DUCK + ROOTS
This is a duck dish that tasted great, but I had trouble naming. Hence, it becomes Duck + Roots, but it's a lot more than that. This one is a recipe, but I'd encourage you to take it, twist it, make it your own. If it gives even the smallest piece of inspiration, then it is mission accomplished.
1 Duck Breast
1 Bulb of Fennel
6 Multi-Coloured Baby Carrots, peeled
1 Large, Orange Sweet Potato
1 Red Onion
4 Cloves of Garlic
Powdered White Pepper
100ml Oat cream (or dairy cream)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature (around 40-50°C)
Make sure the duck has been out of the fridge for at least half an hour. Dry the duck skin with a paper towel. Score the duck skin, across the width of the duck, about a centimetre between each scoring. Sprinkle with salt, and set it aside to draw out some of the moisture.
Take the fennel and pull off any little sprouts - they'll be used later for garnish. Cut out the core, and finely slice the fennel across the grain. Do the same with the onion, and with three of the garlic cloves. Put them all in a deep pot (one that can fit a colander or steaming tier) with a lug of oil, a pinch of salt, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Turn to a medium heat and begin the caramelization process. Once it all starts to become translucent and sticky (sticking to the bottom), pour in a litre of water and bring to a boil.
Peel the sweet potato, and cut into chunks. Put it into a colander or steamer, place it over the boiling fennel and steam until tender. The idea here is to exchange the flavours slightly. The fennel fragrance gets into the sweet potato, and some of the sweetness passes down into the fennel.
Once done, remove the sweet potato. Transfer to a pot, and blend until smooth with the oat cream and a dash of white pepper. Put on a low heat with a lid to keep warm. Turn up the heat on the fennel, and reduce it all the way down until it is thick and sticky. Salt to taste. Use the same steamer/colander to give the carrots a steaming while the jam is still reducing. for about five minutes or until they get a little bit flexible. Take them out and sprinkle with salt - an even slightly generous layer. Leave until the salt dissolved in the carrot juice while you cook the duck.
Bring a heavy pan to a just above medium heat - let it preheat for a while - you want it to be a deep heat, but not a scorching one. A lug of oil into the frying pan along with a peeled, crushed garlic clove. Wait thirty seconds until it comes to temperature, then lay the duck down (away from you) in the oil. I give it a bit of light pressure to make sure the initial sear is even. I leave it, skin side down for about 6 minutes. I then flip it over and cook for a further five minutes, basting the skin with splashes of the garlicky oil with a spoon. Finally, I roll the breast to the thick side and give it a fry on that side too. Here, you can either rest it in a warm oven for five minutes.
Rinse the carrot in a vinegar bath. Remove the duck from the oven, carve along the score marks. Plate it up how you see fit, garnish with fennel tips, a scoop of that fennel jam, a runaway of puree and some slices of duck. Mince up a bit of the fried garlic and dot that around. It should be slightly bitter, but not burned. Let loose with the plating, channel your inner artist.
Try to mix it up a bit. Again, this is a bit of winging it, where I happened to remember what I did. Take what you need from the recipe. Don't be afraid to freestyle. Perhaps the puree could do with some heat? Maybe you like the duck cooked differently, or maybe you want to try it with a different meat altogether. If you change the meat, how would you change the accompaniments to suit? These are the sorts of questions that get you in that creation mode. Bulbs on!