In times when you find yourself having an excess amount of duck breasts in your possession, adapting the zero waste approach seems daunting. Should I overindulge and pay the price or apply the ancient process of preserving some of these fine gifts of earth and reap the rewards in a few months?
Curing and smoking, both separately and together, are tried and tested ways to preserve these lovely duck breasts for months and even years ahead.
What to do?
As I am a fan of diversity I opt to take six of my 12 immaculate duck breasts and cure them for 48 hours in a semi homogenous mixture of 600g of the country’s finest brown sugar and 400g of the purest sea salt Aotearoa has to offer. As I am a fan of a good gin, I add a very generous handful of tweezer picked juniper berries.
I completely cover the six breasts in the curing mix.
I cook the other six as a glorious feast with my chef buddies.
48 hours EXACTLY, have passed. So it is only appropriate that I wash these ducks in the fine Passage Rock Reserve Syrah leftovers from the previously mentioned feast.
I pat the ducks dry in a white cloth with a thread count even royalty would envy.
I proceed to heat a skillet gently while I score the skin on the duck breasts EXACTLY 4.2mm with my razor sharp Japanese knife. With great attention I colour the skin side until I achieve a darker than golden colour.
I decide to smoke 3 of my duck breasts with a smoking mix consisting of 50g Kokako Ground organic coffee and 100g of equal parts Fine and Dandy Chamomile, Floral, Rose and Chai tea. If you’re feeling adventurous, dried herbs from Waiheke such as thyme and rosemary make an excellent addition to the smoke mix.
The duck smokes for about 30 minutes until the meat side has browned a little and gets to cool down to room temperature.
I wrap all six of my duck breasts in the purest of cheese cloths and hang them in a cold and well ventilated area. My outdoor meat cellar or kitchen walk in chiller for example. If you have no walk in chiller, I pity you a little, but your regular fridge is alright too, I guess…
I forget about the duck breasts for at least three months, experiencing little moments of joy when I happen to notice them in my meat cellar occasionally.
12 months have passed. I eat the six duck breasts from last year with same vintage pickled carrots as a glorious feast with my chef buddies. If you don’t have chef buddies, it’s never too late.
Recipe and words by the handsome and talented Damian Husted