Monday, 28 December 2015

Duck with Endives and Champagne

Christmas day main course came by way of Michel Roux Jr's book from Le Gavroche. This is a book in my collection that often gets overlooked for the more flash, complex recipes from say The Fat Duck, Dinner or my new gifts Quay and Mugaritz. There does come a time when you get fed up of making a pan of puree or a complex sauce just to use a tablespoon's worth for both balance and vanity (more often the latter) and along comes a book like this where classic's get a touch up and there are no frills. Just good plates of very tasty food.

This book was actually a Christmas present going back a few years now, a really good starting point for anyone wanting to improve their cooking or learn the basics. The recipes are listed by season as well which is a massive help and a decent reflection of Michel's philosophy on food.

Shallots and leeks

Continuing the Champagne theme, I recalled this particular recipe and decided it would make a decent main course after the Lasagne of Crab starter. The dish asks for Mallard, a wild duck, which usually is available at my local market in Leicester, however, I wanted to make life a little easier and opted for duck breasts.

The dish literally demands only 20-30 minutes of your time, it's really straightforward much like the majority of the recipes in the book. I began with the duck breasts, simply seasoning both sides and laying skin-side down in a dry pan cranking up the heat gently to render the fat down. After a quick sear on the flesh side I flipped the breast back onto the skin side to cook at 200C for 15 minutes.

While the duck cook's it's onto the sauce. Sliced shallots are caramelised in a little oil to which I added some chopped baby leeks. I recall at my wedding, The Ritz made a turbot dish with baby leeks and Champagne sauce which went down in memory, so with that in mind and having a few leeks spare they went in with the shallots.

Champagne for the sauce

Chicory is next into the pan, a bitter leaf that tastes awful by itself but add a touch of sugar and a good sear on the heart of the vegetable and it all of a sudden becomes very tasty, bittersweet and slightly smoky. Once all the vegetables had caramelised I de-glazed the pan with Champagne, reducing to a glaze and then adding double cream.

The taste of the sauce by this point was amazing. How on earth you get such a fruity note coming through from those ingredients is a real head-scratcher but it works so well, leaving you impatiently waiting for the duck to finish cooking.
Duck Breasts

After resting the duck for 10 minutes and adding the resting juices to the pan it was time to plate the dish. Easy as you like, there is no illustration in the actual book of the dish so it's down to you how you would like it to appear. I went for a simple 'sauce on the base, chicory in the middle, duck on top' before drizzling with truffle oil.
The final plate

It's such a satisfying dish. Adding a splash of Champagne at the end to the sauce gave it a freshness and a touch of acidity, very nice indeed. The duck was beautifully pink, juice and with a crispy skin. The truffle oil I can definitely recommend, it just gives the dish a bit of a lift and a difference of taste and aroma. I can see myself doing this one again for sure.

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