Steamed marinated duck breast 合鴨の蒸し煮

japanese cake

This is a Japanese way of cooking duck breast and the recipe is based on one I saw on line. This takes some effort since it has to be browned in a frying pan, steamed in marinade and then allowed to rest in the marinade overnight before it can be served. The end result, however, is rather good and the multiple steps worthwhile. This dish will go with sake, beer or wine, maybe sagiovese or syrah but cab saub will be also good.

Duck breast: I had a rather large duck breast. As usual, I scored the skin in criss-cross fashion to expose the underlying fat for rendering. I rubbed salt and pepper sparingly on the skin and meat side.

Initial cooking: I placed the duck in a dry frying pan on medium-low heat with the skin side down. As the fat rendered, I mopped it up using paper towels. After 6-8 minutes, the skin was nicely browned and quite a good amount of fat was rendered. I flipped the breast over and browned other side for just 1-2 minutes.

Marinade: While waiting for the duck breast to brown, I prepared the marinade. In a small sauce pan, I added sake, mirin, and soy sauce in the ratio of 2:2:1 (I made about 1 cup of the mixture) but you may want to adjust the taste of the mixture to your liking in terms of sweet and saltiness by adjusting mirin and soy sauce). I then heated the marinade until came just to the boil. I poured the hot marinade into a deep soup bowl large enough to hold the duck breast comfortably. I  put the duck breast in the bowl with the marinade turning it once to coat all the surfaces.

Steaming: I used an electric wok for steaming. I placed the soup bowl with the duck breast and marinade in the wok with continuous steam for 8 minutes, flipped the duck and steamed another 8 minutes (total of 16 minutes). As you can see, after removing the duck, the surface of the marinade showed a good amount of rendered duck fat (which should to be removed, see below).

I am not sure this is necessary but I hung the duck breast over the sink with a metal skewer through one end and let the blood and fat drip down (picture below) as it cooled to the room temperature.

My wife was somewhat horrified with this step. She said I was losing one of the best ingredients to make a rich sauce. She was alluding to the “duck press” with which French extracted the very last drop of blood from duck carcasses by crushing the bones using the resulting extract for a sauce. I just said, I was following the recipe and that this may be to reduce the gaminess. To which, she retorted “Why would you want to do that. If you do not like a gamey flavor, what’s the point of eating duck?” (I suspect she has a penchant for gamey flavored meats).

Meanwhile, I put the marinade in a sealable plastic container in which the duck breast can snuggly fit. I placed the marinade (without duck in it)  in the refrigerator to cool. After 1-2 hours, the fat was congealed on the surface, I removed most of the fat and placed the now cooled down duck breast in the marinade. I let it marinade 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

When I sliced the duck breast the next evening, it was homogeneously rosy pink. Since it was nicely seasoned I did not add any sauce or the marinade but served it with just a dab of Japanese hot mustard.

This was remarkably good. Even the fatty layer developed flavor and unctuous texture reminiscent of well-cooked pork belly. Although it takes some time to prepare, this can be cooked ahead of time and is perfect for a small appetizer with a drink. Maybe next time I will try adding the drained liquid into a sauce.

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