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Parties are just more fun when they have a theme. I love duck, so why not an all-duck dinner? Great, except no one wants duck liver ice cream, so I served a mousse (not a goose or a moose) for dessert. I bought seven ducks, saved the livers, cut out the leg quarters for duck confit, deboned the breasts for cured duck, and made stock out of the carcasses. The menu had five duck dishes and four mousses, so I called the dinner D5M4.

Here are the highlights: I soaked the duck livers in milk overnight, which made for a really creamy duck liver mousse. I flavored the duck soup Thai-style with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chopped shallots, ginger root, sambal oelek chile paste, minced carrots, and chopped cilantro. I cured the duck breasts the way chef Bernard Pilon taught me: salt, pepper, coriander,  bay, sugar, and then press the duck with bricks for 4 days. Then I thinly sliced the duck for a salad of mango, radishes, and candied pine nuts on arugula. The entree was duck confit, which is the duck leg slowly cooked in duck fat. The master of duck and duck fat is chef Eric Brenner (see his class “Just Ducky” on September 17). I served the duck on cherry sauce with a pureed parsnip moussline (the secret is to boil parsnips in milk, not water), and fresh English peas cooked in duck stock.

The moussy dessert recipe came from chef Barry Marcus. The lemon-lime mousse was sandwiched between two pecan meringues, and topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Of course, the hit of the evening was an appetizer that had nothing to do with either duck or mousse. Perhaps the theme only goes so far — or maybe I should have named it goat cheese mousse!

Pickled Cucumber Cups with Goat Cheese and Peppadews

for the cucumbers:

  • 4 small cucumbers, about 5 inches in length
  • kosher sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Slice the cucumbers crosswise into one-inch lengths. Use a small melon baller to scoop out the insides and make a cucumber cup. Liberally sprinkle with salt and let sit for 20 minutes. Bring the sugar and vinegar to a boil and pour over the cucumbers. Let sit until cool, then refrigerate until cold. Drain. Use a pastry bag with a fluted tip to fill the cucumbers with goat cheese, then top with a slice of peppadew.

for the filling:

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 5 peppadew peppers, cut into quarters

Mix together the cheese and cream until smooth.