A certain big box Canadian grocery store had duck on sale a few days ago, and I fell off my vegetarian wagon. Duck is an extravagant meal, very rich and with very little meat, so you really need to love the little beast for the effort involved. I do.
This very spicy masala enhances the flavour of the meat, and the sour cherry sauce cuts the richness, somewhat. This isn’t a meal to eat every day. Oh, but when you do, yum…
|Just use three of these Thai chillies|
3 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ teaspoon black cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
10 garlic cloves (whole and unpeeled)
2 inches of ginger root, roughly chopped
3 fresh Thai chillies
1 orange, zested, then peeled
1 teaspoon salt (or more)
(Scroll way down to find ingredients for Cherry Sauce and Fancy Rice)
Although this is a very strong and spicy masala, the outcome can be as mild or as strong as you like. Once you’re serving this dish you can include as many small dollops of masala as required, thus tempering the spice levels of this dish.
Begin by roasting the whole spices in a dry pan. On medium high heat, brush them gently around in the pan till they become fragrant and darken just a touch. Pluck out the cinnamon, and set aside. Put the turmeric powder into a spice grinder, along with the whole spices and buzz till the mixture is a fine powder, about three minutes.
|I confess it was a 'utility' duck, not that pretty to look at!|
In a blender, combine the garlic cloves, ginger and fresh chillies. Zest the orange into the container you’ll use to finally mix the masala, then peel the orange and put into the blender with salt. I’m giving a modest amount of salt here, but you can use a bit more. I did.
Blend to a fine paste. Add to the zest, then add the ground spices to the garlic mix and stir well. Use a spoon, keeping your innocent fingers well away from this mix. It’s very spicy and will sting your skin, and Lord forbid you put a spiced finger near your eye. Oweeee.
Meanwhile, have your roasting pan handy. Wash out the cavity of the duck and dry with paper towels. Place in roasting pan and using that spoon, ladle half the masala into the duck, and spread the other half over the duck. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The duck will cook at 350 F for the first hour, and then at 300 F for the next hour and a half. If you have a meat thermometer, use it! Just uncover the duck and pop in the oven. Baste at the half way cooking point.
Once the duck reaches the right temperature, remove from the oven and the roasting pan. It needs to sit for 30 minutes, so use this time to put together the rice and later the sauce.
|Thermometers save much grief...|
1 tablespoon rendered and flavoured duck fat
½ teaspoon cumin seed
¼ red onion, sliced thinly and quartered
½ teaspoon turmeric
10 grinds black pepper
4 curry leaves
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
|Cook a few moments before adding the water.|
By now, that duck fat will be fragrant and spicy. Scoop a generous tablespoon of it into the tightly covered pot you’ll make the rice in.
Heat the duck fat on medium high, then drop in the cumin seed. Sizzle for a few moments, then add the sliced onion. Cook till it’s browned at the edges, then add the curry leaves and dry rice.
Stir a few times, and let cook for a minute or so. Add salt (again, I used a smidge more than this) and then the water. Cover tightly, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cook twenty minutes without peaking.
The Cherry Sauce
This sounds sweet, but it’s actually quite tart.
Juices (defatted) of the roast duck
15 pitted Bing cherries (I buy them frozen and pitted.)
1 ½ tablespoons fancy vinegar (I used a combination of apple balsamic and coconut, only because I ran out of the apple balsamic!)
Hah! Here comes the hard part. Did I mention that a duck has a copious amount of fat? A friend once gave me a ‘gravy separator’ so I poured the rendered fat and bits into that. Supposedly the fat rises to the surface and it’s easily poured away. Hah!
I struggled with a combination of spooning out the fat and pouring it out. Eventually I flung some ice cubes into the nearly defatted liquid, and they helped to congeal most of the remaining fat, which I scooped out.
It’s not possible to get all the fat out, so this is why I say this isn’t an everyday meal.
Once the liquid is as lean as possible, pour it into a small sauce pan along with the vinegar and cherries. Put the heat on medium high, and cook for about ten minutes. The sauce will taste too strong on its own, but wait till you put this meal together.
|Tastes better when it's with the duck, I promise.|
Husband Person carved the duck while I tended to last minute details on the cherries and rice.
Fluff the rice with a fork, and plate, along with the cherries and sauce, and a few slices of the duck. I included some pieces with the skin because it looks nice, but you won’t want to eat that skin. Dot with as many small dollops of the masala as you dare, and serve.
Normally on a Wednesday night I make something quick and easy. Tonight I made something slow and labour intensive. We gobbled this down in moments, it was that delicious. There’s left over sauce and rice, but only a few scraps of duck. Just enough to tantalize us tomorrow morning, but not enough duck to serve as a meal.
I wonder which one of us will get to it first…
|Admire, but don't eat the skin!|