Culinary Connections | Czech Republic and France

Duck

Pečená Kachní Prsa

Bohemian dishes are defined by an unrequited love for crispy roast meats, delicious vegetables, fat dumplings and melt-in-the-mouth sauces.

Chance by the Czech Club Restaurant in London and you will smell the wild hog roast with creamy and cheesy sauce and dumplings; the beef roast in blended cream and vegetable sauce and dumplings; the goose roast, sauerkraut and dumplings; the pork roast with sauerkraut and dumplings; and not least the duck roast leg, boiled sauerkraut and dumplings.

Cold cuts of beef, chicken, duck, goose, lamb, salmon, trout, veal and wild hog perfectly roasted served with various salad choices, potato pancakes and potato dumplings treats to be savoured, butter and cream prominent in the cooking, this is Bohemian traditional food.

You get the idea. So did the Czechs. In 2009 a gastronomic festival was established in Karlovy Vary, the town with the big hotels, to push their food into the 21st century. In 2013 Grandhotel Pupp, Queen Latifah’s getaway in Last Holiday, won the prize. Their chefs took Bohemian cuisine onto another level.

They transformed that basic meat-veg-dumpling-sauce combination, producing new culinary masterpieces. One such dish was roast duck breasts, traditionally a simple pan-sealed slow baked plentiful meat served with vegetables, dumplings and sauce.

Pears replaced vegetables, cumin gave an oriental touch, light gnocchi was preferred to heavy dumplings and bacon was added to counter the sweetness with salt. The pear sauce complimented both duck and gnocchi.

600 g duck breasts, skin scored 
600 g potatoes
250 ml chicken/duck stock
120 g bacon, cubed small
100 ml double cream/yoghurt
80 g spring onion
40 g honey
2 pears, halved, cored
35 g butter
20 ml oil
20 ml pear juice 
10 g white flour
Cumin seeds, large pinch
Salt

Marinade duck breasts in honey for 30 minutes, squeeze out liquid and rub with salt, thoroughly seal in hot oil, transfer to oven at 80°C for 90 minutes, 60 minutes if duck skin is thin.

Cook potatoes whole until tender. Make a creamy mash with butter and cream.

Brush all but one half pear with honey marinade and bake in oven for 45 minutes. Drain honey from pears.

With 15 minutes to go until the duck is done, heat three teaspoons of oil in frying pan. Incorporate two teaspoons of white flour into the oil until browned. Add chicken stock.

If the breasts are taken from a whole duck, make a stock with the bones and use instead.

Season with salt and crushed cumin seeds. Add honey liquid, pear juice and half pear cut into small pieces. Bring to boil, reduce. Strain.

Sauté bacon in butter and oil with chopped spring onions, pour in cream or yoghurt, keep warm on a low heat.

Slice duck breasts. Serve basted with pear sauce, potatoes or mash, gnocchi and bacon.

A simpler version is produced when the duck breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper, sealed with olive oil in a frying pan, splashed with a liqueur and allowed to simmer in ground cinnamon, chicken or duck stock for 20 minutes and served with ripe pears dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice, added to the stock after ten minutes.

Another version replaces the pears with plums, using whole plums, plum brandy or red wine and plum jam to make a rich sauce, served sliced with a potato purée, garnished with parsley.

A cold version calls for the breasts to be marinaded in lavish amounts of crushed pepper, sea salt and cane sugar in the fridge for two days, washed and dried, then pan-fried and left to cool. One large pear and a handful of walnuts are combined with a little oil over a medium heat, taken out and followed by onions, slowly caramelised. Iceberg is the preferred lettuce, the dressing white wine vinegar and olive oil.

Dodine de Canard – 1

In her Recipes of all Nations, Marcelle Morphy gives an adaptation of the ‘quaint original recipe in old French’ from the 14th century Le Grand Cuisinier de toute cuisine of this classic duck dish; all to no avail!

The more complicated modern version, triumphed by Prosper Montagne in his Larousse Gastronomique, has completely usurped the rustic version to the extent that it is now almost forgotten.

Here is an adaptation of Countess Morphy’s Dodine de Canard.

2 kg duck, jointed in 8 pieces
600 ml dry red wine
250 g mushrooms, quartered
100 ml brandy
4 onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
1 sprig of thyme
Parsley, handful
15 g olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Marinade duck pieces with the brandy, onion and wine, and large pinches of salt and pepper. Leave for three hours.

Strain the marinade liquid, dry duck pieces.

Brown the duck pieces in oil over a high heat in a heavy based saucepan. Add marinade liquid, the herbs, garlic and mushrooms.

Turn heat down, simmer for 60 minutes.

Serve with cooking liquid, and a choice of vegetables.

Dodine de Canard – 2

This is a modern interpretation of the original recipe.

3 x 350 g duck fillets, skinned
250 g duck liver, sliced
200 g pork loin, chopped
200 g veal, chopped
150 g fat bacon, chopped
130 ml brandy
100 ml white wine 
80 g 1-day old white bread bun
45 ml milk
45 g truffles, sliced (optional)
20 g butter
12 sage leaves, sliced
1 tsp allspice, ground
Salt
Pepper
1 pork caul

Cut duck fillets into 2cm thick slices, marinade in brandy and seasonings overnight.

Soak bread bun in milk for 20 minutes, squeeze to remove liquid.

Brown the liver in butter.

Combine the allspice, bacon, bread, liver, pork, sage, seasonings and veal in marinade liquid.

Soak the caul in cold water.

Stuff caul with meat mixture, tie with string.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Place caul in a baking tray.

Bake at 160°C for two hours.

When cold remove to fridge for 12 hours before serving.

The stuffed caul can also be placed inside a deboned duck and baked in the oven, at 180°C for 100 minutes.

Dodine de Canard – 3

This quick version is cooked slowly in broth.

2 litres broth
1.5 kg duck 
Duck liver, sliced
500 g pork tenderloin, sliced
250 g veal, sliced
2 eggs
15 ml brandy
10 g salt
1 tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp pepper
Butter, for frying

Open the duck from the back, slowly stripping back the skin. Carefully remove the flesh from the skin and excess fat, taking each breast out whole. Debone.

Cut the breast into little slices, like aiguillettes.

Fry liver in butter for five minutes, leave to cool.

Slice the rest of the duck flesh and add to the liver, pork and veal in a large bowl. Season with allspice, pepper and salt, mix in the eggs and brandy.

Return to the spread-out duck, season liberally with pepper, and spoon the meat mixture over the central area. Salt the aiguillettes and lay them evenly over the mixture.

Being all the edges of the duck skin together and sew tightly. Wrap in muslin, tie both ends.

Put in a large pot with the broth, bring to a slow boil, then simmer for two hours.

Serve hot or cold.


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