My love for anything duck is beyond words. It wasn’t until today though that I have actually attempted to cook with it. I had the impression that duck is hard to cook so I leave it to the pros to tingle my senses.
Last week I went to a cooking class at Cook Learn Love led by former Bistro Felix head chef, Helen Pratt. The class was for French bistro and I was excited to learn how to cook duck. We went through the step by step of making duck confit with potato gratin for the mains and that photo on the left is the finished product. I have used that as a basis for my first attempt with duck confit. The potatoes – well I didn’t have enough time to make the gratin so I made something much simpler to go with the duck. So here’s my journey with the duck that took 2 days to make and 5 minutes to consume…
Friday arvo. I frantically left the office to make it in time before the butcher closes. I got there with 15 minutes to spare. I asked if they had duck and all they had was frozen duck so I had to buy it regardless since I don’t know anywhere else that sells non frozen duck. And because I have a big family I also bought 2 extra frozen duck legs. The duck and duck parts sat on my kitchen counter for the rest of the night.
Saturday morning. The duck was already defrosted although some parts still had icicles. We’ve been having hot and humid weather lately so I don’t know why it wasn’t already completely defrosted when I got up early that morning. So before work I carved out the 2 legs of the whole duck plus the breast essentially leaving just the frame of the duck that was going to be the stock base. I have never butchered a duck before but I think I did pretty well. I then cured the duck legs with salt and fresh thyme and stuck them back in the fridge. Then I went to work and did not come back until about 5:30pm.
Saturday night. My oven’s busted so I had to go to my friend’s house to borrow her oven for roasting my duck frame. I left the skin and all on the frame because I needed the duck fat for the confit and I was reluctant to buy the fat separately. About 20 minutes later I showed up at my friend’s doorstep with a headless duck sitting in a pan. We had a great dinner while the bones were roasting and the fat was dripping. The roasting went well…until I almost set her house on fire. The neck was sticking out a bit and the oven was small so it was burning quite quickly. Thick smoke came out of the oven when I opened it to check on the duck but luckily the fire alarm didn’t go off. I saw that enough fat was rendered so I tipped it out onto a bowl and continued roasting the bones until they were golden. That took a good 2.5 hours and then I wrapped the poor duck and took it home.
Sunday morning. I woke up early to start making the stock that was to be reduced to become the sauce. One stalk of celery, half an onion, 1 carrot and the roasted duck frame into a pot of cold water. I let it boil and then switched the fire to low for a bare simmer. Two hours into the simmering, the stock started reducing and the house was filled with duck aroma. I left for church and enlisted Auntie C to keep an eye on it.
Sunday arvo. After church and lunch and other what nots I came back home to find my stock half reduced. It was looking good. I started preparing the duck confit by setting up the slow cooker, dumping in the duck fat and putting in the cured duck legs that have been washed off of the salt and patted dry. While that was cooking I went about doing some housework.
Just a little after 5pm I started reducing the stock to make it super concentrated. Then I prepared the other ingredients that I had in mind to go with the dish. In some ways I have combined what I learned in the class and what I have eaten at Cafe de la Presse in San Francisco into my version of duck confit.
Starting with the potatoes:
2 potatoes, sliced very thinly in round shapes
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 /2 teaspoon fresh thyme
enough duck fat to sauté the potatoes
I scooped out some of the duck fat that was in the slow cooker with the duck legs and heated it in a pan. Sauté the potatoes. Add in the garlic salt and thyme. Set aside.
Then with the mushrooms:
1 cup sliced brown mushrooms
pinch of salt
oil or more duck fat if you so desire
Heat oil in a pan and sauté the mushrooms with salt for about 1 minute. Just do not overcook them so they retain their shape. Set aside.
By the time I have finished preparing the potatoes and the mushrooms, the stock has reached a very concentrated level so I switched off the fire and started preparing the ingredients for the sauce:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion sliced
1/2 thumb ginger, sliced
1 orange, juiced
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used apple cider because that was what I had at home)
1 teaspoon sugar
the reduced stock
Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. Add in garlic, onions and ginger until the onions are caramelised. Then add in the orange juice, vinegar and sugar. One thing I learned at the cooking class was that the sauce needs to be as sour as it is sweet. So I tasted the sauce at this point and was happy with the sweet and sourness. Let it boil for about 1 minute and pour in the reduced stock. Continue boiling until the sauce has reduced further and looks thicker than it was before. The reduced stock was already very salty so I did not need to add any seasoning. Set aside.
At this point, the duck legs were already at their stage of readiness. That means the meat was already falling off the bone with the slightest touch. I took them out of the slow cooker and onto a plate ready for some frying goodness. I took about 2 ladlefull of duck fat from the slow cooker and heated it in a frying pan. Once the fat is hot fry the duck legs skin side down until they are golden and crisp. Do not fry the meat. One the the legs just fell apart so some of the meat was fried and it was not good. It turned dry and hard. So with 3 good legs and 1 “photoshopped” leg ready I started plating up.
Potatoes on the bottom.
Mushrooms in the middle.
Duck legs on top.
Drizzle with the sauce.
Some fancy artwork with the sauce.
A sprig of thyme here and there.
Et voila! Heaven on a plate.