My cooking style, when presented with options in terms of time and selection of raw materials, tends to run, almost regardless of season, to fusion-food styles, which are inspired by a variety of cuisines, ranging from rustic French and Italian to Southeast Asian, with anything and everything (provided it tastes good and can be combined well) in-between.
Since the friend who visited the weekend before last is Norwegian, she was not very used to the English abundance and inexpensive availability of duck, and so after having had it at the Yee Rah and liked it, we have decided to have the quacky bird for dinner the next day as well, provided the supermarket supply gods were merciful. Which, as it happens, they were.
We had gone for a walk around Liverpool One again, with the objective of shopping (Bravissimo featuring on my list as always), and then dropped by the new Tesco across from the BBC Radio building. The fresh food department downstairs yielded the following:
- A fresh duck crown of about 1.2kg in weight
- A large bunch of coriander
- A bag of washed rocket (aka arugula or rucola for non-British)
- A few red chilies
- Two chilled flatbreads with spices and red onion
- A box of rather happy-looking chestnut mushrooms
… all of which was gleefully purchased, and dragged home along with the requisite box of cream and fresh berries for dessert.
The pantry (storecupboard for the British) at home contributed:
- Blue Dragon Sweet Chili Sauce (hot variant)
- M&S Thai Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)
- Kikkoman Soy Sauce
- Tesco Toasted Sesame Oil
- Sea salt and black pepper (in grinders)
The following recipe is heavily Southeast Asian-inspired, but I by no means claim any authenticity to a specific style, nor care to. The only assurance of success I ever go by, is my own, and my guests’ happy smiles while eating, and by that measure, this is well worth the (relatively minimal) efforts.
Overall, the preparation for this is very simple, but it does require a very sharp knife, and a good (in my view, best if it is cast iron) grill pan, or at least a heavy flat griddle, though the latter would be fiddlier to deal with, considering the fat layer on the duck. (If your grill pan has a non-oven-safe handle, you will also need a baking dish to finish the duck in the oven. Mine’s fully cast iron so I simply move the entire thing in once done searing.)
Unpack and rinse and pat dry the duck. If using a crown or whole carcass rather than prepped breasts, lay it securely on a cutting board, and using a very sharp knfie, carefully slice the breasts off, starting with a lenghtwise cut alongside the breastbone and continuing downwards to the wing joint. Separate the breasts and trim the fat edges (fat will overhang the meat on any well-fattened duck). Put carcass/half carcass (from crown) aside in a plastic bag – refrigerate or freeze for later use in soup (recipe to follow another day).
Turn the breasts fat-side up and pat dry, then cross-hatch the fat with diagonal cuts through skin, without cutting into the meat at all/not too much. I usually aim for 1x1cm diamond cross-hatching, or smaller – but if it is uneven or a bit larger, it is no matter. Salt and pepper the duck on both sides and place on a plate or board to rest. About an hour should be enough, one and a half is better to allow the meat to come to room temperature. In meantime, make the sauce:
Mix 1/3 of a cup of sweet chili sauce (I use the hot kind) with about a teaspoon or three (to taste, so taste after small-portion additions) of soy and fish sauces. Blend well with a fork, add some sliced red chilies and top with sesame oil. Allow to stand.
Clean the mushrooms, preheat oven to about 180°C, and the grill pan on high heat on stovetop. Arrange rocket and some of the chopped coriander on plates. In meantime, start grilling mushrooms on the pan. When those are done, remove to the plates and place duck breasts fat-side down onto the very hot grill pan. (You should have the exhaust on and a window open at this point, as the duck fat will smoke.)
Grill time will depend on how well-done you like the duck, and the heat of your stove/quality of grill pan. Best advice I can give you is to watch it – and turn it over once the fat is crispy and golden and possibly a touch charred in places. Cook the duck meat-side down until it is seared and crispy, and the sides are still showing red/pink rawness, then turn the stove off and place the grill pan directly into the hot oven for about 5-6 minutes (or place into baking dish and put that in the oven if the grill pan is not oven safe). This will result in a pink-medium-rare duck. You may keep it in the oven for longer if desired.
Take the duck out of the oven, remove to a board and cover with a tent of foil for 3-6 minutes, then remove tent and slice crosswise, arranging the slices on the bed of greens. Sprinkle with a bit more coriander and sliced chili, and drizzle the sauce over.
We ate this with sparkling water and green tea, and a side of heated up spiced flatbread, but you could steam some rice or boil some noodles if that’s your poiso… starch of choice.
Other than being spectacularly delicious (at least to my taste, and that is obviously the main consideration), the dish is also rather healthy (provided you do not overload it with the sweet sauce as that contains sugar), and can (omitting the flatbread) be good for those on reasonably low-carbohydrate diets, diabetic or coeliac sufferers (make sure that your sauces you use are, of course, safe for your level of sensitivity).
Good luck, have fun cooking, and above all - do enjoy, both that and the subsequent eating!