Do duck in for flavour
Uccello head chef David Lovett on the Pinot & Duck Trail
What’s the idea behind the trail?
I think that when you have so many wonderful food combos out there, they need to be highlighted. There are so many food fancy movements, such as eating weeds, that a lot of classic combinations get left behind.
Why do pinot and duck go together?
The wonderful, subtle earthy notes of pinot go so wonderfully with the gameiness of the duck. It doesn’t matter how you cook it, it still works. We’re doing a pici with duck ragu and a glass of wine for $39, but will also have duck bresaola and whole roast duck for tables of four.
Do you think people are scared of cooking duck?
They are terrified, they think of duck as something you only have at a restaurant, but it’s not. It’s a little bit more expensive, but it’s now more readily available in supermarkets, most butchers and Chinatown.
What advice would you give them?
Treat it as you would any other bird. It’s not too different to roasting a chicken, you just do it for longer, about two-and-a-half hours. Treat it like a chicken, the dish I did was anatra in porchetta, duck cooked like a pig. Not eat a whole pig, roast a whole duck. There’s so much wonderful fat in there, which keeps it moist. Cook it at 180C for 40 minutes to give it colour then let it cook at 150C, nice and slow. Baste it in the oven with wine and the fat that’s rendering out of it. It’s pretty much foolproof. You can also use duck mince in a dish, the fat keeps it nice and moist, and if you use it in a Bolognese it’s not so daunting.
Do you think people find the fattiness daunting?
People have been told fat is bad and if you eat copious amount it’s not good for you, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it. The fat renders out while cooking. For pasta, skim it off the top of the sauce and a little bit mixed through the pasta almost emulsifies it and ties the pasta and the ragu all together.
Think of duck pancakes, it’s one of Sydney’s favourite things. All that fat gets rendered out through the meat and bird, keeping it moist.
Duck fat potatoes are one of the world’s joys. After roasting, I strain the juices off, put it in the fridge and let it set. It naturally separates; the fat goes to the top so scoop it off and keep it in an airtight container. For potatoes, add a couple of dollops of duck fat to the tray.
That wonderful jelly on the bottom shouldn’t be thrown out either, add it back into a ragu or a sauce. It’s concentrated duck and wine flavours, all those wonderful things that give a dish depth. Don’t be afraid of it.
What flavours work with duck?
Sage is wonderful and not that long ago when figs were ripe I was serving it with fresh figs and truffled honey. Fruits like fig and orange go well with duck. In Sicily they do a duck with marsala and chocolate. Seal the marylands, fry onion, dried chill and garlic, add the duck and marsala. Cook it until the duck is falling off the bones and at the last minute add dark bitter chocolate. You’re not looking for sweetness, it’s the bitterness that brings the dish together.
This was first published in The Daily Telegraph’s Best Weekend magazine on Jul 5, 2014