Photo by Jun Pang
I never used to like duck. I was never around it all that much growing up. Filipinos don’t normally cook with duck so I didn’t really discover it until I was cooking in a commercial kitchen. I assume that most people are the same. Most people I know haven’t really eaten a lot of duck in their lives unless of course it was in a restaurant.
Duck is a “some times” ingredient for many people, often classified to many home cooks in the “too hard” basket. What do you do with it? How do you prepare it? What other ingredients does it go with? So how do we as chefs expect home cooks to cook with it if they don’t know much about it?
Duck has a slightly “gamey” flavour, with a meat that can sustain a number of cooking methods. There are several breeds of ducks that are used for cooking, mainly the Muscovy and the Pekin duck in Australia. Pekin ducks are the most used, a little less gamier in flavour and the texture is a lot more tender. The meat on the Pekins are lighter in colour but can sustain and reacts well to most cooking styles. Bred primarily for domesticated use, Pekin ducks originated from the Mallard, anther breed of duck that is popular in most kitchens.
So how do you use it? The French love it confited, a type of cooking where the chef slowly cooks it in its own juices or rendered fat. From this they make several other foods like rillettes, a type of pate served with crispy bread. The French also make things like terrines, sausages, roulades amongst other things with the most popular dish arguably being, Duck a l’orange which is duck served with a deep, rich orange glaze.
In the East, duck is one of the most favoured ingredients to cook and eat. Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties have favoured and enjoyed duck. The most famous of all the dishes being the Peking Duck. Chinese red roasted duck with thin, crispy and crunchy skin served with thin pancakes and hoisin sauce.
For the home cook, if you want poultry with a difference then try duck. You can cook with it much like chicken but the duck skin carries a little more fat and the flavour can be a little over powering. Best way to get around that is to render it down by slowly sealing it on a dry pan, allowing to naturally render the fat down a little so it’s not too strong. After that, use duck as you would chicken recipes.
The best use of duck is with oranges or mandarins. Duck and citrus seem to be good friends. Spices like cinamon and star anise is another match made in heaven.
Try this recipe with a difference. Its served with a warm potato salad; seems simple, because it is!
The sweetness of the vincotto goes well with the duck flavour and the goats cheese has this natural way of leavening the palate, making the dish nice and smooth, allowing you to really enjoy the flavours of duck!
Seared Duck Breast Salad, Buttered Kipfler Potatoes, Dried Fig and Goats Cheese & Vincotto
300gr Castor Sugar
1 Litre Water
500ml Red Wine
4 Star Anise
2 Cinnamon Sticks
120gr Dried Figs
4 Duck Breast
500gr Kipfler Potatoes – boiled until soft
350gr Goats Cheese Curd
1 Bunch Red Butter Lettuce
- First, make a red wine sugar syrup to poach the figs in. Combine sugar, water red wine, star anise and cinnamon in a small pot and simmer for about 10 minutes
- Add the dried figs into the sugar syrup and poach for about 10 minutes on really low, then allow to cool in the liquid. This liquid can be used many times
- First, heat up a pan for the duck breast on medium high heat for one minute
- Season the duck with sea salt and pepper and place into the dry pan skin side down. The fat from the breast will render and help crisp the skin. Cook skin side down for at least 10 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy on medium heat then flip on the breast side and cook for a further 8 minutes and set aside.
- Heat up the same pan and add the butter on medium heat. When the butter starts to froth up, add the potatoes and toss through with seasoning, slightly browning. Once achieved crumble in a bowl
- Slice the duck breast and place into the same bowl along with the goats curd cheese.
- Slice the figs and add to the bowl and mix through with a drizzle of Vincotto.
- Place butter lettuce on the bottom of a plate, then pile some salad on top with even amounts of ingredients in each salad.