Hi there! I haven’t posted for awhile since I’ve been finishing up a course in American Politics at my local university. (You could definitely call me a ‘perpetual student’ since I have been attending university courses off and on since 1967)!
To celebrate the end of my classes, I decided to make ‘Duck Breast with Plum and Tamarind Sauce.’ A tamarind tree bears tropical fruit grown in bean-like pods and is frequently used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. It also has certain reported medicinal benefits, like lowering blood sugar and preventing heart disease. I like cooking with tamarind because it has a nice sweet and sour taste and you can build further flavors around it using cinnamon and star anise, etc.
To make this dish, I used tamarind paste, which you can buy in Asian supermarkets. It only takes about 15 minutes to make the sauce and a further 12-15 minutes to cook the duck breast.
This dish is similar to my recipe for Duck à l’orange, except with an Asian rather than a French twist!
Duck Breasts with Plum and Tamarind Sauce
Tender duck breasts served with a 'sweet and sour' plum and tamarind sauce
2 plums, peeled and de-seeded (fresh or canned plums are OK to use)
1 tsp tamarind sauce
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 Duck Breasts, uncooked
Over medium heat, whisk the sugar and red wine vinegar together for several minutes until the sugar dissolves and the liquid turns a dark brown color; add the water to the mixture. Peel and de-seed the plums and slice into 3-4 pieces. Add these to the cooking liquid along with the star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and fish sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes until the plums soften and the flavors blend together. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve; taste and adjust seasoning accordingly (if the sauce is too tart, add a little more sugar).
To cook the duck breasts
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Using a sharp knife, score the skin side of the duck breasts, using a criss-cross pattern. Season both sides of the duck with salt and pepper. Place a fry pan on stove top over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil. Beginning with the skin side, cook each side of the duck breast for 3-4 minutes; the flesh side should be a golden brown color. Wrap each duck breast in foil and cook in the oven for a further 4-5 minutes. The duck will be ready when the meat is a light pink color. If the meat is still red inside, then cook for another few minutes. Remove from oven and let the duck rest for at least 10 minutes in the foil (the meat will continue to cook a little when it rests).
Slice the duck breast in long horizontal pieces. To serve, re-heat the sauce, spoon the sauce onto a plate or shallow bowl, then arrange the duck pieces on top of the sauce. To decorate, try adding a star anise piece to the plate or a piece of basil or parsley.
Tip: Before wrapping the duck breasts in foil and placing them in the oven, I make a small incision with a paring knife into the flesh side of the duck breast. This makes it easier to check if the duck is pink inside and therefore ready to be removed from the oven.
One of my blogger friends once reminded me that blogging should be about sharing, not showing off. I try to follow her advice, but I’m afraid that this post might be edging over a little into showing off. I recently saw the film Julie and Julia again on TV – I really like this movie; perhaps it’s because of the nostalgia created by the movie sets of an old Paris, perhaps because it has Meryl Streep in it.
Anyway, I noticed that the last dish that ‘Julie’ had to make was a fully boned duck, stuffed and baked in a fancy pastry crust – Pâté de Canard en Croûte. This dish was a major achievement for her – not only it was the last of the 365 dishes she had to create over the year, but she had to overcome the hurdle of preparing a complicated dish.
I, too, then decided to leap to the challenge of making Canard en Croûte. At first, I thought this dish might be too ‘fiddly’, but then again it would be good practice for me- in three months I’m off again to Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris to do the advanced cuisine course! Was this dish worth it? Was it worth the many hours spent in the kitchen and dropping my knife several times on my foot? Read to the end of this post and see!
The first steps to making the dish involve removing all the bones of the duck, leaving the skin in tact. It’s important to start with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude- remember that you are master of the duck!
To bone the duck, start with the back of the duckfacing upwards. First you cut a deep slit down one side of the backbone (going from neck to tail), pulling the flesh away from the carcass using your fingers.
