Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grilled Red Curry Duck Breast with Maytag Blue Mashed Potatoes

I think there is a special place in cooking for duck fat.  The layer of fat, comfortably sandwiched between the skin and the meat serves a few, very important purposes.  The fat helps to keep the meat moist during the cooking process.  It also helps to add a lot of rich flavors to that meat.  Chefs love to cook with duck fat because of those flavors. 

I am still reticient to cook with any animal fat out of concerns about the levels of saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as cholesterol.  However, in comparison to fat from other animals, duck fat is relatively healthier, with more beneficial unsaturated fats and a profile that is closer to olive oil than butter. It also contains lineolic acid, which is used by the body to keep muscle and neural cells healthy, as well as to help kidney function.  (For more about the health benefits of duck fat, check out Garrett McCord's article on the Epi-Log on Epicurious.com.)  Of course, it is still fat and it still contains unhealthy saturated fats.

Notwithstanding the above, I did not feel ready to spoon a good-sized dollop of duck fat onto a pan or immerse foods in duck fat.  Small steps are required, particularly because I have not cooked duck very often, let alone worked with duck fat.  In fact, I think I have only cooked duck a couple of times a long time ago.  Looking back on my blog, I noticed that I do not have any recipes for duck.  So, I decided that I would rectify thart situation and began to search the Internet for a good recipe.  I found a recipe for Red Curry Grilled Duck, which was fairly easy to make.  All the recipe calls for is a couple of duck breasts, some red curry paste, a little coconut milk and a small amount of dark brown sugar.  Add some salt and ground pepper, the dish is ready to go. 

I decided to pair the Thai flavors of red curry paste and coconut milk with an American side, Maytag blue mashed potatoes.  This side dish just required a few potatoes, a hunk of Maytag Blue Cheese, a stick of butter (I used extra butter because I did not have milk at the time), and some elbow grease.  The result was a very delicious red, white and blue meal.

Adapted from Firepit and Grilling Guru
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Duck):
2 whole duck breasts
1/4 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of red curry paste
1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Potatoes):
4 to 6 small to medium sized potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
     cut into even-sized pieces 
1/4 to 1/3 pound of Maytag Blue Cheese, cut into small pieces
1 stick of unsalted butter

1.  Make the mashed potatoes.  Put the potatoes into a pot filled with water and bring the pot to a boil.  Cook the potatoes for about ten minutes until they are soft when poked with a fork.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  Add the butter and the cheese.  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and whip them until they are the consistency you desire.

2.  Marinate the duck.  Combine the coconut milk, curry paste, and brown sugar and stir very well.  Season the duck with salt and ground pepper and then cover the duck on both sides with the curry and coconut mixture.  Let the duck marinate for about fifteen minutes but no more than one hour.  

3.  Grill the duck.  Heat the grill to about 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the duck on the grill, skin side down for about five minutes.  Turn the duck ninety degrees and grill for a couple minutes more.  Then flip the duck and grill for about ten minutes.  Turn the duck ninety degrees again and grill for about three to five more minutes.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Remove the duck and rest for five to ten minutes.  Carve and plate with the mashed potatoes.  

Garret McCord, the blogger at Epi-Log (noted above) said, "[j]ust cook once with duck fat and you will be converted to the Church of Quack." I think the same could be said about cooking with duck in general.  As you cook with duck breasts, the fat melts into and over the meat, imparting some amazing, rich flavors.

This recipe was a good initial foray into cooking duck and I can consider myself applicant for the Church of Quack.  Now, to gain full membership, I'll need to buy a vat of duck fat and start cooking with it.  That will have to wait for a future blog post.


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