Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why you should be cooking duck at home

Jason came home from a work dinner recently, at a restaurant which he described unremarkable.  While reading the menu, and trying to choose the lesser of the evils on offer, a colleague tried to help: "I try to choose something I couldn't get at home - so I'm having the duck".  Jason's response?  "Oh - my wife cooked that a couple of nights ago."

Do not be scared of duck!  It's damned easy, and it is delicious!


The main challenge I hade before moving to Melbourne was getting my hands on it.  After years of begging anyone I knew with a gun to get me one - and offering to pluck it myself if required - I finally came across a reliable source of wild duck (thanks, Pinky!)  These days most markets and supermarkets offer whole cleaned duck (you just roast it, like a chicken.  I'll show you soon) - or breast fillets. 

To pan-fry duck breast fillets, you need to know three things:
1. prick the skin all over first
2. most of the cooking time, the skin side should be facing the heat
3. save the fat!

There, now you know.

Prick the skin deeply enough to puncture the fat.  This helps it to drain out during cooking and leaves you with a beautiful, crispy skin.


In a hot frypan (turn to highest setting, and allow to preheat), quickly sear the meat side, then turn over so the skin meets the pan.


In the first couple of minutes, the shape of the breast will change - it gets shorter and fatter.  This is normal.


See the golden fat draining off?  You want to save it in a heat-proof container (I use a pyrex glass jug, or a coffee cup) - pour it out of the pan very carefully (it will burn you badly if you touch it), and let it cool to room temperature.  Once cool, transfer to an ice cube tray, freeze, and use later to make amazing roast potatoes.  I'm going to have to show you that, too - soon.


I turn occasionally, but make sure that about 80% of the total cooking time is skin-side down.  Total cooking time is 5-10 minutes, I usually just wait until the skin feels right (it should be crispy, not chewy).  Duck should be served medium (pink in the middle, but not "raw").  Glaze with oyster sauce if desired.

NOTE: If your duck breasts are skinned, this is probably healthier but you will miss out on the skin and the roast potato opportunity.  Just pan-fry on a high setting, for about 2 mins each side.  Expect skinless breasts to be a little on the dry side (they don't have that beautiful fat basting them while cooking!) and serve with a jus or sauce.

No comments:

Post a Comment