My ordering modus operandi in restaurants wherever possible goes like this: seafood for starter, duck or red meat for main course, skip dessert and go for the cheese and then ask, regardless of whether or not its on the menu, for an Irish coffee. Consequently I have tried many, many duck dishes including the famous duck recipe at La Tour D’argent in Paris for which I still have my numbered authentication card (a memorable experience which goes some way to balancing out the painful loss I suffered later that day – I was in Paris to watch Arsenal play Barcelona in the Champions League Final. We lost and I don’t want to talk about it).
I still remember the first ever duck dish I ordered in a restaurant. It was Duck Montmorency in the Moon & Sixpence in Hanwell and memory tells me it was divine but I was only 19 and not yet the foodie I turned into so I’d love to be able to whizz back in time and try it again. I also love Peking Duck, Thai Duck salad – even Duck a l’Orange, if it’s on the menu, I’ll order it. I like cooking it at home, too and am always on the look-out for the perfect duck recipe. This one I came up with last weekend is a good contender and the method of slashing both sides ensures more even cooking, which can sometimes be a problem with duck.
I spotted the sweet potato vermicelli at my wonderful local Wing Yip . Rox had already tried them and pronounced them worthy so I added those to my basket and to my ingredient list for my duck dish. They have an interesting texture with a good ‘bite’ as long as you don’t overcook them too much; it says 5 – 10 mins in the packet. Now thats quite a difference! Go for 5 is my advice and test every 30 seconds after that. Once cooked, strain and cool them under running water.
For the duck:-
2 duck breasts, trimmed and scored
3 tbsps sweet soy sauce (or Ketjap Manis)
1 tbsp each cider vinegar and black chinese vinegar
For the noodles:-
2 nests of sweet potato vermicelli
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped – NOT put through a garlic press
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light runny honey
1 tbsp fish sauce
oil for frying
Prepare the garlic, chilli and ginger for the noodles and thinly slice the spring greens. Cook the noodles and chill them right down under cold running water to stop them cooking any further and turning to mush. Mix all the noodle sauce ingredients together in a cup or small jug. Don’t skimp on this preparation because it all happens very quickly towards the end.
Next, get the duck breasts underway: combine 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce and 1 tbsp each of cider vinegar and black chinese vinegar for the duck and pour into a small oven-proof dish. Season the duck breasts with good salt and, using a heavy bottomed pan, slowly cook them skin side down until the skin becomes really crisp. You must keep the heat really quite low which will release most of the fat and leave a really crunchy outer skin.
Most of the rest of the breasts should still look very raw and it’s at this point you need to make about five diagonal slashes in the skin (see photo). Place the breasts in the sweet soy sauce mixture in the oven dish and rub it round a bit – pick it up, even, and rub the sauce right into the slashes but avoid getting it on your nice crispy skin.
Place the dish in a really hot oven (gas mark eight) for five minutes only. Time it to the second or you’ll get overcooked duck which is just a waste of money. In the five minutes that the duck is in the oven you have time to do the noodles. Get a wok nice and hot, pour in a couple of tablespoons of light oil and quickly sizzle the garlic, chilli (hold a little chilli back for garnish) and ginger for a few seconds. Throw in the sliced spring greens and stir fry for two mins more. Finally add in the noodle sauce ingredients and the noodles. Turn the heat down and the noodles through the sauce for another two mins to re heat the noodles.
At some point during this your alarm for the duck should have gone off and it will therefore have been whipped out of the oven and been sitting on the side for a moment, resting. Let it rest a moment more while you artfully arrange a nice pile of noodles onto two serving plates and then very quickly lift the duck onto a board and slice it into bite size slices at an angle. Place the duck over the noodles, pour over the sauce from the oven dish and scatter the reserved red chilli over for garnish.