Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Recipe: Seriously Good Braised Duck

This is a wonderful recipe for braised duck, aromatic, with no foul, gamey taste that you sometimes get from regular hawker market duck rice and just the right texture between succulent and firm. It can be used as a family dish, or to pair with Teochew porridge or yam rice. It’s so good because my Auntie Charlotte has spent years perfecting the exact ingredients and braising process, so all credit goes to her for her generousity in sharing.

This recipe and the process is not for vegetarians, as this is an Asian animal-with-all-its-bits type recipe, so please close the browser now if you’re the sort that can’t stand seeing idle phasianine heads and feet. Most of the work in the process is actually the thorough cleaning of the duck, which as a meat, naturally has a lot of gristle and fat. In fact, as I was watching it, I thought to myself that, the way the duck was manipulated, prodded and explored in its cavities, all chefs could really be experts in S&M behavoir (sorry, just finished the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and it was an inevitable conclusion).

You need to procure a duck, prefably one that is heavier than 2.6kg. This is easily available from wet markets in Singapore and please don’t bother using a frozen duck. To clean the duck, rub the inside of the duck with half a cup of coarse salt, paying special attention to the area across the sternum. Then boil a kettle of hot water and pour this down and into the open neck cavity and also the other way, into and through the backside of the duck.

Wipe dry and then set about to separate the skin of the duck from the meat. As you can see from the picture, you need to literally peel in between the skin and flesh, all the way through the duck and into the wings, so that it's as if the duck is merely wearing a sweater of skin. Be concientious as this makes all the difference to the marinating.

When you are done, push and trap the liquid marinade between the skin and meat, tuck the wings back, rub the outside of the duck with marinade and leave overnight. When first rubbed with the marinade, the duck will look lightly coloured and speckled with five-spice, by the next morning, it should be much darker in colour. You can also add some of the stewing ingredients into the cavity of the duck overnight and seal with foil.

Marinade Ingredients:

1) ½ Tsp levelled, salt
2) 4 Chinese Tablespoons of light soy sauce
3) 1 Chinese Tablespoon of oyster sauce
4) 3-4 Chinese Tablespoons of dark sauce
5) 1 Tsp spice powder

Stewing Ingredients:

1) 5-10 slices Lengkua (blue ginger)
2) 1 ½ pieces of star anise
3) 3 pieces cloves
4) 6-10 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
5) 6 shallots
6) 1 stick of cinnamon
7) 2 pieces cardomon seeds

To cook the duck, heat a suitable-sized wok and caramelize ¼ cup of white sugar by lightly and evenly dusting the sugar onto the pan. It is best to use a wok, as the curved surface helps to hold the duck in place. If you can’t, I think it would make not too much of a difference if you used a Le Cruset or a large braising pot, as long as you ensure that the liquid does not dry out or burn at the base.

Gripping the duck by the neck, swirl the duck around on the hot, carmelized surface so that the skin is caramelized and takes on the dark, smooth colour. Roll the duck over to seal in all areas with the caramel, remember to do both sides. Tuck the remaining braising ingredients inside the duck and pin up the cavity with toothpicks, then place the duck, breast-side up, in the wok. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the duck and the marinade liquid, top up the wok with water, until half the duck is covered.

Start with a large flame, then when the liquid is boiling, reduce to a small simmer and cook for 40 minutes, then turn the duck over and cook for another 35 minutes. Remove the duck to cool, freeze the gravy to remove the fats (my family is persnickerty this way). The total cooking time will be about 70 minutes but this does depend on the size of your duck and the flame. You can test the doneness by moving the drumstick slightly, it is still stiff, the duck is not cooked through yet. I’m sure there is an easier way to monitor this process with a meat thermometer but I haven’t experimented to that level yet.

To serve the gravy for the duck, soak and squeeze Chinese wolfberries (you’ll be horrified how much colouring water comes out of them!) and cook them in the gravy for 5-10 minutes till plump. You can thicken the gravy with potato starch or cornflour just before the meal, if you like (I usually skip the starch). We use Heston Blumenthal’s method to make tamago eggs to go with the duck, heat all the eggs in cold water till it comes to the boil. Then remove from heat and wait 10 minutes. Cool eggs immediately if you don’t want a greyish rim around the yolks. After they are peeled, soak the eggs back in the gravy to darken the skin.

Cook salted vegetable, peanuts, beancurd (tau pok), whatever you like really, in separate batches of gravy, to preserve the clarity of their taste. Plate and serve, prefably fresh and hot on the same day you braised the duck, as it goes hard and cold very quickly when stored overnight.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Hi, stumbled upon your blog. thank you for sharing this recipe with us.
it is easily one of the most sincere and authentic around.