Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Death By Duck

Do you know the feeling when you really want something, but just can't have it? Like a pet penguin. Or an Iron Man suit.

I had such a feeling last month, during a short road trip around California. We'd left LA a couple of nights previously, and were some way up the coast when I found out about a bar in the Koreatown area of LA called Beer Belly. This place features a huge selection of craft beers, as well as a menu stuffed with drool-enducing treats including "pork belly chips", "pizza mac n' cheese", "deep fried oreos", and "death by duck". The latter dish consisting of duck fat fries topped with duck skin crackling and confit duck, served with a raspberry mustard dip.

Furious with myself for missing the opportunity to visit Beer Belly, I had two options - drive two hours back to LA and risk disturbing the matrimonial bliss... or try to forget about it, and pretend I didn't care. Under the circumstances I really had to go for the second option (and to be fair, we actually ended up having some awesome tacos that night). But after the holiday, the intense sense of unfulfillment lingered on, slowly eating away at me. There was only one solution. I had to make my own replica of Death by Duck.

Stage 1 - Duck Confit

There is no end of recipes online for confit duck, but essentially it just consists of cooking duck legs in duck fat, at a low temperature, for a bloody long time. Technically you should salt cure the meat first, but frankly life's too short for that kind of palaver. First I had to remove the skin from one of the legs to use later for the crackling, and then I begun the slow processing of "confiting" the duck. Even the smallest ring on the hob seemed a bit hot, so I ended up chucking it in the oven at 115 C for around five hours.

I then let it cool, and put it in the fridge overnight. When you're ready to use it, you just need to pan fry the legs for a few minutes. This has the added benefit of crisping up the skin very nicely indeed. The meat should be very tender, and easily come away from the bone.

Stage 2 - Duck crackling

I took the duck skin that was salvaged from stage 1, salted it, and dried it with kitchen paper. I cut it into six pieces, and put in a dry frying pan on the lowest heat for 20 minutes, regularly pouring off the excess fat. The pieces of skin puffed up and became wonderfully crunchy, although they did dramatically shrink in size as the fat slowly melted away. It actually made me wonder where Beer Belly get all that duck skin from!

Stage 3 - Raspberry Mustard

Fresh raspberries cost a fortune, so I used tinned. I strained off the juice, and then pushed the fruit through a sieve to create a loose puree. I mixed in the wholegrain mustard, and also a dash of vinegar (as the tinned fruit was not really acidic enough).

Stage 4 - Duck fat fries

I really wasn't in the mood for peeling and chopping potatoes, so I used a pack of frozen french fries. I went for a variation on the "twice cooked" method - but instead of frying them twice, I started them off in the oven on a low temperature, to make sure they were cooked through. I then finished them off by frying them in very hot duck fat for five minutes, until they were golden and crispy. Finally I drained the fries, patted them dry, and tossed them in salt and white pepper.

The finished dish made for a handsome plate of food, perfect with a cold beer and a mound of coleslaw on the side. The crackling was light and crispy, the meat was tender and flavoursome, and the fries were gloriously greasy and ducky. Even the raspberry mustard dip, which I was initially cynical about, tasted really good and cut right through all the richness (maybe I shouldn't have been such a tight-arse, and bought fresh raspberries).

The name "Death by Duck" seems rather appropriate. Your arteries would surely give up the battle if you ate this thing regularly. But the things that are bad for you are usually the things that taste the best, and in that department, I can assure your that DBD is a winner.



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