery stories.

As for the brand of five spice, I don't have a particular one that I am loyal too – usually whatever the store has. The only thing I would recommend is to buy it at a popular Asian grocery store. That way you are more likely to get a more fresh container, as opposed to buying an old bottle of it that has been lingering on the shelf. The longer the spices and herbs have been sitting around, the less flavorful they become.

If you want, however, Caroline sent me a recipe for five spice, and I can certainly forward it to you. Just email me (by clicking on my picture on the top right column) and I'll send it to you!

Hope this helps!

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Spice Rack May 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

Looks like a grand celebration. You must have used a lot of spices there. I can see the kitchen is very busy. The rolls looks really delicious.

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Mr. Jackhonky May 5, 2010 at 2:18 am

@Spice Rack. We used tons of fun spices and the party was a blast! I can't wait to make the rolls again at home!

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Shirley @ Kokken69 June 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Cooking party! What a blast,indeed. Cooking classes are really becoming a popular social event. I just attended a company team building cooking event 2 days ago. This cute Australian chef taught us how to make confit..Chicken! I can totally see myself make that spring roll and the cherry dip is brilliant!

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Jackie March 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm

WOW. This looks amazing. And I love your photography!

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