Posts Tagged ‘duck’

Delicious reasons to love a duck

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

A favourite family meal at home is pan-fried duck. Some people feel intimidated by the idea of cooking duck, but duck breasts are widely available to buy pre-packed and boneless, so there is really little preparation required.

This method of cooking duck breasts is simple and yields delicious results. Duck meat is darker than that of chicken and contains little fat. The skin, however, contains a lot of fat – thereby necessitating plenty of scoring before cooking to allow it to become crispy. A boneless breast of duck is referred to as a magret on restaurant menus.

I love cep mushrooms as they have a unique, slightly woody flavour. Cep sauce is wonderful with duck. Dried ceps are widely available and are just as tasty as fresh ones – after soaking, of course.

Serves four
2 large duck breasts
2oz duck fat
50g/2oz shallots (chopped)
50ml Armagnac
100m dry white wine
200ml Madeira wine
200ml water
50g/2oz dried ceps/porcini mushrooms (soaked)
25g/1oz butter (diced)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Make several incisions in the duck skin, then rub with sea salt and sprinkle with pepper.
2. Heat the duck fat in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the duck breasts to the pan, skin side down, and cook for eight minutes. Turn them over and cook for a further six minutes on the other side. Transfer the duck breasts to a serving dish and keep warm in pre-warmed oven (at about 100 degrees centigrade).
3. Pour off most of the fat from the pan and add the shallots, cooking gently for two minutes over a medium heat.
4. Mix the Armagnac, white wine and Madeira wine in a bowl and pour half of it into the pan. Reduce over a medium to high heat until only a quarter of the liquid remains.
5. Add the remainder of the alcohol mix and add the ceps. Reduce the liquid by half, then add the water and cook slowly for ten minutes.
6. Slice the duck breasts and add the juice that results to the sauce. Pass the sauce through a sieve, beat in the butter using a hand whisk and pour the sauce around the duck.

Cook up a confit storm

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

As the game season continues, duck has become available in butchers and some supermarkets.

Wild duck has a stronger flavour than farmed duck and a dense aroma when cooking. However, one way to intensify the flavours of any meat is to prepare it as a confit. This method is a perfect way to serve duck, as it also ensures the meat is tender and succulent. It is also ideal for those who prefer their meat presented without any trace of blood.

There are a few elements to this recipe and, as with a lot of my food, a fair amount of preparation will ensure great end results. However, the recipe can be prepared in stages.

This recipe for wild mallard duck necessitates that the duck be ‘deboned’. Your butcher may do this for you, if asked nicely. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, this guide is easy to follow:

1. Remove the wishbone
Place the bird with its cavity facing away from you. Feel around its collar/ neck to find the wishbone and cut around it with the tip of the knife. Take a firm grip of the bone and give it a sharp tug. It will pop out.

2. Remove the legs and thighs
Place the cavity facing away from you. Cut through the skin between the thigh and the body of the bird, on the left hand side as it faces you. Pop the hip socket, put the bird up on its side and proceed to cut close to the bone. Extract the ‘oyster’ as you go. Cut through the ball and socket joint; at no stage will you have to cut through bone. Turn the bird over and do the same to the other side, this time with the cavity facing you.
Place the cavity facing towards you. Feel the bird to find where the divide is between its breasts. Cut down the left hand-side of the divide, close to the bone. Follow the rib cage with your knife. The breast will come away easily when you cut through the shoulder socket. There should be no meat remaining on the carcass.

4. Boning out the thighs
For a mallard, or anything smaller, only bone out the thigh. Following the line of fat in the thigh, scrape the flesh gently until the thighbone is visible. Free it from the thigh and then pull it back a little to reveal the joint. Cut through the joint.

5. Preparing the breast
Clean the skin, remove the veins from the breasts, and trim the fat around the edges.

Wild mallard duck with puy lentils; serves four

1 bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
24 whole black pepper
2 garlic bulbs, cut in half
500ml olive oil
1l sunflower oil

1. The duck meat should be marinaded for two days. First, mix up the marinade, then place the duck breasts flesh side down on the rock salt for ten minutes. Then remove, wipe off all the salt, and score the remaining fat on the breast without cutting the flesh. Place the legs and the breasts in the marinade.

