Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Green Tea Smoked Duck

Aside from using proper ingredients, developing regional cooking techniques remain the basis of authentic cuisine. Regardless of a dish's origin--whether it be European, Asian, African, or any other part of the world--it will have certain native characteristics and a combination of flavors that differentiate it from other areas of the same country. When you decide to cook a dish from a particular region, you must be knowledgable about the processes of that region's cooking, such as the breakdown of the meat or fish or the methods of smoking, searing, and poaching as they all vary from one place to the next. All are involved in making food delicious, each in its own unique way. Experimenting with the boundless ways in which different cuisines are prepared keeps cooking interesting and new.

Most of my blog recipes develop as I am cooking dinner or just trying to fool around with a new technique. Imagine my excitement when I decided to submit a recipe for the Maple Leaf Farms Duck Contest! Alas, I didn't place (darn!), but this recipe will teach you how to break down a whole duck. Of course if you wish, you can just buy duck pieces. This dish involves a pressure cooker, a quick stir-fry, searing, and a few other processes that might not be used everyday.

Duck, usually considered a summer dish in Vietnamese cooking, pairs well with ginger, but I did not include ginger in this recipe.  However, you could always serve this with ginger nuoc cham  by just adding minced ginger to the recipe.  I make a pan sauce by reducing the duck leg braising liquid then straining it.  The sauce becomes rich, but it pairs nicely with the rice cake.  

I know, I involves a lot of steps, but if you have the time, it is well worth it! The side items are simple and can be paired with many other dishes. If you try it, let me know what you think--I am always open to hearing how your final product turns out! Even though my recipe didn't place, I am proud of it and I enjoyed working out all the nuances!

As Halloween approaches, I included my thoughts on the Smashing Pumpkins who were vital in my development of this dish.

Break down the whole duck-
1. Using a large cutting board and very sharp knife, lay the duck breast side up with the legs facing you.  
2. Remove any giblets and neck, which should be inside the cavity, and place them in a baking pan.  
3. Grasping a leg, make a cut between the body and leg slicing through the skin while separating the leg from the body.  Disjoint the leg from the socket and make a cut through the area removing the leg from the body.  Trim any excess skin from the leg, and place it in the pan.  Repeat with the other leg.  
4. Turn the duck around with the breasts facing you, and gently run the tip of the knife along the breastbone while slowly pulling the breast away from the body.  Work with a nice short stroke and continue to slice the breast until it is removed.  Trim the skin, and remove the tender from the muscle, and place in the pan.  Repeat with the other breast.  
5. Grab the wing and disjoint it by bending it outward and away from you.  Cut between the wing and body, and repeat the method with the other wing; place them in the pan.

Preparation of Duck Legs
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 oz. palm sugar
3 cloves garlic smashed
1 tbsp lemongrass minced

1 each red onion, sliced
1 each carrot, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 cups water
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
1 each duck neck
2 each duck wings
2 each duck legs

To brine the duck legs:
1. In a mortar and pestle, blend all ingredients until it becomes a paste.
2. Rub the legs with the paste, and place them in the refrigerator for one hour.

To cook the duck legs:
1. In the bottom of a pressure cooker, place the neck and wings.  
2. Add onion, carrot, garlic, water, soy, and mirin.  
3. Stack the duck legs on top of everything and cook on high for 20 minutes, then let it release naturally.
4. Gently remove the legs and place on a plate, cover to keep them warm.  
5. Strain the liquids into a saucepan, and slowly reduce the sauce on medium heat, skimming the fat, until there is 2/3 cup.  Whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time.  Shut off the heat and reserve. Check seasoning, but it should be good.

2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp black peppercorns
¼ tsp insta cure salt #1
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 each duck breasts

Smoking Ingredients-
½ cup rice
½ cup loose green tea
½ cup brown sugar
2 pieces star anise
2 pieces cinnamon

To cook duck breasts:
1. Using a wok or pot, line the bottom with enough aluminum foil to fold over the sides about 4-5 inches.  
2. Place all of the smoking ingredients in the wok, and put a rack or handful of chopsticks on top to make a smoker.  Make sure the hood is on and kitchen is well ventilated.  Turn heat on high until it begins to smoke.  It will make noise and pop loudly.  
3. Once it begins to smoke, place breasts on rack, close the foil to seal the smoker, and leave on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, then shut off and smoke the duck for another 5-8 minutes (depending on the depth of smoke you wish to achieve).  
4. Remove the breasts and gently score the skin. In a low to medium hot nonstick pan, place the breasts skin side down and render the skin until crispy.   The duck will be rare prior to rendering the skin, so this step should not cook the duck much further, but it is absolutely necessary that you render the fat.  Once the skin is crispy, remove the breast to a cutting board and rest.    

Crispy Rice Cake-
¾ cup sushi rice
1 cup water
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sesame oil

Baby Bok Choy and Brown Beech Mushrooms
2 cups baby bok choy, washed
1 cup brown beech mushrooms, bottom root removed
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 oz. palm sugar
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp canola oil

To prepare crispy rice cakes:
1. Cook rice according to directions on the package, and when it is finished, fold in the remaining ingredients except the oils, spread about ½ think on a sheet pan and chill.  
2. Using a damp biscuit cutter or knife, cut into rounds or squares.
3. In a nonstick pan, heat up oil and brown the cakes on both sides.
To cook bok choy and mushrooms:
1. Heat oil in a skillet, add garlic and cook until it just starts to brown.  Do not burn!  
2. Add mushrooms and sear on both sides, then add bok choy and cook until lightly wilted; deglaze with fish sauce and soy.  
3. As it begins to reduce, add the sugar and toss until it melts and the vegetables are coated in sauce.

My memories of the 90s are filled with fantastic music!!  The Smashing Pumpkins impacted my life much like this duck recipe.  Filled with hope and joy, I was enthralled with the psychedelic, garage style of the Chicago band.  Gish hit the stores (HA! Something today's youth cannot remember!), and "I Am One" hit my stereo.  The music of my college years changed forever.  

Siamese Dream followed then Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and the end was near.  Like a fading comet, my join with the Pumpkins was ending.  Maybe it was me, but I started losing interest.  However, I rekindled my fascination with Billy Corgan's music while working on this dish.  "1979", "Cherub Rock", "Hummer", and "Tristessa", to name a few, brought back wonderful feelings of excitement.  

However, not winning the contest was a bummer!  "Life's a bummer, when you're a hummer!"  Oh well, enjoy the recipe and turn on some rock!