First cut down one side of back bone
As your knife reaches the ball joint of the thigh, you find that you’ve hit a roadblock. You now need to sever or ‘snap’ the joint using your fingers and you can now slice to the end of the backbone.
Snap tendon at thigh ball joint
Continue cutting to bottom of duck
Now repeat this process on the other side of the back bone. You will now see a fully exposed back bone with the ribs attached- cut away this part of the carcass to tidy things up and make it more manageable to handle the remaining carcass. Next you cut very close to the ridge of the breastbone to free the carcass, being careful not to cut the skin. Once the carcass is fully released, you’re not done yet! There are still the bones to remove from the wings and thighs. To remove the bone from the thighs, scrape the meat from the bone going from the ball joint to the tip of the thigh. Repeat with the wings.
Scrape meet from drum sticks and wings to remove bones
At some point, Julia warns us that the whole duck carcass with dangling legs, etc will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and therefore we should not be overcome with fright. Several times, I had to remind myself to put on my ‘Julia hat’ and fill myself with confidence. Yes, I can bone six ducks if I wanted to! After boning the duck, you are left with an empty ‘duck suit,’ ready to be stuffed, then rolled and stitched up into a loaf shape.
Fully boned duck
Add stuffing to center of duck
Fold sides together, stitch up back opening and tie together into loaf
Next, you brown the duck in oil on the stovetop. Prepare a chilled pastry dough and roll 2/3 of it out into an oval shape (1/8 inches thick). Place the browned duck on top of the dough with the breast side facing up and bring the pastry up around the duck, patting it into place.
Cover duck bottom with pastry
Roll out the remaining pastry into an oval shape and place it on top of the duck. Brush pastry top with egg wash. Cut out small pastry decorations using a cookie cutter, using back of knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Coat them also with the egg wash. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 350 F (180 C). Julia recommends serving the dish chilled, but you can also serve it hot. Before serving, you’ll need to lift the top crust off and remove the duck, to cut all of the trussings. Place the duck back into the pastry to serve.
Bake and enjoy!
But was it worth it? Julia Child gave people the confidence to toss out their TV dinners and to get into the kitchen to cook- even complicated things like Pâté de Canard en Croûte. I accepted the challenge and happily succeeded! This dish is indeed an impressive sight when you bring it to the dinner table! So, yes, it was worth it. But bones are what give meat dishes their juicy flavor – so why remove them? And there are other duck dishes that are more delicious and simpler to prepare (see my Duck Breast in Orange Sauce). So, yes, with this dish Canard en Croûte, I admit I was showing off a bit, but probably I won’t be doing it again! It will be back to my ‘blogging is sharing’ once more.
Cut the wings of the duck at the first joint and bone the duck as per the instructions (above). Lay the bird skin-side down on a cutting board. Slice off some of the thickest parts of the meat from the duck breast and thigh meat and cut into cubes. Place the cubes back onto the duck, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the cognac and port. Roll the duck up and place in fridge while preparing the pastry and stuffing.
For the stuffing, cook the diced onion and garlic slowly in butter until they are tender and translucent. Transfer to large mixing bowl and add the port and cognac, minced pork, veal and pork fat. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, orange zest and chopped walnuts and mix well.
To prepare the dough, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled, cubed butter; rub the flour and butter together between the palms of your hands until it resembles fine sand. Add the eggs and mix with a wooden spoon. Add enough cold water so the dough easily holds it shape when formed into a ball. Turn the dough mixture out onto your work surface and knead several times until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes.
Remove the duck from the fridge. Place the duck skin-side facing down on a work surface. Place enough stuffing inside the duck to cover the center part. Fold both sides inward toward the center and stitch up the opening using kitchen string and a trussing needle. Wrap and tie the string around the duck in 4 – 5 places to hold it together while cooking. Heat several tablespoons of oil in a large casserole dish or saucepan and brown the duck on all sides; let cool for several minutes
Remove dough from fridge. Roll out ⅔ of the dough into an oval shape on a floured surface. Place the trussed duck on top of the dough, with the breast side facing up. Bring the edges of the dough up around the duck and pat into place. Roll out the remaining dough into an oval shape and place on top of the bottom crust. Pinch or press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the top crust with an egg wash. Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cut out small round or oval shapes using a cookie cutter. Use the back of a knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Decorate the top crust with these shapes. Brush the entire top crust and pastry decorations with egg wash. Place a foil funnel or piping nozzle in the center of the pastry to let out steam during baking.
Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 180 C or 360 F. Remove from oven and let cool. Lift the top crust gently off and lift out the duck. Cut off the trussings, place the duck back inside the pastry and replace the top crust. Serve either cold or warm.
“What the heck is Pomegranate Molasses?” I said to myself, after scanning the recipe for ‘Duck and Pomegranate Ragu’ in the latest edition of DonnaHay magazine. That sounds interesting, maybe I’ll give it a try, but where will I be able to buy Pomegranate Molasses in Adelaide?
It turns out that finding the molasses was easy- a quick trip to ‘Goodies and Grains’ at the Adelaide Central Market was all I needed to put my hands on this little bottle of deliciousness. The next hurdle was to make a sauce with it to go with some duck legs I had bought- something good enough to make us want to go back for more.
This was the first time I had used Pomegranate Molasses in a recipe and it turned out very good. The molasses added a slightly tart taste to the sauce, while retaining some sweetness (maybe I’m trying to say ‘sweet and sour’?)- my hubby gave this recipe the ‘thumbs up’ and I snuck back into the kitchen for seconds.
Despite leaving several stains on my cutting board from using some real Pomegranates for the garnish, I’ll definitely place this recipe in my regular repertory- it is a good alternative to the ‘Duck Breast in Orange Sauce’ recipe that I did in one of my first posts.
This dish is not too difficult and the prep time is 40 minutes max- and then there’s the 1 hour 15 minute cook time to ensure the duck meat falls off the bone before final plating.
I tried two ways of plating this dish; one with the duck served on top of the baked semolina (see top photo) and the second plating with a slice of semolina on the side (see below); which way do you prefer?
Duck Leg with Pomegranate Molasses and Baked Semolina
Author: Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
Recipe type: Main course for lunch or dinner
Duck leg cooked so that it falls off the bone, accompanied by a sweet, slightly tart sauce, making you want to go back for more!
4 duck thighs (duck marylands)
4 shallots, coarsely sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup (250 ml) red wine
3 cups (750 ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
For the Baked Semolina:
750 ml milk
30 g butter
1 cup (160 g) fine semolina
1 cup (80 g) grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste
More parmesan to garnish top of the semolina
Pre-heat oven to 180 ° C (360 ° F)
To make the baked semolina, combine the milk and butter together in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil- careful not to scald the milk.
Reduce the heat and whisk in the semolina until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
Pour the batter into a lightly greased pan (20 cm x 30 cm), smooth the top of the mixture with a spatula and place in the fridge until set, approximately 1 -2 hours.
In the meantime, heat a small amount of olive oil in a dutch oven on the stovetop. Over medium-high heat, brown the duck legs on both sides for several minutes, leaving the skin on. Remove the legs from pan and let drain on baking paper.
Retain a small amount of the duck fat in the pan and drain the remainder. Sweat the shallots and garlic in the pan until translucent in color. Now add the tomato paste, wine, chicken stock and pomegranate molasses together and stir.
Add the duck legs back into the pan, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the meat falls off the bone.
Remove duck from the oven and shred the meat from the bone. Thicken the sauce if required, using a paste made of a small amount of corn flour mixed with water. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the broiler oven to high; remove the semolina from the fridge and cut into round shapes using a pastry ring (or cut into other shapes as desired).
Place semolina shapes into a lightly greased tray, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for several minutes until golden crust forms on top.
Place the baked semolina on a plate, cover with shredded duck pieces and then add sauce on top.
Duck Breast in Orange Sauce is a classic French dish and one of my family’s favorites. This is one of the dishes we learned at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, and it consists of a seared duck breast … Continue reading →