Begin obligatory statement about Paula Deen: I was going to write something about Paula Deen, especially after I got home from work, flipped on the teevee and was faced with La Deen making icing for a single cake using seven cups of confectioner’s sugar.
But the more I think about it, the more I (1) don’t really give a shit about La Deen and (2) am kinda grossed out by all the “told you so, Fatty McFatterson” crap. And then I read this piece, which I found thought provoking, and not just because of the brilliant sentence, “Might as well just nail her in the face with a frozen ham.”
I’m totally going to start using that whenever I’m flummoxed. “What? Ain’t that a kicker! You can just nail me in the face with a frozen ham.” Evocative, no?
I love me some duck, but rarely cook it at home; it’s usually a restaurant treat. But it had been a while since my last duck consumption,* and I was having a hankering. Plus, Brian doesn’t really like duck, and I was convinced that I could make him enjoy it by employing the right cooking technique and flavor combos.
Other things Brian doesn’t like: bagels, ice cream, chocolate cake, America’s Next Top Model. He might be a replicant. He is a pretty empathetic guy and gives excellent hugs, but that could just mean he has the prototype emotion and memory implants. Chilling.
*DID YOU KNOW: Duck Consumption felled over a quarter of 19th-century female ducks who sat too near an open window embroidering tablecloths for their hope chests. True!
Married to an android or not, a gal’s gotta eat. While the duck was sitting out to come up to room temperature, I threw together a quick sauce in the blender with fresh mango, sweet chile sauce, white balsamic, mirin, brown sugar. After a taste-test, I added some apricot jam to boost the fruitiness (I blame my under-ripe mango) and smooth all the flavors out: success.
Turning to the duck, I scored the skin and copious fat layer so that as much fat as possible would render out during cooking, giving you something in which to fry your hash browns for brunch over the weekend.
My scored duck breasts went into a cold pan skin-side down, which I put over medium-low heat. This lets the fat render out slowly while the skin crisps and the duck cooks gently.
Within a minute of putting the cold pan on the stove, it started to crackle and pop. Before I knew it, there was a good half-inch of melted duck fat coating the bottom of the pan and splatters and pops were shooting across the kitchen.
Of course, I hadn’t thought to change out of my work shirt, which was quickly covered in grease stains. This is why Old Navy sends me a personal Christmas Card every year: between the cooking mess and the jutting shelf that is my boobage catching every stray drip as I eat, I throw out an entire collection of food-stained shirts every six months and buy a new wardrobe from the sale section.
Such is the circle of life. It rules us all.
After 15 minutes of rendering, I removed the duck breasts from the pan to pour off all the fat. Returning them to the pan skin-side up, I glazed them with the mango sauce and banished them to a 400 degree oven to finish cooking through. I left the remainder of the sauce on the stove to reduce a little.
I pulled them out when they hit an internal temp of 135, which only takes a few minutes, and left them to rest while I finished the rest of dinner. Although I’m only showing you photos of duck and could, truth be told, happily eat duck and nothing but duck for dinner, there were side dishes: jasmine rice cooked with coconut milk and lime zest, and a simple green salad.
You should be aware, should you choose to follow my cooking instructions, that you will be FLOUTING THE USDA. Which, really, doesn’t make you subject to any kind of penalty, except that if you get sick from undercooked duck low-level USDA agents will be dispatched to your home to laugh at you and point. For according to the USDA, duck should be cooked to 170 fucking degrees. Of course they also told us to cook pork to 165, and we remember how well that turned out.
And guess what? Brian now likes duck! The meat was incredibly tender, just the slightest hint of subcutaneous fat remained, and the mango glaze and sauce were a delightful combination of sweet (to complement the duck) and tangy (to cut a bit of the richness). Plus, the whole thing took, like, 25 minutes start to finish, making it a simple yet kinda fancy-pants weeknight meal.
Fancy-pants dinner on a Tuesday night? Well nail me in the face with a frozen ham.
Duck Breasts with Mango-Mirin Sauce
Boneless, skin-on duck breasts, however many you need for the number of people you’re feeding; the sauce recipe will serve up to 8
8 oz. peeled mango cubes (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. mirin
2 tbsp. while balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. sweet chile sauce
2 tbsp. apricot jam (I like Bonne Maman)
Preheat the oven to 400.
Score the duck breasts, making cuts on the diagonal about one inch apart. Cut through the skin and fat, but not into the meat – just drag a sharp knife across the skin, letting the weight of the knife do the work for you. Sprinkle the skin side with salt.
Put the breasts in a cold oven-safe pan, skin side down, and put the pan over medium-low heat. Let the duck cook for 15 minutes, until most of the fat has rendered out and the skin is browned.
While the duck cooks, dump the mango, sugar, mirin, vinegar, chile sauce, jam and a pinch of salt into a blender and whiz until totally smooth. Pour the mango sauce into a small saucepot and put it over medium heat.
Once the duck has cooked on the stovetop for 15 minutes, kill the heat, take the duck out of the pan and pour off all the fat. Return the duck to the pan skin side up, and brush the skin with the mango sauce. Put the duck into the oven until it reaches an internal temp of 130-135.
Remove the cooked duck from the pan, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve immediately with additional mango sauce.