Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Touch of Franglais

There I am, minding my own business, when I get a text message from some old friends reading something like, "We're at the market, what do you know about duck?". What indeed? In the course of inquiring after the relevant details (wild/domestic, frozen/fresh) of the duck they were speculating over I learned that they had never sampled the savory stuff before...

Desolé, le canard non?! Je ne comprends pas, comment?!

After a fashion it was determined that this state of affairs could not stand - and a nice Long Island duck was summarily brought into my kitchen. Now, I suppose I can see why many people shy away from the delicious fowl - it's a touch trickier to dress & cook than your standard chicken and the occasional horror story of a smoke-filled kitchen often turns people off of the idea.

Duck is much richer in fat-content (though also in protein & iron) than most other poultry, it's true, but so long as one is careful in the preparation & cooking, le canard makes for quite the princely dish. And even though 'oven season' is quickly waning, now is the prime season (depending where you live) to purchase duck fresh. If you're terribly concerned about the fatiness of the little bird, with a little extra investigation, one can find the much-leaner wild duck (muscovy) with little trouble. But what about how to cook it? Read on, gentle reader & see moi plat du jour:

Le Canard de Miel avec Lavande et l'Estragon
4½-5 lb. Duck (Long Island)
½ Cup: fresh Orange, pith removed & coarsely chopped
6 Tablespoons: Orange Blossom Honey
3 Tablespoons: Lavender, dried
2 Tablespoons: EV Olive Oil
1½ Tablespoons: Dubonnet Rouge
2 Teaspoons: Tarragon, dried
1 Teaspoon: fresh Orange zest
½ Teaspoon: ground Mustard seed
½ Teaspoon: Sea Salt, fresh ground
½ Teaspoon: black Pepper, fresh ground
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Clean & dress duck, being careful to remove all excess fat, giblets & wing joints. Using a skewer or fork, prick the skin of the duck between the layer of fat & the meat beneath. Season the duck inside & out with the salt & pepper (which can be adjusted to personal taste).
3. In a bowl, combine the Orange, Orange zest, 1½ Tablespoons: Lavender, ½ Tablespoon: Dubonnet, & 1 Teaspoon: Tarragon. Stir well & stuff the duck with the mixture. Seal the duck by your preferred method (skewers, truss, &c).
4. In a large skillet heat the Olive Oil on medium-high heat & saute the duck until a light golden-brown on all sides. Remove from skillet & place on a roasting pan (preferably with a resovoir for the juices).
5. In another bowl combine the Honey & Mustard with the remaining Lavender, Tarragon & Dubonnet, adding 2 Teaspoons of the Oil & rendered fat from the skillet. Whisk with a fork & brush the duck with approximately half of the total mixture.
6. Place the treated duck in the oven & bake for 35-40 minutes. Brush duck with remaining Honey & spice mixture and bake for another 20-25 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the duck's thigh yields clear juices (or when a meat thermometer reads poultry/duck) the bird is done.
7. Remove from the oven & allow to rest for ten minutes in a warm place before carving. Reserve the liquid & orange from the duck for use as a condiment & enjoy.

As this delightful, if unplanned, exercise in hospitality occured fairly late in the evening (& in a very hot kitchen), we didn't bother with any additional courses, but all agreed that the duck would be well-accompanied by (decadent, I admit) potatoes a'la duchess whipped with the addition of some garlic, sage & shaved gruyere. For a lighter alternative, perhaps a fresh salad or some fresh steamed green beans almandine?

Finally, while a glass or three of Pinot Noir would be de riguer for such a dish I sadly haven't a drop on hand, so we enjoyed it with a spot of cold Boddington's Pub ale, whose clean flavor complimented the rich poultry quite nicely. Danielle, who does not enjoy the subtlties of beer, indulged in a mild cocktail made a'la minute to highlight the various semi-sweet flavors of dinner:

Jasmine a'la Minute
1 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
1 Teaspoon: French Vermouth
1½ oz. strong Jasmine tea, chilled
1 oz. fresh Orange juice
2 dashes: Regan's Orange bitters #6
1 Teaspoon: Orange Blossom Honey
Combine ingredients & shake well with ice. Strain into a glass & garnish with a wedge of fresh orange.

Cheers & Enjoy!

As a semi-addendum: serious congratulations to Mr. David Wondrich for his shiny new James Beard Award! Similar, and equally serious, congrats to Mr. Dale DeGroff for his nomination for a J.B. Award, as well as to Mr. Fritz Maytag for his Lifetime Achievement Award! Keep the dream alive guys - we're with you all the way!

1 comment:

Tiare said...

Wow Chris..that was not bad..ton plat de jour est fantastique! ca me fait envie de manger..

Deliscious..and a lot of work as well. Hats off for this sumptuous dish with the included cocktail.