Saturday, January 13, 2007

If it looks like a duck...?

When I was 16, I cooked my first Thanksgiving. Long story short, I didn't want to go deer hunting, so my parents said I had to cook Thanksgiving Dinner...I think they thought they were punishing me for not partaking in the 'family activity' of killing bambi. Ha.

Well, my first Thanksgiving didn't have a turkey, but a Roast Duck. I was 16 and had no idea what they heck I was doing, but I roasted that damn duck. It was fine, but wasn't great. Fatty Fatty Fatty! Yep, duck is fatty. Well, that was the last time I cooked duck. Until Last Night!

I've learned a lot over the past few years of cooking, studying and eating. I've learned I like to eat duck, but my memories of the fatty roast duck scared me when it comes to cooking.

But last night that all changed. I pulled out a recipe in a new cookbook: The Irish Spirit; Recipes Inspired by the Legendary Drinks of Ireland by Margaret M. Johnson. Mmmmm!

This is a very simple recipe that only requires that you can find duck breasts. I picked mine up at Eastern Market. They were packaged in a freezer pack of the breasts from two ducks. Enough dinner for 3 people. The breasts were very small once you remove all the fat (which you need to do for this recipe!) Some of the recipe is slightly altered from the original (quantities mostly).

Duck au Poivre

4 duck breasts (6-7 oz each, skin removed)
2 TB cracked black pepper (medium crack is good)
Sea Salt
1 TB canola oil
1 TB Kerrygold Irish Butter (if you can find it-it's worth it!)
1 TB sherry vinegar (I had cream sherry-it worked)
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup broth (beef or chicken-I used chicken)
1/4 cup Irish whiskey (I had Kentucky Bourbon-it worked)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Rub both sides of the duck breasts with pepper, pressing it into the flesh with your fingers. Season with salt.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Add the duck and cook for 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare; 6 minutes per side for well done).

Remove the duck from the pan and keep warm. Add the shallots and vinegar, and with a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the stock, whiskey and cream, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes until the sauce thickens.

To serve, slice the duck breast and arrange on a warm plat, surround with the sauce.


A few words of caution: Gas Stove + Whiskey = Flambe!

FUN!!! But be prepared. I added the broth, then the whiskey and whoof! I knew it was going to happen, but it was still a big whoof! I let it go a minute then extinguished with the cover for the pan. Then I added the cream. I think if you do the broth, cream THEN the whiskey, the likelihood of the flaming is going to go down as the alcohol is diluted. But FUN!!! Make sure to be prepared though!!!

DUCK is best cooked to medium-rare, no more than medium if you can help it. I followed the directions of the recipe and ended up with medium to medium-well. Duck gets chewy and not as delish at those levels. Either my medium-high flame was too high or the breasts were to small and cooked to quickly. I could have stopped cooking at 2 minutes per side. It's ok, because they were still good with the sauce and the middle pieces were the best as they still had the lightly bit of pink left.

Joyous had joined us for dinner and the 4 small duck breasts were enough for us with a good side of steamed green beans and a yummy green salad. We were full and happy, with room for dessert afterwards! And really, the shallot, whiskey and cream sauce is just divine!


Anonymous said...

Sooooooooo good. Duck is wonderfully juicy meat, and in this recipe it did not taste gamey at all. The sauce is on the sweeter side, and just delicious. This ones a keeper, for sure!

Rob said...

Yeah, definitely going to try that.

If you render out the fat from the skins, you'll have one of the most sublime frying mediums known to humankind. Potatoes fried in duck fat will redefine your idea of potatoness.

And then there's goose fat... oh yeah...

TC said...

Seriously? YOu cooked your first Thanksgiving dinner at 16? I cooked my first during my junior year abroad and practically had a nervous breakdown.

ScottE. said...

Aw crap!!! Good idea Rob...I didn't even think of doing something with the fat...I tossed it all out...d'oh! We've had potatoes with duck fat and bacon (??) at Sonoma on Capital Hill!

TC: Yep...16! It wasn't anything fancy, but it was the full deal! Pie. Potatoes. Corn. Stove Top. Duck. Buns. Butter!