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

 

 

AUTUMN FRUIT Cumquats (Kumquats) and Quinces

I do like Cumquats and Quinces – both are Autumn fruit.

The photos were taken at my friends’ house in the south – east of South Australia. Each time that we are together we get productive in her kitchen.

My friend  likes to make preserves – cumquat and whisky marmalade, pickled cumquats and cumquats preserved in brandy. She also makes quince jelly and quince paste. On this particular weekend we used some of her abundant  autumn harvest.

She has the round shaped cumquats. The elongated variety of cumquats are much sweeter and are very good eaten fresh and whole . I like to eat both varieties raw and whole.

Here are photos of some of the methods used to make the cumquats in brandy or Cointreau or a mixture of both. Rum or Whisky is also good.

You could add some extra flavourings if you wish: cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, star anise or glace or crystallized ginger.

The jars and lids will need to be sterilised. You may have your own way to this, for example:

  • Use the hot cycle in your dishwasher
  • cover them with hot water and boil them, for about 10 minutes
  • fill them with boiling water, place them on a baking tray lined with a tea towel and put them into a 110 C oven for about 15 minutes.

Although my friend had several kilos of cumquats, the recipe is based on using 1 kilo of cumquats.

You can use as much alcohol of your choice as you wish, for example a ratio of 3 cups of alcohol to 2 cups of water – adjust according to taste.  You will not necessarily know how much liquid you will need to cover the cumquats in the jars but you can always make more if you run out of the alcohol and water mixture.

Sugar – use 800g per kilo of fruit.

Use only whole fruit that are bright orange in color and have firm, undamaged skins. Make sure that they have stems.

Wash and dry them and remove the leaves. Leave the little green stems, then prick each one a couple of times with a thick needle.

Cover with water and bring them slowly to the boil. Simmer them uncovered for about 10 minutes – the must not collapse.

Drain them carefully and gently – they must remain whole. Reserve the water to use in the alcohol mixture.  Combine water with sugar, bring to the boil and boil for about 5 minutes. Take off the stove, add alcohol and mix well.

Place the fruit gently into the prepared jar. Add some spices or ginger among the cumquats if you wish. Top with the syrup. Do not crowd them too much as they may break. Cover with lids. Allow to stand for at least two weeks before using.

4 quinces,  cinnamon quills,  3  lemons, sliced,
About 200g sugar,
2 cups of water

I wiped the fuzz off the quinces and preheated my oven to 140C (fan-forced). I cut the quinces into quarters and sliced lemons and placed them in between the pieces of quinces.

Added sugar and water.

Covered them with foil and baked for at least 3 hours until quinces are soft and a rich red  – I removed the foil about 15 minutes before they finished cooking.

Jelly ( from the juices) in the left over quinces.

SEE EARLIER POSTS ON QUINCES (click on links):
A Tale about QUINCES
MOSTARDA and COTOGNATA- Sweets in Moulds
PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda