Monday, January 7, 2013

Lucky Duck

Well hello and Happy New Year to you all! I'm back from our South Coast getaway but very lucky to still be on holidays at the moment. To say that our household has been in extreme sloth mode would be an understatement - plenty of book reading, movie watching and long afternoon naps. Food wise, there has been a lot of sushi consumption, as well as Frosty Fruits and Caramel Cornettos eaten in front of the air conditioner as we try to escape the heat. In our hot Australian Summer, it makes perfect sense to eat light, fresh and flavourful food - and nothing fits the bill more than my favourite Asian cuisine, Vietnamese.

This week I decided to make a version of the classic crispy Vietnamese pancake - a restaurant fave for me - but with a different filling from the usual pork, prawn and beansprout one. I'm on a mission to use up freezer and pantry items right now and I didn't really want have to go out and do a special shop for all the ingredients, so I just used what I had. Checking in the freezer I found I had a couple of duck breasts and I thought they would lend themselves really well to this dish. The freshness of the herbs, the aromatics of turmeric and coconut and the tang of the lime and chillies are the perfect contrast to the rich duck meat.

These pancakes are extremely easy to put together and make a perfect meal by themselves, or part of a shared Summer buffet. I served the pancakes with nuoc cham, the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce - also very easy to make and which gives this dish a very authentic feel. I made quite a mild version today but add heaps more chillies if you want something with more of a kick. You can of course fill the pancake with all kinds of things - the pork belly and prawn combination that is very popular, chicken, minced pork, spicy tofu or even fish. You could also skip that all together and just do a super light salad version. Although I didn't use fresh beansprouts in my recipe (just because I couldn't be bothered going out and buying any!) I do think they add a beautiful crunch to this kind of pancake and when I make this again, I will actually get off my backside and go and get some.

Crispy Duck Pancakes
with Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce)

The method I have used for cooking the duck is a really good one to know and one that I use every time I cook it. Follow the steps and you will end up with a super crispy skin and succulent flesh, but without oiliness. Just render that skin gradually and drain off the fat as you go, then finish in the oven, rest the meat properly and you will have perfect duck every time.

In GG restaurant news, later this week we are heading off to Neil Perry's Spice Temple - you might recall last year I reviewed the Melbourne restaurant after having lunch there and really loving it. We are visiting Spice Temple in our own city this time around and I'm really craving chilli at the moment, so this will definitely fit the bill. Many of the dishes are eye wateringly, lip tinglingly spicy and I want to get a big dose of that. Just what you want in Summer I think (although Andrew doesn't share my penchant for the numbingly spicy, so I might be going it alone with some of the dishes!)

We are also off to Matt Moran's Chiswick in early February - taking Lady Nanette (aka Grandma) and my Aunt and Uncle in law (is that a real term?) Meg and Mark out for a special Sunday lunch when they visit from Canberra. I have been curious to check out Chiswick after driving past and seeing their on site garden where they grow produce for the restaurant. This will be a perfect excuse to visit. I will be sure to report back and let you know how it was. I'm told that the produce is really top notch, and that it is the perfect lunch venue, with it's garden surroundings. I'll ignore the fact that heading to the Eastern Suburbs always makes me slightly twitchy - that Stepford Wives vibe, boat shoes, Joh Bailey hair and too much Botox. All kinds of scary! But you know me, if the food is good - I'm going there!

Anyway, back to today's recipe - This is the first time I have had a go at making Vietnamese pancakes and I was really happy with the result. My version is a combination of a couple of different recipes I'd read and I think that this hybrid of mine worked really well. I was flying by the seat of my pants a bit, but the result was something I would happily make again. Hope that you are inspired to give it a try too.

Crispy Duck Pancakes with Nuoc Cham
You will need:
For the pancakes -1 1/2 cups rice flour, 2 tbs cornflour, 1 x 400ml can coconut milk, 1 cup iced water,1 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, Pinch of white pepper, 2 tbs peanut oil

For the filling - 2 duck breasts (skin on), 1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onion, 1 small carrot julienned very finely, 1/2 small red capsicum, julienned very finely,1 small Lebanese cucumber julienned very finely, 1 bunch fresh coriander, handful of fresh mint leaves. Have extra lime, mint, chillies and coriander on hand to garnish the dish.

For the sauce (nuoc cham) - 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tbs water, 1 tbs caster sugar, 1 or 2 red chillies de-seeded and finely chopped, 1 garlic clove, finely chopped.

Method: First, make the batter. Whisk the rice flour and the corn flour, coconut milk, water, turmeric, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Season with white pepper. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon. If the mixture is too runny, add a bit more rice flour. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight to rest.

For the sauce, simply combine all of the ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Now, cook the duck breasts. Heat the oven to 200C. Score the skin of the duck in a criss cross pattern - don't cut in to the duck flesh, you should score the skin only.Heat a non stick fry pan over a low-medium heat. Sit the duck skin-side down in the pan and allow to gently fry for around 10-12 minutes. Gradually, the fat from the skin will begin to render away - drain away the fat as this happens. Take your time with this step and don't be tempted to turn up the heat - we want the skin to be golden and crispy, not burnt. Turn the duck breasts over so they are skin-side up, and allow to cook for about a minute more.

Now place the duck on an oven tray, skin side up and allow to cook further in the preheated oven for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the duck to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into thin slices.

Now to the pancakes - Brush a fry pan generously with the peanut oil. Heat over a high heat until the pan is smoking. Add one-quarter of the flour mixture and tilt pan, swirling batter to cover base and slightly up the side. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the batter is golden underneath. Place one-quarter of the duck breast and a sprinkle of spring onion onto half the pancake and then fold it over. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.

Repeat with the rest of the ingredients until you have four pancakes. Fill the pancakes with the cucumber, carrot, capsicum, spring onion, mint and coriander. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with the nuoc cham (sauce), garnish with some extra lime, fresh chillies, mint and coriander. Serve right away.

Makes 4 generous pancakes.


No comments:

Post a Comment