I’d been fearing this weekend. The first weekend that I actually had to return to study, since finishing uni a couple of years ago. I discovered that studying whilst working is even less fun than studying without working, so my day was one massive wrestle against the ugly head of procrastination.
Naturally, procrastination won out. I decided to call it quits after abysmally listening to one hour-long lecture and promptly falling asleep.
I decided to go all out. I decided to try my hand at a meat that I feel is definitely under-utilised in Australia: the duck. Duck has a reputation for being difficult to cook – screw it up and you’ve got some tough bites to wrestle with.
Being half Malaysian, I had actually only ever tried Chinese roast duck – what I had thought was the most delicious of all ducks. But more recently, I have been ordering duck cooked in western ways and if you haven’t had it, do yourself a favour and go out and order this delicious meat.
I’ve decided to go with a crisp skin duck with red wine jus and pumpkin and sweet potato mash (I maintain it sounds wankier than it actually is).
Step 1 – lucky ducky: score the skin of your duck (not the meat!) at, say, 1cm intervals. You’ll only be scoring about 2mm as the skin is not particularly thick. Rub a little salt over the skin and let it hang out for a few minutes. Heat your oven to 200 degrees celcius (fan forced).
When you’re ready to cook, pat any excess moisture off the skin. Heat a fry pan to a medium-hot heat. The idea is that you fry the duck, skin side down, without any oil as the duck fat sitting under that skin will render and flow out into your pan. Fry the duck for about 6 minutes, or until you see a drool-worthy golden colour. Flip the duck over and cook for about 3 minutes on the other side.
Take the duck out of the pan and place skin side up into a roasting tray, and whack in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. After this, return the duck to the pan, skin side down for less than a minute, just to re-crisp the skin.
Step 2 – veg out: This one’s easy. I decided on a pumpkin and sweet potato mash as it was nicely sweet against the slightly salty, crispy duck skin. Once the pumpkin and sweet potato is boiled and the water drained, I like to add a clove of finely chopped garlic just to give that extra bite of interesting-ness.
Step 3 – just jus: I have to admit I just went mental with this and started adding little quantities of this and that until it tasted just about right. I went with a red wine jus and the basic premise is that you add a whole lotta liquid and flavourings, and then boil it down until it’s thick and almost syrupy. Start off by frying a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and a sprig of rosemary with a couple of teaspoons of butter. Definitely don’t let it burn otherwise your jus will be bitter and foul, just let the garlic soften a little. Pour in half a cup of red wine and a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. When this has halved in volume, add a half a cup of chicken stock. Again, let this boil on down. Tweak the flavours as you see fit – salt if needed, vinegar to sweeten etc.
Step 4 – plate up: Let your duck hang out a bit and rest up before you slice it. It’ll mean the juices and run through the meat instead of onto your chopping board. I like to present mine atop a bed of the vibrant orange, sweet, creamy, chunky mash, with the juicy, pink duck sliced thickly – its golden, crispy skin shining towards the sky. Drizzle a few spoons of that deep, dark, sweet, jus over the duck and attempt to wait until you get to the dining table before pigging out.