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Vegetarian sub for duck in smoked duck lasagna? No soy/fake meat.

I really want to make a recipe from the Bay Wolf cookbook but don't eat meat and am having trouble figuring out what to sub for the duck.

The recipe is a lasagna with duck braised in red wine, and also has morels, peas and arugula. I don't eat soy or other fake meat, so I was hoping to find a vegetable substitute. Obviously it won't taste like duck, but I just want something that would go with the rest of the dish.

I first thought tomatoes, but I don't think that would be ideal now that I looked at the recipe again and at the photo in the book. Any ideas? It may be that I just have to skip this recipe but I'm hoping not. Actually maybe it would be okay just leaving the duck out and adding more of the mushrooms?

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  1. Ya, Id just go with portobello mushrooms personally.

    1. Without the duck it will be a totally different dish, there is no substitute for the duck. So fine, do more mushrooms but it will not taste like the original dish.

        1. I would sub mushrooms or eggplant. Also not sure if your recipe calls for ricotta and lemon juice/zest, but that would go well with the other ingredients. You are going to need something with some flavor in it to make up for the duck braised in wine. If you're not going to use tomato sauce, you could try something like a spinach and garlic scape pesto. Ranging pretty far afield from the original now, but there you go.

          1. I'd do a second type of mushrooms -- fresh shitake would probably be my choice, with thinly-sliced portobellos (so that they're not too squelchy (I love them, but the texture can sometimes interrupt the mouthfeel of a dish) as a runner-up.

            I might also add some smoked paprika or smoked black pepper, assuming that smoked duck tastes smoky. (lifelong veggie here, IDK if smoked duck is especially smoky.)

            1. Sauteeing a sturdy mushroom with shallots and a red wine reduction might be nice. And a bit of smoked paprika or something similar as antimony mentions, to add the smoked flavor? I don't think there's any reason to skip the recipe -- you're not going to end up with an imitation of the original but you already knew that, and you stand a good chance of ending up with something different but equally delicious.

              1. Thank you everyone. All great ideas. I like the idea of adding something that will add some smokiness, I think I'll definitely try that. Tomatoes could work too, a different type of mushroom is a good idea. I would never have thought of eggplant but could be interesting. Thank you!

                2 Replies
                1. re: bythebay

                  I would roast the tomatoes (on a grill if possible) - -then you'd get more of the smokiness and meatiness of texture.

                  But be careful how many tomatoes you add back in -- duck has a strikingly different (and subtle) flavor profile, and you would very quickly cross the line between subtle and velvety duck lasagna and fairly pedestrian tomato lasagna.

                  I think the portabellas and smoked paprika is probably your closest bet.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Thank you. I agree that I don't want it to be just a regular tomato lasagna.

                2. there is no substitute for smoked duck. another recipe.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hyde

                    If you grill the eggplant slices over low heat on a closed BBQ that has a tray of soaked wood chips, you might be able to infuse the eggplant with a nice smoky flavor. Portabello mushrooms, thickly sliced, might yield a similar result. I'd opt for the eggplant over the mushrooms, because the recipe already contains morels. If you keep the eggplant slices thick, there will be plenty of meaty chew to it.

                    I would advise against using tomatoes, as it will throw off the moisture content and possibly result in a soggy or outright watery lasagna. Sundried tomatoes might be an option instead, but the flavor is very strong, which could ruin the lasagna.

                    I know you said that you don't eat soy or fake meat, but have you tried mock duck, made from wheat gluten? It has a pretty impressive texture. If you're making lasagna, I doubt you have issues with wheat or gluten, especially in light of some of the ingredients you listed.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      Thanks. The eggplant idea sounds good. I do have issues with gluten but do eat it occasionally and obviously would be eating it if I made this meal. But in general fake meat just doesn't do it for me, it's always kind of gave me the creeps, maybe because I don't eat real meat? I'm not sure what the reason is.

                    2. re: hyde

                      "there is no substitute for smoked duck"

                      Of course there isn't, if you mean a replacement ingredient that will perform identically in the dish. But that's no reason to pass on an otherwise-solid-sounding recipe, IMO. If someone is used to slavishly adhering to every recipe, or if s/he is swapping things out willy-nilly, then substituting can be disastrous, but if one understands HOW a substitution will change a recipe (as any adept cook should), there's no reason to be timid about making changes, whether they're of the "I don't/can't eat ______" variety or the "Blast, I'm out of ______ but have ______" variety.

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        i detect a lot of "if"'s in that reply. agreeing with escondido123 above, my point was its an entirely different recipe.

                        i understand your point but this is not substituting cayenne for black pepper because you want more heat, this is taking the signature taste in the dish (and a very distinctive one at that) and removing it. of course the OP can do whatever he wants, but dont take the pork and eggs out and expect it to taste like cabonara.

                        1. re: LauraGrace

                          Yeah I agree. I've cooked this way for years and years because I've had lots of different dietary restrictions over the years but I find that looking for specific recipes that adhere to those restrictions never works as well as finding great recipes and modifying them.

                      2. I would sub a layer of creamy beans, such as flageolot. Also add a few dashes of liquid smoke.

                        1. Are you allergic to soy, or do you object to processed soy foods (or "fake meat" in general)? I ask because there are some delicious and traditional mock ducks which you can buy or make at home with dried soy sheets (tofu skin), wheat gluten, or other things. They are not overly literal (i.e., I don't think they'll bother you by how "realistic" they are), nor do they generally contained processed ingredients. Some of the Chinese markets near us have a delicious packaged tofu skin based tea-smoked "duck", which is delicious. If it's just soy that's a concern, you could also buy smoked wheat gluten (or smoke it yourself) and use that.

                          You could also smoke other ingredients (vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, whatever) that you add to the lasagna to give it a smokey flavor, or, if you eat cheese, by buying smoked mozzarella and using that as one of the cheeses.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: will47

                            I don't like fake meat in general, it gives me the creeps. Seems the consensus is adding something smoked, I will definitely plan to do that.

                          2. Roasted red peppers would work I expect. Lovely and smokey:


                            Jarred ones are good too:


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Robin Joy

                              but an entirely different flavor and texture than duck -- very sweet, too.

                            2. eggplant and mushrooms, the two main suggestions, were the two things I was thinking of