This dish is one that palates of all ages can enjoy due to its balance of savory richness, sweet crunch and smooth noodles.
We found confit duck legs at some grocery stores.
Serve with a salad of peppery greens. Adapted from "365 Ways to Cook: Delicious Variations on Favorite Foods" by Eleanor Maxfield (Firefly, 2011).
3 confit duck legs, preferably D'Artagnan brand (about 11 ounces of meat total; see headnote)
1 1/2-inch piece ginger root
1 bunch (3 1/4 ounces) cilantro
1/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened; your choice), for garnish
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews, for garnish
1 cup low-fat coconut milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons no-salt-added chicken broth
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
3 whole star anise
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
8 ounces flat rice noodles
Line a large plate with several layers of paper towels.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place the duck legs in the skillet skin side down. Cook for 10 minutes or until the skin becomes golden and crisped. Turn the legs over and cook for 2 or 3 minutes so the legs are heated through on the second side. Transfer to the lined plate to drain and cool.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, peel the ginger, then cut it lengthwise into very thin slices. Coarsely chop the cilantro leaves and some of the tender stems.
Arrange the coconut in a single layer on one side of a small baking sheet; spread the cashews on the other side. Bake in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the coconut cool on the baking sheet. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
Shred or tear the duck into small pieces, including some of the crisped skin, if desired; discard any soft fat and the bones (or reserve the bones for making stock).
Combine the coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, star anise, crushed red pepper flakes, the ginger and half of the cilantro in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cut the limes in half, then squeeze their juice into the saucepan, stirring to incorporate. Discard the star anise.
Meanwhile, add the rice noodles to the boiling water; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 3 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain, and divide evenly among individual wide, shallow bowls, piling the noodles in the center of each bowl.
Scatter equal amounts of the duck meat (and skin, if desired) over each portion, then pour equal amounts of the broth around the noodles in each bowl. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, the cashews and the remaining chopped cilantro.
Serve right away.
Nutrition per serving: 530 calories, 18g protein, 51g carbohydrates, 27g fat, 11g saturated fat, 70mg cholesterol, 890mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber, 2g sugar.