DUCK BREAST, ALCOHOL and EMBELLISHMENTS

The greatest component in my diet has always been vegetables, but now and again there is a definite main dish, and duck is what I cooked one night last week for dinner.

Most of my cooking is about “using up” something and I chose duck because I had some left over cumquats in the fridge. Last year when it was cumquat season I preserved some in vodka, and some in brandy. When I remember that I have them I sometimes present them at the end of a meal when I have guests. There were a few cumquats in vodka left over from a dinner with friends recently.

Duck breast does not have to be a dish for important events. It is very quick and easy to cook especially if it is pan fried and the cost is very similar to free range chicken.

An advantage of pan frying duck is that you can quickly and efficiently drain off the fat either to keep for another time or to pan fry potatoes, cooked beforehand and browned in the fry pan.

Pan fried duck is versatile, and you can alter and enhance its taste with the addition of small amounts of other ingredients like pulses, nuts, fruit, herbs and vegetables. Different liquids (alcohol, flavoured stocks) used to deglaze the pan will make delicious sauces.

What is added to the duck is the embellishment and not the vegetable sides. When I cook a protein main (meat, fish, cheese, eggs), I always present it with large quantities of vegetables. On this occasion the accompaniments were sautéed spinach cooked in a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic, and some steamed green beans.

I use mostly wine, vinegar or stock for deglazing but I also like different-tasting alcohols perhaps because there are many bottles left over in my cupboard from past times when serving a nip of spirits instead of a simple aperitivo before a meal or as a digestivo after, was fashionable.  I particularly like to use different flavoured grappa, vodka, vermouth, brandy, Pernod and dry marsala. I prefer the sweeter liqueurs for desserts.

I am almost embarrassed to show you this photo but in some ways the “‘using up” priciple applies.

As well as playing around with alcohol, I am a great user of herbs and spices and I greatly enjoy selecting what could pair well with the ingredients I am using.

The recipe below may help clarify what I am discussing above.

I use a non-stick pan, to prevent the duck from sticking during cooking. I used another frypan to cook the potatoes.

INGREDIENTS

Duck – 2 pieces of breast, a couple of spring onions, a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cumquats in vodka, star anise and some blood orange juice.

Fresh herbs were parsley and thyme.

PROCESS

Score the skin, forming a grid of fairly deep cuts. This assists the speed of cooking and the fat to melt and escape.

Heat a smear of oil in the pan and place the duck pieces on top and always skin side down first, so that the fat melts.  I added thyme.

Keep the duck on that skin fat side first and drain the fat off at least a couple of times as you are cooking that side of the duck. This may take about ten minutes.

Turn the meat over, seasoning with salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes. I like my duck pink and you may wish to cook your duck for longer.

Remove the meat from the pan and rest it while you deal with the sauce and complimentary ingredients. At this stage you may notice that there is still some blood running off the meat but the duck will be added to the sauce once it is made and this will finish the cooking.

Make sure that there is still some grease in the pan (or add some oil) for the next part of the cooking. Begin with some finely chopped shallot or a spring onion or two and toss them around till softened. I then added some parsley.

Now is the time to add some partly cooked vegetable, fruit or pulses to the pan and as you see in my recipe, I added the comquats and I drained them first.

Add a glass of alcohol and on this occasion, mine was vodka, paying close attention to the height of the flame and safety issues. The vodka  had some star anise and some blood orange as flavouring I had used for the cumquats.

When the alcohol has completely evaporated, return the duck breasts back in the pan to flavour for a few minutes.  Slice the meat and serve them in the sauce.

 

It looks so elaborate for a weekday dinner, but it was quick and easy.

Preserving cumquats in alcohol is super easy:

Wash and dry cumquats well, prick each one several times with a fine skewer or a thick needle.
Place cumquats into sterilised jars, add spices, for example – star anise, cinnamon, vanilla beans; pour liqueur or spirit to cover cumquats completely. I rarely add sugar and in most cases the liqueur I add is sweet enough. If I add sugar I dissolve it in a little hot water.
Stand the jars in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months before using.
See also:

Other duck recipes:

RIGATONI CON RAGU; ANATRA (duck ragout)

DUCK AND MUSHROOM RAGÙ

DUCK AND MUSHROOM RAGÙ

Sicilian Duck with green olives and anchovies; Anatra a Papparedda cu ulivi

LEFTOVERS, PAN FRIED DUCK WITH DRIED CHERRIES, PARSLEY OIL recipes