Two music graduates chronicle the culinary delights of Leeds and London and explore the height of fine dining on a limited budget.

Good food is well punk.

April 11, 2010

If you Don't Like Duck, you're Out of Luck!

As a farewell meal to celebrate the last time I would ever make the big move back up to Leeds before finishing all the learning, I was instructed by mother to "make something nice" with whatever I could rustle up out of the freezer. One rustle later, I found eight duck breasts amid the mounds of frozen peas and tupperware boxes of 3-month-old goose fat. Turns out they were given to us by my granddad, who either shot them or or got them off a mate of his. I don't know. I don't live in the country. Being wild duck, it was incredibly lean, and a world away from the fatty stuff I've seen so many times on Saturday Kitchen but never had the money to cook. Anyway, I was going to try something a little "asian", with ginger, honey and soy, served on a bed of fried noodles but that fell through when I discovered we didn't have any soy sauce and mum protested that she didn't want any "weird flavours". Back to the drawing board, I cast my mind back to watching Heston's Feasts the night before; in it, he reworked Duck à l'Orange into a series of savoury sweets as an homage to Willy Wonka and 60s cuisine. Obviously, I wasn't going to be mucking about with a sous-vide or any liquid nitrogen any time soon, but the way he described the original French dish made it sound pretty damn tasty. With his basic instructions in mind, I set out freestyling my take on it. Like most of what I cook, I don't make any claims to it being authentic, but it seemed to work alright. Pretty retro, and pretty tasty.

Serves 4
4 Duck breasts
2 tsp butter
2 tsp flour
3 Oranges, zested and juiced
150 ml chicken stock
2-4 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Honey
Salt & Pepper
Madeira (or similar liqueur - Grand Marnier would be appropriate)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Stir around to make a roux. When the mixture is beginning to brown ever so slightly, add the orange zest, and cook for a minute or so more; the oils in the zest will seep out and smell amazing. Add the juice of the oranges, along with the stock, and bring the mixture to just under boiling point. Now, here's where you;ll need to use your judgement. Taste the sauce. Depending on the oranges used, it may be either incredibly bitter or incredibly sweet. Add enough vinegar to sharpen the flavour so that it cuts through any sweetness, and add honey to cancel out any overly sour notes. I used about 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of honey, but it was mostly done by adding a little bit until I got the balance just about right. Be careful not to overdo it though - oranges should be the dominant flavour, naturally. When you've got it about right, slug in as much alcohol as you feel you can part with, and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally so as not to form a skin.

To cook the duck, simply season with salt and pepper, and fry on each side for 3-5 minutes, before finishing off for about 10-15 minutes in the oven. Because my duck breasts were pretty lean, I had to fry in oil and make sure it didn't dry out in the oven, but shop-bought duck doesn't need any fat in the pan - it'll release it's own. When the duck is finished, let it rest for a couple of minutes and arrange into attractive slices. The meat should be just pink in the middle, but with any juices running clear.

Serve with potatoes (mine were mashed) and vegetables (mine were frozen peas). Bon appetit!

As I mentioned, my duck ended up just on the wrong side of dry, but the sauce made up for that to an extent. The beauty of the orange sauce is that the sharpness cuts through the gaminess of the meat, but is balanced by a sweetness that complements the rich flavour. The sauce also came out a little thicker than I'd have wanted - I always overestimate the amount of flour needed in sauces and gravies. But still, it was a pretty tasty dish that was great fun to cook, and new experience!

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