As an alumnus of “L’Atelier des Chefs” Cooking School in Paris, I am sent recipes via an email newsletter that arrives once a week. I use the term “alumnus” with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek because I took a course at the school for all of one afternoon. I’d dearly love to go back and I plan to. But for now, I’ll have to just enjoy the weekly reminder of what I am missing. What impresses me is how simple their recipes are and what grand titles they give them. Take this one for example. Can you wait to tell whoever you cook for that you’re making Lacquered Duck? And what on earth will they think a Vegetable Mikado is going to be? Finally, how will they ever believe you can prepare both dishes in under 30 minutes!
I am always on the lookout for something new to cook. And if I could, I’d like to invent a whole new protein to supplement the quadrangle of beef, pork, chicken and fish. In any kind of rotation, it would be wonderful to have a couple of other ingredients to go to. Duck is certainly one of them. It’s quite easy to find in New York and you don't have to look far to find it. This is all thanks to D’Artagnan (http://www.dartagnan.com) who started their whole business by growing ducks and they haven’t let up. Even though they now offer everything from Grouse brought over from Scotland to wild boar from Texas, their duck is still a cornerstone of what they sell. And it comes beautifully butchered in legs and thighs for confits and the breasts used in this recipe. And about that Mikado…according to LaRousse, “anything garnished or flavored with ingredients that are reminiscent of Japanese cuisine” can be called a Mikado. What I liked was the whole look of the vegetables on the plate. It was simply a matter of cutting them into very simple shapes. I think you’ll agree the color adds a tremendous amount of appeal to this dish.
Before I give you the recipe, one last little tidbit that I found amusing. I pride myself on my language skills. But when I saw a little bar come across the top of L’Atelier’s recipe asking whether I wanted to read a translation into English, I hit the button. This produced a riot of broken English including the admonish to “Chop the skin slightly” when it meant “score the skin” and my personal favorite which I am still working out; “We do not currently dirty recipe for soy sauce is already naturally salty: it is better to put a little fleur de sel at the end according to personal tastes.” Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Lacquered Duck Breast and a Vegetable Mikado
2 Duck breasts (about 1 lb. each)
1 Persian cucumber (rather like Kirby, these are just smaller that ordinary cukes, which I am sure you can use as a substitute)
6 Baby Carrots, peeled
6 radishes, peeled. ( Use either long red radishes or white ones.)
For the sauce:
1 three inch stick of cinnamon
2 tbsp. sugar
1 Lime and its zest
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Star Anise
7 tbsp. Soy Sauce
3 ½ tbsp. of Sake (or substitute Mirin)
6 Rounds of the Pepper Mill
1. Peel the carrots, cucumber and radishes. Cut the cucumber into slices. Cut the radishes in half. In a large skillet with a good glug of olive oil, brown the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes without seasoning of any kind. Divide the vegetables evenly between plates.
2. Score the fat side of the breast. Put the fat side down into a very hot non-stick skillet. Cook it until it is very crisp, brown and has released a lot of its fat. Turn the breast over, pepper it well, then continue cooking.
3. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, sake, sugar, spices, zest and lime juice. Then, after removing the excess fat from the non-stick skillet, pour the sauce over the browned duck breast. Continue cooking 7 to 8 minutes over medium heat, basting the duck frequently.
4. Serve the sliced duck breast a top the Vegetable Mikado. Serves 2 but if you are not a big eater, 1 breast could likely feed 2 people.