July 4, 2011
Duck for Dessert
Hello My Lovelies, it's time for another 365 Challenge through
They have a great team working their way through Stephane Reynaud's '365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat' Cookbook. A mix of all sorts of people who cook for fun.
In case you missed it, this was my previous challenge and I enjoyed it very much, it was loads of fun and always interesting to try something new.
This time around I got July 1st, Duck With Honey.
Now I don't mind a bit of sweetness with savoury foods, and this pairing of duck and honey seemed to make sense. Then I read the rest of the ingredients, and let's just say I had my doubts. It's good to stretch your culinary style sometimes, and I would hate to be thought narrow minded, so I threw caution to the winds and sallied forth into the world of sticky wine, sticky honey and sticky, sticky duck.
3 Tab Honey
1 Tab Armagnac
3 Duck breasts
1 Tab Herbes de Provence
Salt and Pepper
Cooking is all about adapting.
Sometimes the recipe in a book calls for items that are out of season, out of stock, or out of my price range!
As we are currently shivering our way through the middle of a cold Canberra winter, fresh peaches and apricots were mysteriously hard to find. Tinned ones? Not really the right posh-iness expected in French cooking, dried ones? Definitely a better choice.
Herbes de Provence were unaccountably not in the spice aisle at Woolies, but a quick Google search helped me mix up a blend of lavender, thyme and rosemary which at least gave a Gallic vibe that I hoped would not offend Stephane if he ever stumbled across this blog!
Sauternes and Armagnac were available at my local grog shop, but my purse-strings were astonishingly hard to loosen when confronted with the price. After a brief struggle, my purse and I reached a compromise and settled on a bottle of Botrytis Sticky and some Brandy that will hide in my cupboard until wanted at Christmas. After this, I felt so virtuous saving so much money I went and bought myself a nice new Hippy style blouse that I will wear in about a month- so I can truthfully say to my suspicious husband 'what, this old thing? I've had it for AGES.' My purse and I are good at that.
But back to the food ....
First I slashed the duck breasts as recommend in a diamond pattern. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and also helps the excess fat render from the skin.
Mix the wine, brandy and honey. Dip the breasts in the mix and sprinkle with the herbs as suggested, or pop the herbs in along with the meat, and marinate overnight.
Prepare the eggplant. I decided to leave the peices larger than the cubes recommended, as I thought it would present better on the plate. What with the fruit and the nuts, there already seemed a lot of fussiness going on. I sprinkled the larger pieces with salt and left them for about 20 mins to disgorge any bitterness, then patted them dry and adding them to the pan with the duck breasts.
Place the duck skin side down in a dry, cold pan. This is really good to remember, having the pan cold to start will help the fat render and the skin to crisp better without the meat over cooking. And there’s really no need at all for oiling the pan as the duck will generously supply more than enough of its own.
Be really watchful at this point as the sugars from the wine and honey will burn easily. There’s a fine line between burnished and burnt! The eggplant will go gorgeously silky and brown from all the ducky goodness in the pan, and have an amazing flavour- but don’t consider this the healthy part of the dinner as it sponges up plenty of that rendered fat.
Once the duck is cooked to your liking, pull it and the eggplant out of the pan and let it rest somewhere warm.
Drain out the fat, and place the marinade, fruit and nuts in the pan back on the heat. To plump the fruit nicely, cover the pan with a lid and they’ll steam away while absorbing lots of the flavour. I loved how the herby earthiness of the lavender and thyme managed to penetrate the fruit. Once they’re fat and juicy, take the lid off and let the liquid reduce down to a sauce consistency. At this point I added a tablespoon of butter to add some gloss and richness and any juices that released from the resting duck. They are the ‘essence’ of the meat after all, and it’s such a shame to let them go to waste.
To present, I chose a rectangle plate that would follow the line of the eggplant and the shape of the duck breast. A bigger one would have been better, but I had to work with what I’ve got. I placed a slice of eggplant in the middle of the plate, then sliced my duck at an angle and fanned it over the eggplant. This way it showed off both the crispy skin and the pink blush inside as well. I arranged some of the fruit over the meat without covering it all, and placed on a few nuts for extra interest and shape contrast. The sauce would be nice presented in a little jug at the table so each diner could add their own, but I drizzled it around the arrangement of food and it worked OK too. A piece of lavender and thyme on top would have been the finishing touch and reinforced the flavour profile- you’ll just have to imagine it this time!
What did I think of this dish?
Personally I prefer Asian style flavours and don't cook much French inspired food- unless it's dessert. Unfortunetly this recipe was just way too sweet for me and could almost be counted as dessert itself! The duck played second fiddle to the cloying syrup surrounding it. Fresh fruit would have added a much needed touch of tartness, but I still don't think it would be enough.
I mentioned earlier adapting a dish.
In this case, I would adapt the flavours to my palate by halving or even chopping the amount of honey by a third and swapping out the sticky wine for a dry white. A touch of stock or jus in the sauce would also tone it down a little. I think this way the lovely nuances of the lavender, the savoury notes of the thyme and lovely brown bits on the duck skin would all blend into a harmonious whole, instead of being a one-man-band of sticky sweetness.
A bit of further adaptation and I think I could make this into a dish that would appeal more to my taste, and be one I would happily share with friends for dinner.
Sorry Stephane, I hope you don’t mind!
Well Readers, what do you think of sweet sauce for a savoury dish? And what flavour profile do you like the most?
Now to the interesting bit Lovelies- another give away!
This time it's a SCANPAN, Soft Touch Spectrum,Santoku Knife. A funky bright green colour to liven up your kitchen and a cool sheaf to keep it nicely covered over when not in use and sitting in your drawer. Not too big, it's just the right size for preparing the evenings veggies, or taking on a picnic to chop the salad or slice the sausages.
To go in draw, just leave a comment- can't make it any simpler can I? The winner shall be chosen yet again by my patented and highly envied Cat Raffle Method. See this post for details, http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com/2011/06/beautilicious-blueberry-souffle.html
I distance myself from any feline fancies, but wish you the best. May the Fur be with you!