Dish as in the book
During our trip to The Fat Duck we had a three course meal in the midst of the 16 or so courses included in the menu. One of those dishes was a Heston take on 'Duck a l'orange' a sous-vide cooked duck breast with orange flavoured sauce and multiple garnishes. It was so delicious that I felt it about time to sample another Heston duck recipe, in this case its the Powdered Duck Breast from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
The dish is that o-so-lovely sous-vide duck with a sauce 'powdered' with spiced salt and garnished with confit smoked fennel. Sounding rather delicious I had a look at how Dinner go about serving the dish and quite often there's a puree of some description. With this in mind I figured the celeriac puree from the venison dish I made not long back would be perfect for this recipe.
To begin with you have to make a duck stock. Heston, as per usual, would like you to find 5kg worth of duck carcasses to be roasted in the oven until golden before adding to a pot of caramelised carrots, onions and garlic with plum tomatoes, spices and bay leaves. I roasted the duck carcass I had and added it to the pot allowing to simmer for 2 hours before infusing with fresh parsley. The smell of the stock from the star anise and infused herbs was strong and the colour excellent.
Sit this in the fridge overnight and the next day get started on the confit fennel. If you have any fennel tops, keep these, as they will be used for the garnish at the end. Chopping vegetables is a breeze now that I'm armed in the kitchen with a Japanese knife. These things really are sharp! The thought of potentially losing a finger is just part of the thrill.....
Place a fennel bulb chopped into four segments into a device suitable for smoking. I use a steamer set up with foil in the base of the pan containing hickory wood chips, set them on fire with a blowtorch and once smouldering just place your steamer basket containing duck fat and the fennel on top, place the lid on and leave to smoke. I'm growing quite fond of this whole 'make a bonfire in the middle of your kitchen' style of cooking I must say.
Brining Duck Breasts
Early stages of the sauce
Combine the fennel and duck fat into a sous-vide bag, seal and place into the water at 85C for 2 hours. While that was cooking away I went about making the spiced salt by toasting coriander seeds, star anise, allspice berries and black peppercorns in a pan. Crush these down and pass through a sieve. This step didn't go without incident sadly as when picking up the coriander seeds to place back in the cupboard the jar dropped away from its lid and decorated my floor with tiny seeds....
More toasting of spices comes next with coriander seeds, juniper, black peppercorns and cloves dry-roasting and crushed up while you reduce your duck stock (remember that?). The second problem appeared suddenly as I was all out of honey and the honey that I did have was that horrible crystallised stuff at the back of the cupboard. Thinking quickly, reading that you have to make a caramel from the honey, I used golden caster sugar with a little water to a light caramel stage.
Add brandy and red wine vinegar and you get a sharp flavour. The reduced stock is then added leaving you something between a sauce and a glaze. Shower the spices back into the sauce along with bay leaf and ginger and leave to infuse for 15 minutes before sieving through a cloth into a clean plan.
The last few steps were pretty hectic, balancing a celeriac puree keeping warm without skin forming or drying out, dressing the pea-shoot garnish and caramelising the fennel and duck skin. It's one of those dishes that really comes together properly at the last minute.
Plating begins with a spoon of celeriac puree, three chunky slices of duck with the sauce poured over, spice salt sprinkled on top to season and the pea shoots draped over the confit fennel. Time to eat.
The final plate
Sous-vide duck is just amazing. If there was any reason at all to go out and get yourself a sous-vide set up then this is it (also the venison dish). The texture is perfect and the skin crispy. Celeriac puree is undoubtedly my favourite new thing, I'd go as far as to say you could put it on anything. Confit fennel had the subtle smoky flavour and strangely very little aniseed although I guess if you used fennel tops instead of pea shoot's you would get that fresh aniseed hit. The sauce is very Asian in its taste, think duck with plum sauce, really good. What a book this is turning out to be.