...wait, exactly what do you do with a duck???

It's far too late for Paper Chef #11, as life sometimes gets in the way of trying to keep up on all desires and obligations, but I was intrigued by the ingredients this month: Duck, nut butter, ginger and pears. I was also both encouraged and inspired by my friend Ilva, at Lucullian Delights (who posts the most gorgeous pictures of her homeland in Tuscany every single day - so go check her out and dream a little), after seeing her yummy entry of duck meatballs. When I confessed to her that I had never tried cooking with duck before, she told me to give it a try - so I did. I came up with this: A warm 'salad' of soy-drizzled duck breasts on warm frisee with chanterelles, candied ginger, pears and walnuts.

Now, there are things I would change about this dish - part of it goes together quite nicely (frissee, soy, ginger, chanterelles and duck) and part of it I would leave out next time (walnuts - I'd use almonds instead, and perhaps pears - substituting orange segments or plums or something, oh, and I added bacon, which I would also leave out), but I would make something similar to it again. Plus, I think it's interesting to see both sides of people's creative adventures in the kitchen. I'm an avid recipe follower...in fact, I don't even know how to not follow a recipe. I freeze up, freak out, run frantically around the kitchen, screaming. Okay, not quite that bad. Sure, sometimes I'll throw a pinch of salt, rather than measure it, or if I'm out of something, substitute what I do have or leave it out entirely, but I pretty much follow the 'rules.' I'm working on this...making my own stir fry sauces, etc. But I have yet to make up my very own whole recipe.

Loving Boyfriend often scoffs at my 'rule-following nature.' While I take the crosswalk, he'll walk right out in front of traffic (JAYWALKER!!). I'll follow the signs that say 'DO NOT put THAT here' or 'DON'T SIT HERE,' while he pretty much ignores all signs and does whatever he feels like...especially any signs that tell him what to do. He's pretty much that way in the kitchen too, which I envy in many ways, as most of the time his adventures comes out tasting quite good...course, there was that one stir fry with vinegar and plums...which both of us agreed we would never eat anything resembling it again. :)

So, here's my first adventure: First, I roasted the duck breasts (425F for 20 minutes, skin side up, with the fat on, and several slits cut into the flesh that I drizzled soy sauce over). This is what Nigella Lawson said to do. But the duck breast sort of fell into the roasting rack and didn't cook thoroughly. So I removed the fat and pan seared them in oil on both sides for about 2-3 minutes each side (I have no idea if this is how to cook duck - but the roasting was taking too long and smelled funny!). Apparently, many people prefer to eat duck slightly rare or at least pink in the center to keep it moist and tender, so I followed suit and I have to say, I think I prefer it this way as well. I cut a single breast into thin slices (one breast made this salad and the other I think will be cold duck sandwhiches with mayo - we do this with leftover chicken and it's always good, so I'm crossing my fingers. Besides, Nigella says it's good!).

I laid the duck atop frisee that I tossed with olive oil and soy sauce before wilting in a saucepan (don't know if you're supposed to really do this either, but I think it was amenable to the cooking). Then, I topped this with pan-fried chanterelles, bacon (don't do this), finely chopped candied ginger, and pear slices (I'd leave this out too). I would also maybe add thinly sliced scallions next time...hmmm... We drizzled the whole thing with truffle oil, because I wasn't sure what to top it with, and it was pretty tasty. I might drizzle it with something else next time, but I'm not sure what...any ideas would be appreciated, or any suggestions to make this all-around better or different. All in all, it was a fun night - I made a complete disaster of the kitchen, and it took much longer than I though it would trying to do everything at once, but the end result was at least tasty (once I picked out the bacon and ate the pears separately...). Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new, adventurous me, where someday I can toss aside those recipes and use them as guidelines, not rules...but I don't think you'll find me walking out in traffic any time soon!

11 comments from you:

ilva said...

I just love your description of your cooking session Michelle! You made me laugh and it's good to laugh at bed time! Anyway, I'm happy that you made the duck and that it was nice, I'm sure that you will be even bolder next time and that within a couple of months you will be spurting out your own recipes! And thank you for your super nice words about my blog, I really appreciate them!

stephen said...

Hey Michelle...we're pretty lax about late entries with Paper Chef...if you want to be included (which means you'll be featured in the 'round-up' post in a few days) email me (see my site for the address)...it sounds yummy to me (how can you miss with duck, frisee, bacon and truffle oil?) and I love make-it-up-as-you-go, disaster-kitchen cooking: it's the best!

Stephanie said...

Hi Michelle - My husband and I are a combo of you and your boyfriend! I love making stuff from recipes, but I usually add or omit stuff based on what I know I like (EX: I don't care for rosemary, so I usually leave it out). Meanwhile, my husband who almost never uses recipes will INSIST that if I'm making something from a recipe that I follow it to the letter so that I'll know the next time what I want to change about it. Funny how it works huh?

michelle said...

Hi Ilva! I wouldn't have cooked duck without you! I wish I was going to bed right now - I'm only halfway through the work day! I'm glad I could give you a laugh to take with you to bed!

Hi Stephen - This was a surprise! Thanks! I didn't get to use the nut butter though, and I wouldn't want anyone to use the recipe as is! I promise I'll try again for the next roundup - it's certainly the most creative contest around! BTW - I really loved your descriptions of fall on your site for announcing the contest.

Hi Stephanie!
Thanks for visiting - I'm glad you decided to start your own blog (I'm an avid reader of your sister's too!). It is funny how we seem to complement eachother's cooking styles in a relationship, huh?!

utenzi said...

Living life sans rules is a lot more fun! Though on occasion you'll have to toss out an occasional "experiment" but that's the way it goes with both food and science. Now you need to move this experimentation beyond waterfowl!

rae said...

wow, that was really ambitious, making up your own recipe entirely...especially using kinda expensive ingredients.

michelle said...

Hi Utenzi!
Thanks for visiting! Ha Ha, I agree! I think my recipe-rule following nature comes from being a scientist though because everytime I don't follow the protocol exactly I end up with an experiment I have to "throw out!" Cooking is a science in more ways than one! What kind of science do you do?

Hi Rae!
Ack! You must have been horrified coming on here with my duck experiment! (We eat a lot of veggie stuff too!) I was actually lucky and the duck was the most expensive ingredient (which, although I had never cooked, I knew I liked it)...I got the frisee at the farmer's market, and I actually had everything else (I'm a collector of culinary pantry goodies)!

ilva said...

Michelle! I just passed by and saw that you have listed me, thank you!! I hope you're in the kitchen preparing new interesting dishes for us!

Shauna said...


you are braver than I am. I haven't managed to cook duck yet, even though I have some fabulous recipes for it, and duck fat seems integral to all French cooking. But after seeing this recipe, I might just have to try it!

ilva said...

Michelle! I just tagged you for a meme, only if you want to of course!

michelle said...

Hi Ilva - Thanks for tagging me for the meme! I'll get to it asap! I've been meaning to get caught up on the list of blogs I read for quite some time - it's just been put off for too long!

Hi Shauna - Ohhh, I would love to see what you do with a duck! I think I'll definitely be trying it again at some point in the future.