Let the name say it all – SMOKING HOT DUCK!
Here is a little sneak peak at what I made for myself for dinner last night – one of the best things I have ever eaten and I made it in a tiny terrifying excuse for a kitchen!! (No offense intended to the feelings of my eighty centimetre wide kitchen nook slash cupboard slash sink slash no oven slash old electric hotplate)
Smoked Duck Breast Salad served on Crisp Breads
(Mesculun and Rocket salad with golden shallots, granny smith apple, sour cherries, and roasted hazelnuts served with a luscious sour cherry vinaigrette)
There is no doubt that I have a deep seated weakness for duck, I too often order it if it is on a restaurant’s menu, and when I think of my favourite meals it is often involving the juicy flavourful duck meat and crisp skin.
Whether it be Chinese style Peking Duck, or a Whole Roast Duck, or French Duck á L’Orange or modern interpretations there can be nothing better – well since my experience at Laduree I have a new style to add to my insatiable appetite for duck – thinly sliced Smoked Duck Breast.
I have since had grand plans of buying the equipment required to properly smoke your own meats and fishes at home, but this will have to wait for now, and so I went to my local distributor of duck products – yes in Paris there are shops entirely devoted to the glory of duck related gourmet food products – only in France!
I walked past the rows of every type of foie gras imaginable, and headed straight for the fridge where I was faced by not one but three different types of sliced duck breast and found my holy grail of a sealed packet of artisanal smoked duck breast and so the beginning of a long night of cooking and taste testing began.
I didn’t stop at one dish, no, how could I, I thought of how it could be presented at a more casual gastro pub or café, and also came up with ways to make it into cool canapés.
The funniest thing was that I recorded my findings as if it was a scientific experiment – jotting down notes of each preparation and step. (these are unadulterated except the last comment)
Fine brunoise two shallots, and one large granny smith tart crunchy apple, fine dice of cerise griotte (morello cherries).
EVOO, syrup de griotte, butter, reduce. Add vinegar and lemon juice.
Use dirty pan to warm thru some cherries.
Use dirty pan plus extra oil and butter to cook mix then add a further half apple of brunoise granny smith, use other half for julienned skin on match sticks.
Roasted hazelnuts, halved, some crushed others whole for garnish, mix.
Mixed mesculun lettuce and rocket plus chervil
Mix cooled cherry, apple, shallot mix with salad leaves and the hazelnuts then add extra vinaigrette
Crisp breads made from great bread dried out then fried in olive oil and butter.
Smoked duck taken out of the packet (FOR NOW THAT IS UNTIL MY GRAND SCHEME BECOMES A REALITY AND I WILL HAVE MY OWN SMOKED DUCK!)
I don’t quite know how to describe the tastes and textures and could never really do it justice, so I will leave it to your imaginations, let us just say that I inadvertently ate everything, yes everything, enough for about 3 people to comfortably share. I also know there is a lot more work that needs to go into this dish if it were to ever make it onto any menu or be served at any dinner party but there is definite potential in this space!
I don’t think any of us much cared for this particular module when compared to some of the spectacular things we have achieved during this whirlwind month.
How could jam possibly compare to entrements or a plated dessert?
Well for two and a half days we focused on making jams, fruit jellies, caramels, nougat, marshmallows and confit fruits.
Now writing about our experiences it sounds as if I am being unfairly unsupportive but it really was so simple when compared to what we had already achieved.
To the credit of our chefs, the nougat we made was absolutely delicious, the marshmallows had a greet flavour and texture but most importantly weren’t overly sweet, and the jams constitute an invaluable skill!
We were all exhausted by this point having just completed our exams and so we were more interested in discussing other topics and asked lots of great questions from the chefs.
We had a long lecture on the history of sugar and how it was intertwined as usual with war and civilisation itself. Only this time the death of Alexander the Great and the crusades played a huge part instead of just the discovery of the Caribbean and Central America!
We played with cooked sugar at it’s wide range of cooking temperatures making the honey nougat and jams and pate de fruit.
We also made raw almond paste and marzipan of varied colours together with pralines of all sorts including hazelnut, almond and my favourite mixed.
Macaron were just second hand nature and to see how fast we produced this huge selection was really special.
Making fondant from scratch was extremely simple yet such intensive work, as such it was revolutionary but will likely never happen again.
The thermometers played a huge role in this module and we also had a little fun with the pectin and citric acid!
But by Friday afternoon we all felt like a manufacturing line having to hand-wrap hundreds of soft caramels and exotic passionfruit caramels in individual wrappers, as well as package hundreds of marshmallows and nougats.
The highlight of our module was an unexpected delight – an unforgettable experience. The chef organised a little detour with a very specific task. There was a huge junket in the Ritz for the French Press as an advertising drive for the school. They were treated with tours, cooking demonstrations, gift bags and a lunch on the terrace.
But dessert was truly special – having been conceived by Chef Didier, prepared together with the class, and assembled by us à la minute in the terrace kitchen before being taken by the waiting staff to the waiting guests.
It was brilliant – so simple, so full of the best flavours and textures – a hazelnut meringue, strawberry jelly, tart strawberry gelato and champagne emulsion – so light and summery!
We worked like a united force and it all went smoothly, for our first, professional ’employment’.
So for your perusal, here is the selection of candies and confitures now available at my modern Candy Store.
Confit Pink Grapfruit and Orange Rind – for your candied pleasure
Fruit Jellies – Passionfruit, Mango, Raspberry and Blackcurrant
Nougat Blanc with Honey, Roasted Hazelnuts, Almonds and Pistachios
Chewy Caramels with Roast Almonds
Soft Exotic Caramels with Passionfruit and Mango Puree
Confitures including freshly made Strawberry and Blueberry, Raspberry and Pineapple ‘Bachelor’ Jam with rum steeped raisins and vanilla
And don’t forget the almond marzipan, praline pastes and macaron….
And so finally at 5pm after a month of intensive Advanced French Pastry when the champagne was popped and we all toasted passing our course and our success in the exam.
Sadly two will be leaving us and not joining in on the third level.
Whilst I’m going on holiday for a week the others are all doing boulangerie and vieronesserie.
But four of us are ready and waiting for the intensive week of Perfection in French Pastry.