There was a time when Christmas Dinner was supposed to be a special meal. Granted, it is not every day that one would cook an over-sized turkey, the 'left-overs' of which will still be being consumed right through to Candlemas, if they are not fed to the dog before this time. To the gourmet (or gourmand) that is Smiffy, every meal should be special and turkey is only suited as a bulk base for a poultry curry. This is why, last Christmas, I decided to prepare something that was not only special, but was also different from my normal fare.
Duck is not the easiest thing to find round here. Luckily, our butcher is able to get in frozen catering packs of duckling breasts (10 breasts, 1.5kg nett). Packs of 3 or 4 breasts would probably be more convenient – a pack this size means 3 duck meals in a week unless one has guests or a large family.
If you have a source of fresh duckling breasts or are able to buy them in any quantity, I would allow two per person.
To get things in the correct chronological order, we need to start out by making our fake duck stock. First, catch your duck. Er, I meat defrost the duckling breasts, if frozen. Skin as many of the breasts as you are going to use, or even all of them if you feel like it. Put the skins in a pressure cooker or stock pot with a chicken carcass (either get a raw carcass from the butcher or use the remains of a roast chicken). Pressure cook for 2 hours or simmer for 4-5 hours in the stock pot. Strain out all the bits, cool, refrigerate for at least six hours, then strain off the fat.
Making a Meal of It
Prepare a risotto of Arborio rice, Shitake mushrooms, onion, a splash of basamic vinegar, a little garlic (not too much), salt, pepper and fake duck stock. Any "luxury" mushrooms like dried Chanterelles can also be added to this provided that they do not have too strong a flavour. Cèpes (Porcini mushrooms) would overwhelm this dish.
When the risotto is under way, cut up the duckling breasts and pop them into a wok (not too hot) with a neutral-flavoured oil. When the pieces have cooked for a little while and changed colour all over, add orange juice (preferably fresh), a little white wine and a couple of tablespoons of carob syrup (in Australia, available from Macarob). The amount of liquid is not very critical as we now reduce this until it begins to caramelise.
When ready, add a little (but not too much) truffle oil to the risotto and stir in well.
Serve with a good brut Champagne, or something similar like Thorogoods Misty Morning.
Variations on a Theme
- Rather than using a neutral oil for, try sesame oil.
- Serve with noodles rather than risotto.