Thursday, April 12, 2012

A slow-roasted duck pasta for the sensible

I pressed a thin veil of tissue against my wounded knuckle, watching it absorb the red seeping out. “Stupid grater,” I mumbled as my husband laughed, reasoning with me that it was in reality a simple gadget, incapable of stupidity and that I was what my squash coach once called me — butter fingers.

Despite my limited skill and short-lived efforts at squash and grating, I was determined to prove that I was anything but the clumsy Ms. Butterfingers my close ones made me out to be. Yes, I occasionally trip over raised sidewalk tiles and I'll admit that my unsuspecting knee has had troublesome encounters with protruding table corners, but surely those repeated incidents could not justify calling me such ludicrous names.

Unlike my waned interest in thumping a ball to have it come back at me, I learned to grate correctly and to keep my knuckles away; but most importantly, I threw out my bizarre purchase of a grater that was comprised of an oval-shaped plastic refrigerator box, with interchangeable metal grater covers, that would not stand upright and might with the right lighting excite eager horror movie goers to enter my world of slashed knuckles. In its place, a pleasant box grater arrived with a comfortable white handle and tubed rubber at the base to limit sliding. Soon it was evident that it was sensibility that I might have been lacking and not skill.

New mothers will buy baby food makers, hoping to join the next line of supermoms who make their own gourmet baby food; but could they not use a regular food processor or blender in its place? I am not one to judge for many of us have fallen victim to these gadgets that are piled onto the clutter already accumulating in our kitchens.
You'll find people excited about their new buys: specialized banana slicers that come in sunshine yellow, blue rubber tubes dedicated to easy garlic-peeling, uni-tasking asparagus peelers and even skinny ovens pushed as pizza makers. Do we need any of this?

After a good year of buying products I felt would make my life easier, I bravely faced up to my messy drawers packed with impulse buys and admitted to only needing some strong tools, an organized mind and a focused eye on time.
Getting rid of my miserable garlic press that had only been used once, I understood why Anthony Bourdain, chef and author, called it an “abomination” and connected with his suspicion of the viscid juice that resulted to present us garlic-press owners with something he insists “ain't garlic”.

It would benefit us all to instantly cease the silly spending and concentrate on technique — how to use a knife properly, what knives to buy and how to sharpen them. If we insist on churning out better pizzas at home, it's best to use unglazed quarry tile as a stone to extract moisture and crisp your crust. The kitchen has nothing to do with talent and equipment; there's only practice and an honest desire to gain in skill.

This recipe asks for no fancy gadgets. It commands nothing but time and a sharp knife. Rewarding you with the warmth of steaming pasta, the peppery flavor of rocket and the richness of duck meat, it requires nothing more than a casual night at home as you contemplate the inevitable spring cleaning soon to come.
Pasta with slow-roasted duck and wilted rocket
For the duck, you'll need:
3 duck legs, shredded
Extra salt
½ cup of melted ghee
Salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:
200 grams of pasta, cooked al dente
2 handfuls of rocket
1-2 tablespoons of duck fat (from the duck legs)
1 tablespoon of butter
4 clove of garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of walnuts, roughly chopped

Dry the raw duck with a hairdryer. Prick the duck skin with a needle at an angle to avoid piercing the flesh. This allows the duck fat to seep out and crisps the skin. Salt the duck all over using more salt than usual and let it rest for an hour. In a small baking dish small enough to hold them snugly, pour the ghee then place the duck legs skin side up. Pop in the oven and turn the temperature to 140 degrees Celsius. Cook the duck gently for 2 hours. After 1½ hours, the duck should be submerged in melted fat and the skin should begin to crisp. When this happens, turn up your heat to 190 degrees Celsius and leave to crisp until a golden brown. This should take 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before eating whole or shredding for pasta.

In a large pan, melt the duck fat and butter then add the garlic. Cook on medium heat for a minute until garlic is fragrant then add the walnuts and stir. Add the rocket and cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Add the shredded duck, season with pepper liberally and salt minimally. Cook for 2 more minutes then add the cooked pasta and toss. Let the flavors meld for 2-3 minutes and serve up individually.

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