Confit of duck legs
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp finely crumbled dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Garlic from the marinade
250g duck fat (for the confit)

1. Preheat the oven to 135C.
2. Remove the duck legs from the marinade, draining any excess liquid. Mix all the spices together and rub them on the duck legs.
3. Place the duck legs and garlic cloves in a large pot and cover with the duck fat, ensuring that the pot is not filled beyond three-quarters full.
4. Place the pot on a low heat until the duck fat has melted. Then cover the pot with a lid and place it into the oven and cook until the garlic cloves have turned a deep golden colour, which will take about two to two-and-a-half hours. Let the meat cool in the fat for a few hours.

Confit is also a great method of preserving meat. If you are making this recipe in advance, you can place the duck legs into a clean preserving jar, cover with the duck fat by at least three centimetres, and refrigerate for up to two months. Allow meat and fat to fully cool before refrigerating.

Confit of duck parcels
Confit of duck legs
50g duck fat
1 shallot diced
1 carrot diced
1 parsnip diced
1 head of leek diced
2 sprigs of tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
20ml of duck stock
4 large spinach leaves

1. Place a little duck fat in a pan along with the shallot, carrot, parsnip and leek. Add the duck stock and cook for about ten minutes.
2. Remove the duck leg from the duck fat. Remove the rest of the bone from the meat (it should come away easily). Add the duck pieces to the pan; taste and correct the seasoning, add the chopped tarragon and mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. In a pot of water, add the picked spinach leaves and blanche for a couple of minutes, remove and refresh in cold water.
4. Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove the excess water, and lay them flat on a sheet of cling film. Season each leaf lightly, and fill the centre with a spoonful of confit mix.
5. Cut the cling film around each leaf so that you can fold each leaf into a parcel shape. Seal the cling film by rolling the ends.
6. Heat the parcels in a shallow pot filled with water on a medium heat for about ten minutes. Remove from the water and peel off the cling film. Brush with melted duck fat, and they are ready to serve.

Duck breasts
1tsp honey
100g chopped pistachio nuts
Sea salt and fresh milled pepper

1. Heat the oven to 170C. Then place the breasts fat side down in a warm pan over a low heat, then sprinkle flesh with black pepper.
2. Drain off fat as often as possible, until the edge of the breast is crispy and no visible fat remains.
3. Once fat has been rendered down completely, allow the breast to rest for up to an hour. If you leave it any longer the flesh will become tough.
4. Spoon over the honey on the breasts. Sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios. Place it in the preheated oven for five minutes.
5. Remove the duck from the oven and sprinkle again with pistachio nuts and let rest for two minutes.

Puy lentils
200g puy lentils
1 diced shallot
½ crushed garlic
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small bunch chives
100ml duck stock
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Wash the lentils, then cover with water for two hours.
2. Melt a small amount of butter and add the shallots and crushed garlic. Strain the lentils, add them to the pot and cook over low heat for two minutes.
3. Season lightly and add the duck stock and bring it to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft, then add the chopped chives.

To serve
Place the confit parcel in the centre of the plate, slice the duck breast and place it on top, arrange the lentils and serve.

Poultry done to perfection

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Poultry is particularly popular over the Christmas season, but it was around for at least 3,000 years before the man whose arrival it is traditionally used to celebrate.

Poultry refers to a domesticated bird that is bred for its meat, eggs and feathers, and includes chicken, duck, guinea fowl, squab, turkey and quail.

In this category, chicken is the most popular, due to its versatility, low cost and low fat content. A chicken can live up to 11 years in its natural life, yet a battery chicken (one that is intensively bred) lives only for six weeks, while a free range or organic chicken typically lives for 14 weeks.

The various terms used to describe how a chicken is reared often makes the business of purchasing one confusing. The term ‘free range’ means the chicken is permitted to roam as freely as possible, whereas an organic chicken must be fed a diet containing grains grown without the use of artificial fertilisers or sprays.

These chickens can cost €14-€27, depending on size. Additive-free birds are reared in the same way as organic chickens. They live in the same conditions, but the grain in their feed is not organically grown and, therefore, they are cheaper. Corn-fed birds are usually raised in a barn and will be fed on 70 per cent corn maize.

