Duck with Figs

Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with Green Pepper Corn, with Sichuan, with Mirin and Soy Sauce or as Canard A l’Orange: the result is always tasty and your guests will be happy.
Today we combine duck with figs. Not the most obvious combination because the figs are relatively dry and perhaps not as sweet as the combination requires. We clearly need a bridge between the meat and the fruit. The first idea was to use port, perhaps with some veal or chicken stock. Great idea because of the sweetness and light acidity of the port, but perhaps a bit too much for the figs. Aceto Balsamico comes with acidity and sweetness, so we decided to use it as the base of the sauce, in combination with some stock. While preparing it we noticed that it needed more sweetness, so what to do? Sugar, honey? But couldn’t we add something that would bring sweetness, fruitiness and even tartness? Of course! Good old Cointreau, great idea!

Aceto Balsamico

We probably need to say a few words about Aceto Balsamico. You may think it’s overrated and overpriced, this sweet, sugary, dark and mild vinegar. But if you taste original Aceto Balsamico, the one made from grape must and aged for many (25!) years in wooden barrels, then you will be surprised by the intense, concentrated flavour and the dark colour. Always look for I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). If this is not mentioned on the bottle, don’t buy it.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of your Breast of Duck with Figs. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck (preferably organic)
  • Lots of Thyme
  • 3 Figs
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • Aceto Balsamico
  • Cointreau
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Green Peas

What You Do

Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck in a hot, non-stick skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side, straight from the refrigerator. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat. This way the skin remains crispy.
Wash the figs and cut in half. Remove some of the fat and fry the figs until lightly caramelised. When ready, remove from the pan, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Add stock, thyme, Aceto Balsamico and Cointreau. Probably two spoons of Aceto Balsamico and three spoons of Cointreau. Taste and adjust. You may want to add some butter to push the flavours and create a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Add duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat, add black pepper, taste, adjust, add the figs, coat them with the sauce and plate up. We served the duck with fresh green peas because they have this lovely light sweet flavour that combines very well with the other ingredients.

  • Breast of Duck with Figs ©cadwu
  • Fresh Figs ©cadwu

Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper

Tingling Citrus

Why call something pepper when actually it is not hot and spicy like black pepper or chili? Perhaps because of the shape? The Chinese name is huā jiāo, meaning something like flower pepper. Actually it is a dried berry from western China. Other names are Szechuan Pepper, Chinese Prickly Ash, Mala Pepper et cetera. The quality may vary, depending on the actual species used. The taste has two components: the aroma of citrus and an intriguing tingling effect on the tongue.
The Sichuan cuisine combines it with chili pepper, star anise and ginger.

Wine Pairing

A cup of Jasmine Tea is an excellent choice. You could also go for white wine, for instance a German Riesling or Gewurztraminer. We decided to go for a Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated.

What You Need

  • Duck Breast
  • Sichuan Pepper
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Normal Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Chicken Stock
  • Corn Starch

What You Do

Start by warming a non-stick frying pan. Add the Sichuan pepper (we suggest one or two teaspoons). Gently roast the peppers until you can smell their lovely aroma. Transfer the berries to a mortar and let cool. Take the duck breast from the refrigerator, clean it if necessary and transfer to the now hot non-stick frying pan. By starting with cold meat, you will get the best result: crispy fat, a golden brown colour and seignant meat. Fry the duck breast for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat, give it 10 more minutes on the fat-side and finish with 2 or 3 minutes on the meat-side.
Wrap the breast in foil, making sure the fat is not covered.
Crush half of the Sichuan peppers. Add stock to the pan, soy sauce, crushed Sichuan pepper and a teaspoon of mirin. Stir and add liquid from the duck. The duck must rest for 10 minutes, so occasionally add liquid and stir the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust. When ready, make the sauce thicker using corn starch. Coarsely crush the remaining Sichuan pepper.
Slice the meat and serve with the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Sichuan pepper on top of the meat.

We served the duck breast with a combination of stir fried (Chinese, napa or oxheart) cabbage, spring onion, chili pepper and sesame oil.

Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper ©cadwu
Duck Breast with Sichuan Pepper ©cadwu