I bought a few months* ago some duck fillets from Pepe’s ducks. After nearly fainting at the price ($26 for 4 fillets) I tried roasting a pair, and was very disappointed at the result, not having managed to ‘burn off’ the fat underneath the skin. The remaining two were then stored in the freezer for another day.
Then I saw this recipe in the weekend paper:
Braised Duck with Orange and Pearl Barley (Sun Herald "Sunday Life" Magazine, Karen Martini 17/3/2010)
10 blood plums, split and pitted
1 tbsp raw sugar
400g peeled and cooked chestnuts (vacuum-sealed)
3 star anise
2 oranges, zested and juiced
sea salt and cracked black pepper
130g fine pearl barley
50mL extra virgin olive oil
6 duck marylands
2 brown onions, finely sliced
1 celery heart, finely sliced
5 sprigs thyme
1 tsp ground allspice
2 bay leaves
100mL white wine
1 1/2 litres chicken stock
Preheat oven to 165C fanforced (185C conventional). Toss plums in raw sugar and place on a baking tray with verjuice, chestnuts, star anise and orange zest. Season with slat and pepper and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Boil pearl barley in lots of water for 10minutes, then drain and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan over a high heat. Brown duck for 4-5 minutes, season well, then remove from pan. Add onion, celery, garlic, thyme, allspice and bay leaves to pan and cook over medium heat for 10minutes. Return duck to pan, and add wine, stock and orange juice. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add barley and simmer for 20 minutes or until barley is tender. Spoon plums and chestnuts over duck and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve on a platter.
And I thought it would be a good use of the remaining duck fillets.
It didn’t begin well.
I didn’t make it to my favourite grocer on time, had to make do with a supermarket, so I was missing blood plums and chestnuts. I substituted purple skinned plums, and a ‘low cholesterol’ nut mix of walnuts, cashews, almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds. I didn't have allspice, so some freshly ground cinnamon was used instead.
I pan fried the duck fillets on high heat for the 4-5 minutes, managed to fill the kitchen full of smoke, and cover the stove with bits of splattered fat. I had to evacuate the pan to outside to cool off, wipe down the stove, and then in order to distract the smoke alarm and the mozzies: turn off the light, open the screen door, and run around like a madman fanning the smoke with a giant newspaper.
Okay, lets keep going. I drained the exuded fat from the pan, added the other ingredients (substituting beer for wine, so that I would waste less alcohol), and tried to simmer the pot over a low heat.
The burner decided that it would join the fun, and switched itself to ‘high’, even though I had it on low.
A burnt caramel smell later, I didn’t want to start again, so I mistakenly scrapped up all the bits that had stuck to the pan, added more stock and beer, and kept going.
And the burner did it again. Add more stock and beer, wait 5 mins, then add the pearl barley. After the 20 mins of cooking, I added the roasted plums.
And the result was…. Interesting. It was such a shame I burnt the sauce, because this would’ve been a really nice dish otherwise. The duck tasted very gamey, almost liver-like in flavour. Unfortunately it was a bit tough – either because of its extended sojourn in the freezer, the random high heat input from the burner, or I had just cooked it for too long.
The pearl barley/sauce mixture was – burnt. It had some nice elements to it, but I couldn’t rescue the sauce despite much internet research. I think that the chestnuts, if I had used them, would’ve added a creamy texture to the dish. My favourite bits were the duck and the plum, so I saved those for the leftovers, and tossed the rest. I think that this would’ve gone quite well with some English spinach.
* it may have been ‘years’ ago.