Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ducks Win for Once!

Why do ducks get such bad press?

Think of a "sitting duck"..a witless loser standing in the line of fire...or "out for a duck"...a quaint expression in the English game of Cricket for yet another loser who gets bowled out without scoring a single wicket..or even Daffy Duck who is invariably cast as a bad-tempered sore loser.

Instead of compounding this negativity, we come to praise this tasty bird.

Ducks are fantastic -- nutritionally speaking. If you discard the uber greasy skin and thick layer of fat, the duck meat itself is comparable to both chicken and turkey in terms of its nutritional composition and to our mind it is waaay tastier.  Peking duck is an exception, but that's special occasion food (being deep fried); it's just too much of a temptation to discard the crispy skin 'cos it's the best part of this particular duckfest!

The following recipe is almost healthy...it is a duck salad, after all.

2  6oz duck breasts

(For the marinade)
2  tbsp soy sauce
1  tbsp chilli garlic sauce
1  tsp toasted sesame oil
1  tsp honey
1 heaped tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1  tsp toasted sesame seeds

Whisk all the above ingredients together and then marinade duck breasts for 10-12 hours or better still overnight.

The Supporting Cast for the Duck - Asian Salad
Salad Ingredients:
Plated up salad greens, preferably including Asian greens such as bok choy, scallions, peppery daikon or regular radish...also tomatoes look pretty and we like to throw in crunchy nuts such as pistachios or pecans.

How to Cook the Duck:
If you're feeling virtuous you can discard the skin and fat - this makes the dish a much healthier option. On a 6oz breast, for example, the skin and fat probably accounts for about 2oz of the total weight of the breast. If you want to be naughty and indulgent, cut off the skin and fat and then fry this fat to render it down and obtain duck fat in which to lightly sear your duck breast. It does taste better... (otherwise use far healthier olive oil or wok oil.)

This is a quick and easy meal to rustle up.

Sear duck in skillet in rendered fat or wok oil 3-4 minutes.  Flip, then sear the other side for 3-4 minutes.  It's important not to overcook duck..the breast itself continues cooking once you remove from the heat so err on the side of caution.  We like our duck pink; others preferred it cooked through.  So you decide. 

Once meat has cooled slightly, slice thinly and lay atop of the plated salad.  Scatter over a few more toasted sesame seeds and add a dressing of your choice.  For dressing, we recommend this wonderful recipe from our friend Jessie Burns for Ginger Miso dressing, a Philly Food Lovers staple these days.  If you don't feel like making a dressing....duck marries well with most soft fruit flavors, so look out for ready made berry-based dressings, or balsamic vinaigrette with a tinge of sweetness.

Dish serves two as a main

Fancy Duck Salad: If you want to dress this up and perhaps serve as a starter at a dinner party then you can do some impressive tricks with egg noodles. To explain...make up packet of egg noodles according to instructions. Once cooked, remove from heat and run them under cold running water to stop then overcooking. Drain well. Heat 1 tbsp wok oil in frypan until smoking hot..you will need about 1 inch of oil in total. Carefully drop noodles into frypan. (It's best to use chopsticks to do this.)  The general idea is to create a flat nest of noodles on which to cradle your salad and duck. As the noodles fry they stick together and look like a piece of artwork!   Drain these noodles on a kitchen towel and leave to cool. When cold, the noodles can be used as a plate almost on which you stack up salad greens and display your dazzling duck.

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