Thursday, May 31, 2007

Duck for Dinner

I could blog about so many aspects of this meal. “I’ve never cooked duck before” is just the start. There’s the discussion I had with a vegetarian colleague about eating your pets, just prior to buying the duck, then there’s my visit to Luv-A-Duck in Port Melbourne, which also seemed to highlight the “eating your pets” thing, with a cutesy duck as their logo. Surely such cuteness associated with their product is bad for business.

What about my search across Melbourne for redcurrant jelly, a problem I’ve encountered previously. My unsuccessful search for out-of-season plums? What about disorganization in the kitchen. Then there’s my apparent inability to cook celeriac and dessert that sticks to the pan. Not to mention my forgetfulness…oh yes, I forgot to put an ingredient on the plate.

Phew. Did I mention the reason for holding this meal? A desire to get through two years worth of uncooked recipe clippings, including a duck recipe, combined with a bottle of rose I was dying to drink. That’s probably a good place to start. And since that sentence needs no further explanation, I guess I’ve started. I should add that I picked up the wine when travelling around Hawkes Bay in New Zealand; a 2004 rose from Alpha Domus.

The meal was Cinnamon spiced duck with pink grapefruit and raddichio. Or not, as the forgotten ingredient was radicchio. I’d seen it a few weeks earlier at the South Melbourne Markets and yet, when I went to buy it I had to search, hard. But I found it. Sadly it’s still sitting in my fridge. I’m sure I can make something of it. Hard-to-find was a feature of this evening. Even pink grapefruits and celeriac, which have been everywhere I turn, mysteriously disappear when I’m being specific at the market. As for redcurrant jelly, I often searched for this in Canberra and it was never available in the supermarkets, except at Christmas time apparently. I’m sure Essential Ingredient had some, but that was a long way across town from where I lived. In this instance, Albert Park Deli had a lone bottle, tucked right up there behind the cranberry.

I can tell this is going to be a long post, let that be a warning. But I encourage you to keep reading because, whilst it all sounds disastrous, the duck turned out beautifully. The recipe is from Good Living, about this time a year ago, with thanks to Bill Granger. The duck breasts appeared quite lean (4 people, 4 breasts) and I scored the skin a couple of times before rubbing 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tbsp brown sugar into the skin. I was just doing this as my guests arrived, my little trip to the deli had detoured to the expensive fruit shop to see if they’d magic-ed some plums and a quick duck into the IGA (get it?) for last minute ingredients. Nevermind, it was all hands on deck in the kitchen and Fogarty, bless her, said I remained very calm and collected.

The duck quacked its way into a hot pan, skin side down for 2 minutes, turn for 1 minute and then into the over for 10 (oo, there that talk of pets again).

A few things were going on while this duck business was unfolding. In a large pan I had 500 g of peeled potato and 500 g of peeled celeriac. Dessert was being plopped into a muffin pan and strawberries were being placed on-top, along with almonds.

Into the hot pan went 80 ml pink grapefruit juice and 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly. I was meant to whisk until it combined, but I occasionally gave it a half-hearted stir whilst doing other things. I was meant to simmer it for 3-4 minutes, but I left it till needed. AND, as I write this post, I realise I was meant to put 80 ml chicken stock in there too. Another forgotten ingredient!

I plopped some grapefruit segments on each plate, proceeded to mash the potato (cooked) and celeriac (uncooked) together with cream and butter. I don’t know what happened to the celeriac. It remained very fibrous, which makes me think it wasn’t quite right to begin with. So, I avoided the chunks and served very creamy, runny potato mash with a faint hint of celeriac. S-bo is a big fan of celeriac and has cooked it quite successfully, inspired by his Aunt Jane.

My guests were starving by this stage, so there was not a lot of time to take pictures. I snapped a couple quickly and I’m sure you’re used to my dodgy photography by now.

Sigh, it’s amazing what great company, great ingredients and great wine can do to a dinner party. Despite bombarding my guests with jobs, pots and pans and general kitchen chaos, the dinner turned out delightful. The duck was sensational and the sauce, minus the stock, perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the grapefruit segments are just for show, because their flavour was a little too strong for the delicateness of brown sugar and cinnamon. I’d probably skip them next time. The duck was melt-in-your-mouth tender and I’ll have to make another visit to Luv-A-Duck to write a dedicated posting.

I think this posting has gotten long enough, so you’ll have to wait to here about dessert! I’ll leave you with the rest of the wine and a photo I took of the remaining pink grapefruit in the fruit-bowl after clean-up.

I haven't included the recipe here, if you would like a copy please email me and I'll happily oblige.

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