What Side Dishes to Eat With Duck

Balanced, thoughtful side dishes celebrate duck's richness. Rendered duck fat integrates starches and vegetables with duck on an almost organic level and makes the transition from side dish to main dish seamless. You need another source of rendered duck fat besides the one cooking in your oven; you can usually buy it at the store where you bought your duck. Basic food acids, such as lemon juice and balsamic vinegar, provide the spike in flavor that gives the duck context.

Roasted Potatoes

Things You'll Need

  • Russet potatoes

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Curly parsley

Duck fat naturally connects side dishes to a duck main course, but perhaps none as effectively as Lyonnaise potatoes. Like all peasant-style French dishes, Lyonnaise potatoes are deceptively simple; a little fresh parsley, garlic and onions are all you need. Blanch thick slices of unpeeled Russet potatoes in salted water for about 5 minutes and drain them until they're cool to the touch. Caramelize sliced onions and garlic in rendered duck fat, and coat the potatoes in more rendered fat. Arrange the potatoes and onions in alternating layers in a casserole and slide them in the oven alongside the duck. Roast the potatoes until golden brown and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Heirloom Tomato Salad With Fine Herbes

Things You'll Need

  • Heirloom tomatoes

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon

Crisp, clean and palate cleansing, a simple heirloom tomato salad interjects vigor and vibrancy between bites of roasted or fried duck. You usually find heirloom tomatoes from mid-summer to mid-fall; select varieties with a firm texture. Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Flammee Orange and Green Zebra, to name a few, all fit the criteria and aren't hard to find. Cut the heirlooms into wedges and toss them with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly chopped chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon.

Brown Butter Potatoes

Things You'll Need

  • Butter

  • Heavy cream

  • Black peppercorns

  • Sieve

  • Rubber spatula

  • Fresh herbs, such as parsley

Nutty, aromatic brown butter and creamy whipped potatoes play masterfully off Beijing-style duck's crispy skin. Brown butter is merely butter gently simmered until the milk solids caramelize. But, when added to whipped, steamed potatoes -- steaming produces the airiest texture -- brown butter elevates the humble spuds to rustic elegance. Simmer unsalted butter until caramelized and pulse it in a food processor with steamed potatoes and warm heavy cream and until smooth. Season to taste and finish with freshly chopped herbs.

Braised Red Cabbage

Things You'll Need

  • Red cabbage

  • Chicken stock

  • Cider vinegar

  • Dry red wine

  • Bacon

  • Sliced pistachios

Braised red cabbage brings mild acidity, a toothsome bite and crisp crunch to classic duck a l'orange. Saute shredded red cabbage in duck fat over high heat until slightly wilted. Add the cabbage to a baking dish along with enough equal parts chicken stock, cider vinegar and stock to cover the bottom. Cook the cabbage with the duck until tender, about 45 minutes, and mix in crispy chopped bacon and sliced pistachios just before serving.

Caramelized Parsnips With Fried Arugula

Things You'll Need

  • Parsnips

  • Cream

  • Butter

  • Arugula

Best likened to creamy carrots, parsnips complement both roasted or braised duck, and a topping of arugula flash-fried in duck fat adds a crackly bite. Parsnips don't mash to a smooth consistency, which keeps this dish rustic. Roast parsnips in duck fat and mash them with warm heavy cream with a fork. Fry arugula in hot duck fat for 10 seconds and remove it with a slotted spoon. Serve the fried arugula on top of the parsnips. Stand back when you drop the arugula in the hot duck fat because it pops.

Almondine Green Beans

Things You'll Need

  • Sliced almonds

  • Butter

  • Shallots

  • Garlic

  • Haricot verts

  • Fresh herbs, such as thyme and sage

Better than common green beans in taste, texture and appearance -- but just as easy to prepare -- French-style green beans brighten any duck dish. Blanch the beans for a few seconds and drain them. Saute sliced shallots and garlic in butter until aromatic and add the beans. Saute the beans until browned in spots but still al dente. Season to taste using a few extra grinds of black pepper then mix in toasted sliced almonds and fresh herbs to taste.

Balsamic-Roasted Vegetables

Things You'll Need

  • Seasonal vegetables

  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Olive oil

If you need a side dish for 20 guests or something simple to pair with a few duck thighs on a weeknight, balsamic-roasted vegetables have you covered. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar cuts the duck's fattiness and the seasons choose the ingredients -- you merely roast them in olive oil with the duck until they caramelize. In autumn, you find fennel, leeks, wild mushrooms, peppers and winter squash waiting; in winter, try purple sprouting broccoli, Russian Red kale, fingerling potatoes and early carrots. From early spring to early summer, look for morel mushrooms, spring onions and fiddleheads. In summer, make a glorious ratatouille with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, squash, peppers and zucchini blossoms.