We are a little obsessed about duck, forever tracking down suppliers of quality fresh duck, looking for new duck recipes, reflecting on our palate experiences and tweaking our established duck repertoire.
However, one particular duck recipe has met our exacting standards for over four years and become our favourite dish. Period! Despite Maggie’s addiction to red meat. Surviving the year we cooked our way through a calf. Beyond even the greatest that can be achieved on our Weber Q.
It began as a Terry Durack recipe from the Good Weekend section of The Age, was promptly modified to suit our pantry and palates and has since undergone further changes to generate maximum satisfaction.
We appreciate that many people who like to eat duck are a bit tentative about cooking with it. So, in the recipe that follows, I will try give you enough information to help you achieve a delicious result. The recipe should be sufficient to be divided between four dinner plates; we cook two breasts and have enough food for dinner each plus a workday-lunch for Maggie.
Duck breasts with piquant sauce and brown rice
Before you begin, put a richly-flavoured chardonnay in the fridge so it is ready to be the companion wine at dinner time. (If you would prefer a red, you could turn to some pinot noir but this is one duck dish that goes better with a well-chosen chardonnay.)
200g uncooked brown rice
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp finely chopped herbs (chives plus some parsley, thyme and sage)
salt and pepper
3 duck breasts (see note below)
1 tbsp each of brandy and Cointreau or 2 tbsp cumquat-infused brandy (see note below)
200-250ml chicken stock
3 tsp green peppercorns (see note below)
3 tsp Dijon mustard
Notes: Some suppliers leave the wing attached to the breast; this needs to be removed. We make our own cumquat-infused brandy by making brandied cumquats then discarding the fruit. We use green peppercorns that come from France preserved in a brine in a small tin; you must drain the peppercorns on some paper towel before use.
- Cook the rice in plenty of simmering, well-salted water until very tender (about 32 minutes) (we also add 2 tsp of chicken stock powder to enhance the flavour). Drain the rice and toss with butter, herbs and some freshly-ground black pepper; adjust seasoning and set aside to be served warm but not hot.
- Meanwhile, score the skin of the duck breast lightly in a 1cm criss-cross pattern on the diagonal. Warm a large, heavy-based non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place the breasts skin-side down and cook for 8 minutes or until the skin is crisp and golden. (You might need to use a non-metallic egg-lifter to separate the skin from the pan surface and you will need a spatter mat to stem the spread of duck fat over your cooktop!)
- Turn and cook the breasts on the skin side for 3 minutes, leaving the duck still pink in the middle.
- Remove the duck breasts and allow to rest on a dish in a 75C oven. If the breasts are especially thick (I can’t be more specific than that, sorry), have the oven at 100C.
- To make a sauce, tip the rendered duck fat out of the pan then use a fork or spoon to return any caramelised goodies to the pan. (The excess duck fat can be stored in the freezer for use when roasting potatoes, etc.)
- Add the brandy and 200ml of stock to the pan and simmer to reduce until syrupy. Reduce the heat to low, add the peppercorns, mustard and 60ml of cream and gently stir until smooth and thick. Add the resting juices from the duck then add extra stock or cream to suit your palate.
- To serve, slice the duck on an angle, divide the rice between three or four plates and form it into low mounds, place duck slices on top of the rice and spoon over the sauce.(We end up with a main meal to suit each of our appetites, a leftover lunch for Maggie and a snack for me.)