Poulet de Bresse from north of Lyon – my personal favourite – are reared on vast tracts of land and they regularly come out top in taste tests. Capon is a chicken that has been castrated to create much bigger breasts.

Sometimes it is fed on a milk diet for nine months and is eaten as a speciality for Christmas. Meanwhile, boiling hens – hens that have spent a couple of years laying eggs – are great for making stock.

Most of the chicken available in the supermarket today is battery chicken. Reared using modern intensive production systems, these birds provide cheap meat for the shopper – but at a price.

Up to 40,000 birds are crammed into artificially-lit chicken houses, at a rate of two birds per square foot. Stress levels in the birds are high, and they are kept alive by continuous antibiotics.

While battery chickens can be bought for half the price of free range or organic offerings, my view is always to eat the best you can afford, even if it means eating it less often.

Whatever bird you choose, it should have a plump breast with no bruising or marks on the meat. It should be cleanly plucked with no tears on the skin, which should be moist and have a pleasant smell.

The best value bird will be about 1.7kg plus, where the ratio of meat to bone is higher. With little or no fat, chicken will dry out quickly if it is overcooked.

This is not so much a problem with duck, as it has a much higher fat content. With domestic duck such as barbary, it is easy to render down the fat while cooking, as it is not as solid as, for example, the Mallard duck (normally used for foie gras). Peking duck is good for roasting whole.

The following recipe is my favourite for Mallard duck. Other types of duck can be used, but the cooking time will be slightly different and the colour will be much lighter, as the meat of the Mallard has a dark red colour.

When looking at a recipe such as this, don’t be put off by its apparent complexity. You can treat each component of this dish separately and I would recommend that you cook the duck by itself the first time you try it. The cabbage will last for a week if put into a preserving jar, and then all you will have to do is heat it up gently.

Slow-cooked Mallard duck glazed with honey and pepper, wild cranberry sauce

1 whole Mallard duck
1 bouquet Garni
2 kg of rock sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper
1 tbsp of good quality honey
2g crushed black pepper

1. Ask your butcher to remove the meat from the bird.

2.Remove the vein on the breast, cover a tray with the sea salt and place the fat side of the duck on the salt. Cover the rest of the duck with the salt and leave for 20 minutes.

3.Remove the duck and brush off all the salt (this helps to tenderise the duck). Score the fat side of the duck by cutting into the fat diagonally 2cm apart and across, so you are left with 2cm square cuts into the fat.

4. Place the duck into the marinade and put in the refrigerator overnight.

5.Remove the duck from the marinade, season with fresh milled white pepper only and place fat-side down on a warm pan. Cook slowly to render down the fat until the skin is a golden colour. Remove the excess fat.

6.Turn the duck and cook the flesh side for a few minutes, add the honey and turn the duck again so the fat side is directly on the pan. Cook in a hot oven at 175 Celsius for four minutes.

7.Remove and sprinkle with the crushed black pepper, then rest for five minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Wild cranberry sauce

250g of wild cranberries (ordinary cranberries will do)
1 litre of duck stock
10ml of port
10ml of dry martini
5ml of olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1/2 bulb of garlic
Bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf,
50g of foie gras butter (25g fresh foie gras and 25g of unsalted butter, softened)

1.De-vein the foie gras, add it to the softened butter, place into a blender for one minute, remove and pass through a fine sieve. Roll into a sausage shape and place into the fridge until hard.

2.Add a little olive oil to a warm pot, add the diced shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for a further minute. Add the port and dry martini. Cook until almost evaporated.

3.Add the stock, reduce by half, taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

4.Cut the foie gras butter into small cubes and fold five small cubes into the sauce. Pass the sauce through a fine strainer and serve.


1 red cabbage
1 jar of redcurrant jelly
1 orange
1 grapefruit
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper to taste

1. Shred the cabbage into thin strips, blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds and strain off the liquid. It will lose some of its colour, but it will turn a deep red later.

2. Place the redcurrant jelly in another pot. Wash the fruit and cut in quarters, then add to the jelly. Add the red cabbage.

3.Mixwell and cook very slowly for two hours or until cooked. Be careful not to caramelise the cabbage. To serve, place the red cabbage in the centre of the plate, arrange the duck on top, sprinkle the wild cranberries and pour a little sauce around.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.