Roasted Duck Beats Thanksgiving Turkey

Instead of fussing over a turkey all day, why not pick up masterfully prepared duck and support a restaurant near you?

Thanksgiving was going to be strange in 2020, there was no way around it. You may have skipped it entirely (as our writer suggested), or hosted a smaller approximation of Thanksgivings past. What's certain is that, for many of us, the idea of cooking an arduous feast, even for a smaller crowd, felt pretty daunting. I was thinking about doing takeout, and I thought of roasted duck.

If you, like me, have eaten turkey every single Thanksgiving of your life, you may want to try something different this year, since the pandemic freed or forced many of us to break from tradition. While there's a long, storied tradition of slandering turkey, I'm not going to do that here, though I am sympathetic to those views. But why not lean into an unusual year and pivot proteins entirely?

Cantonese turkey and Thanksgiving spread

At Nihao, chef Peter Chang's buzzy Baltimore restaurant, guests could order a Thanksgiving dinner for two to carry out that year, centered around their most popular item: duck. In addition to half a Cantonese roast duck with hoisin and cranberry, the spread included mapo macaroni (!), buckwheat Parker House rolls, and shrimp buns with curried herb crust. The kits, which cost $88 on Tock, were available for pick-up on the two days before Thanksgiving, with heating instructions for day of.

"Since we started in a pandemic, we've mastered preparing food ahead of time that can be carried out and reheated at home," said executive chef Pichet Ong.

Another benefit for a masterfully prepared takeaway duck, aside from the certainty that you won't mess it up? It offers the same pageantry as turkey — you can carve it and arrange it as you please (and save the bones for soup, if you like.)

"We didn't want to do our traditional Peking duck because it comes broken down and pre-sliced, and reheating it on the next day would diminish the skin," said chef-de-cuisine Antoni Szachowicz. "Instead, a Cantonese duck would be amicable to reheating and allow our guests to enjoy the tradition of carving their own meat."

Opening in the middle of a pandemic was challenging for the restaurant. Ong expressed deep gratitude that Nihao was able to stay afloat after months of uncertainty. "We are so thankful that our business has remained successful," he said. "We have a small core team of staff that put forth their best efforts to cook and serve our guests."

With diminished sales and minimal government relief, independent restaurants across the country barely hung on. Ordering takeout for Thanksgiving is a great way to support your local favorites, try something different, and stare into the void instead of cooking. And you may want to look to your local Chinatown, which was likely struggling before COVID hit the U.S., and find restaurants that are open for takeout and offer duck. While Nihao's Cantonese-style duck is sure to be special, Peking duck would look gorgeous on your table, too.

If you do end up preparing a turkey, study our guide on how to cook a beautiful, show-stopping Thanksgiving turkey (and read Ina Garten's key tip for avoiding dryness so you don't disappoint her).

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