Roast duck is considered fatty and greasy by many people and consequently fairly off-putting. Where the duck is cooked appropriately however it can be beautifully tender and succulent without any sign of these negative traits. As a rich and almost gamey meat, duck is very different from other poultry such as chicken and turkey and works very well served with a variety of fruits and fruit based sauces. While orange is perhaps the most popular fruit associated with duck, these pears poached gently in spiced red wine worked very well. As it is a meat commonly used in Chinese cuisine, the pak choi and mushrooms provided a further tasty accompaniment.
Roast duck leg on a bed of fried potato slices with wine poached pears, pak choi and mushrooms
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- 1 whole duck leg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium baking potato
- 1 small pak choi (also known as Chinese cabbage)
- 3 chestnut mushrooms
- ¼ small white onion
- 2 small sweet pears
- ¼ bottle approximately of Cabernet Sauvignon wine (Merlot or Shiraz would also work well)
- Small piece of cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- ¼ inch thick slice of ginger root (peeled)
- Vegetable oil for frying potatoes
Start your oven heating to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.
Pierce the skin of the duck leg all over (around a dozen times) with a metal skewer or one of the outside tines of a fork, taking care not to damage the flesh. Season the flesh side well with salt and pepper.
The leg should then be laid skin side up on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Season the skin well with salt. An ovenproof dish should also be placed under the leg and rack to collect the dripping fat, which is later going to be used to saute the pak choi and mushrooms. Put the leg in to the heated oven for one and a half hours.
Wash the potato but don't peel it and slice across the way to a thickness of around a quarter of an inch. Put the slices in to a bowl of cold, salted water to steep while the duck is cooking. This serves to remove the excess starch and also to start seasoning the potato slices.
Rinse the pak choi and mushrooms in a colander under running cold or lukewarm water and pat carefully dry with kitchen paper.
When the duck leg comes out of the oven, lift it to a heated plate with cooking tongs, cover with aluminum foil and leave it to rest for ten to fifteen minutes while you prepare the accompaniments.
Different varieties of pears are available in different parts of the world but try to obtain a sweet variety and ensure they are ripe but not overly soft. Advice should be sought in store if you are unsure of which type to purchase.
Wash the pears but careful peeling is optional. Pull away any remaining parts of protruding stalk (it should come away fairly easily) and cut the pears in half down through the center. Use a teaspoon to carefully scoop out the core and seeds, which should be discarded.
Put the pears in to a pot just large enough to contain them in a single layer and pour in enough red wine just to ensure they are covered. Add the star anise, cinnamon and ginger and bring to a very gentle simmer.
Lift the potato slices from the water and lay them in a single layer on two or three sheets of kitchen paper. Use more kitchen paper to pat the top sides dry.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in to a large, non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the potato slices in a single layer and season with some black pepper only as they have already been steeped in salted water. Fry for an initial five minutes.
Carefully turning the pears in the spiced wine every two or three minutes with a spoon will ensure even poaching and color.
After the first five minutes or so, turn the potato slices to fry for a similar period of time on their second sides.
Very carefully - and remembering to protect your hands with oven gloves - pour the hot duck fat from the collecting dish in to a small non-stick frying pan. There probably won't be much fat but you will have enough for the desired purpose. Put the pan on to a medium to high heat to bring the fat back up to frying temperature. Roughly chop the pak choi and mushrooms and fairly thinly slice the peeled onion quarter. Saute in the hot duck fat for two to three minutes, stirring the mix around all the time with a wooden spoon.
Lift the potato slices briefly to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain before arranging them in an overlapping circle in the center of a square serving plate. Cooking tongs make this job a little easier.
Lift the rested duck leg on to the top of the potato assembly. Lift the pear quarters from the poaching liquid one at a time with a slotted spoon and place one in each corner of the plate. Divide the pak choi and mushrooms between the four sides of the plate and serve immediately.