10 October 2005
Smokey the Duck (Paper Chef # 11 - Favourite Fall Foods)
Well gosh, I am a Paper Chef virgin and I have to say I'm quite excited! I saw the ingredients list and thought hmmm, what to do? Then I realised I actually had all the ingredients (duck breasts in my freezer, hazelnut butter on the shelf, ginger in the fridge and pears in the fruit basket). So I set myself the further challenge of not buying anything else for this experiment.
Just a few words about the ingredients; I LOVE duck (sorry Daffy!), more meaty and flavourful than chicken, but not quite as heavy as a beef or mutton. In fact I often do a braised duck dish about now with daikon or a little bit later on in the year with chestnuts. Ginger is warming which is good to remove some of the chill we are starting to get. And it's a great time for pears, the markets are full of them at the moment. How to put all that together (and nut butter too)?
After mulling about it for a little while, a dish started to take shape. Okay it's fall, but in London it is neither here nor there in terms of weather. I saw people in the park today in T-shirts, yet as soon as the sun went behind a cloud, I was very happy for my jacket, it all turned chilly quick. So I needed some in-between kind of food which led me to a warm salad, those are always good right? Then I thought, let's make it a bit more interesting by smoking the duck breast after marinating in spices. The hazelnut butter sauce was inspired by a sesame sauce that I do for chicken and I added the ginger for a bit of zing. Pears are good in a salad as long as they're not overripe and I added the daikon for pepperiness and crunch and the red pepper for colour, sweetness and crunch also.
Anyway, the recipe is a bit long-winded but it turned out just fine. My husband sure seemed to like it and had a second helping! Good thing I always cook too much ;-) The dish had a great combination of flavours and textures, just the thing after a long afternoon walk in the park.
(NOTE: The quantities are all approximate as they are from memory, I didn't take notes as I went along, tsk, tsk!)
Tea Smoked Duck Breasts and a Ginger Hazelnut Butter Sauce
with a Pear, Daikon and Red Pepper Salad
2 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. cardamom pods
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Maldon sea salt
2 duck breasts (preferably Barbary)
½ cup black tea
½ cup white rice
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh ginger Microplaned (fine)
1 tbsp. hazelnut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Salt & pepper
1 pear, sliced
1 red pepper, julienned
2 inch piece of daikon, julienned
Mixed salad greens (lollo rosso, watercress, beet greens, batavia)
Oil & vinegar
Salt & pepper
In a dry pan, toast the first 3 spices until fragrant and grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Put ground spices plus 5 spice, sugar and salt in a container that will hold the 2 duck breasts. Score the duck breast skin lightly then coat in the spices and leave to marinate overnight.
The next day, rinse off the spice mixture and pat dry. Line a heavy bottomed pan with two layers of foil then add the smoking agents and heat. When it starts to smoke, put the duck breasts on a rack in the pan and cover. Smoke the duck for 10 minutes on each side. Remove and cool.
When ready to eat, put the duck breasts skin side down in a hot, dry pan for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden brown, then turn over and cook for a minute on the other side. Remove and let rest, covered with foil.
Dress the salad, daikon, pepper and pear with a light vinaigrette made with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pile the salad on a plate. Slice the duck and arrange next to the salad. Drizzle with the hazelnut ginger sauce and serve extra sauce on the side. Enjoy!
© Vivian Pei, 2005