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Duck with Fresh Rhubarb Sauce
By Charlie Burke
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Cooking duck at home is a daunting task for some, probably because duck is
known to be fatty and its preparation is thought to be complicated. There are, in
fact, many variations suggested, including boiling prior to roasting, long low
temperature preparations and high temperature roasting. Even more so than
chicken or turkey, a whole duck presents problems in preparing it so that the
legs and breast meat are optimally cooked. Things become much simpler when
the duck is sectioned, permitting the leg/thigh pieces and the breasts to be
prepared separately.

This recipe offers a preparation of the leg and thigh meat with moist, tender
results that mimic the Southern French confit of duck without immersing it in
fat. The seasoned legs are slow roasted on a rack, permitting excess fat to drip
away. This can be done ahead and the legs reheated before serving. The breast
meat is pan seared like a steak and is prepared in less than fifteen minutes.

With rhubarb in season, I felt the tartness of rhubarb would combine well with
the richness of the duck, and, because duck is a mainstay in oriental cuisine, the
addition of ginger, star anise and Chinese five-spice to the sauce seemed
appropriate. This is an easy meal for entertaining and may well become a family
staple, as it has with us. Sauce is not a necessity but does add a separate
dimension to the dish.

A good-quality purchased chutney would go well, as would reduced
commercial balsalmic vinegar (boil ½ cup over medium heat until reduced by
half and stir in two tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup).

Fresh duck is rarely available in markets, but most carry frozen. Far better
would be to buy from local farms. The New Hampshire Department of
Agriculture lists
livestock sources in New Hampshire, and ducks are listed
under poultry.

Residents of other states will find similar sources through their state
Departments of Agriculture.

Rhubarb sauce:

8 cups fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger
2 star anise
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
Dark brown sugar or maple syrup to taste

Place rhubarb, salt and wine into a heavy bottomed pan (do not use aluminum).
Over medium heat, cook for 10 – 15 minutes until rhubarb is very soft. Place a
fine strainer over a bowl and strain rhubarb; do not push down on rhubarb so
that sauce will be clear.

When juices stop running, return to pan, adding all remaining ingredients
except sugar or maple syrup. Reduce over medium heat until half original
volume. Add sugar or syrup to taste. Sauce should be slightly sweet, but still
tart. If made ahead, refrigerate and reheat before serving.

Duck legs and thighs, four servings:

4 duck legs with thighs attached
Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Place duck legs on a wire rack over roasting pan
Roast for 2 ½ hours
Turn off oven and keep legs in oven until ready to serve (if prepared ahead,
reheat in 175 degree) oven

Duck breasts, four servings:
4 duck breasts, trimmed of excess fat and skin scored in 1 inch diamond pattern
(slice down to meat but do not cut below fat)
Season both sides liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat sauté pan over medium – high heat
Place breasts skin side down and cook until skin is dark and crisp – a large
amount of fat will render (6-8 minutes)
Turn and cook until medium (3 – 5 minutes)
Remove from pan and pat with paper towels to remove fat
Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes

To serve:

Place one leg on warmed serving plate, along with vegetable (asparagus,
spinach or other green vegetable) and potato or rice
Slice breasts and fan onto plate
Drizzle warm rhubarb sauce over duck and serve

Serve with a fruity red wine such as an Oregon Pinot Noir and be sure to add
fresh New England duck to your kitchen repertoire for family and friends.

About the author Charlie Burke, an organic farmer and avid cook, is the vice president
of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm to
Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Duck, with Fresh Rhubarb Sauce.  Click here for more recipes...
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