It’s been something of a duck week. I nearly picked up two duck breasts at the weekend, but when they cost £7 and a whole duck cost £8, it seemed a false economy (as buying meat portions almost always is). So after enjoying some lovely roasted duck breasts with red wine sauce and sauté potatoes, what to do with the rest of the duck?
Heston had a bloomin’ good suggestion in Heston at Home: potted duck. Being a Heston recipe, it has quite a few stages of curing and confiting, and I got bored waiting for it so tossed aside the smoking stage at the end. I can’t say I miss it; there’s mountains of flavours rolling along in waves as you munch down through rich, soft meat.
If you have some duck legs knocking about – and let’s face it, who hasn’t… – you could do much worse than piling this into a nearby kilner jar. So here’s what I did based on Heston’s recipe, smoking stage removed and all.
Potted duck (can serve about 8, depending on how generous you are – it’s pretty rich):
9 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
5 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Zest of 1 orange
2 duck legs
500g duck fat
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaves on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes. Tip the lot into a pestle and mortar with the salt and orange and pound to dust. Rub all over the duck legs, store in a sealed container and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, put your slow cooker on low. Add the duck fat, rosemary and garlic and allow to melt. Thoroughly rinse the duck legs and pat dry. Add to the slow cooker and top up with oil if required to cover the legs. Slow cook for 18 hours.
- Remove the duck legs from the fat and shred with two forks. Pack into a ramekin or kilner jar, and pour over a little of the cooking fat (save the rest for roast potatoes or pork belly). Refrigerate for a couple of hours then serve with your best toast, pickles and chutney (I used a fig chutney like this).
The bird only fit for one month of the year is back! December is of course month of the turkey (I’ve tried to buy a turkey at other points in the year and it costs a fortune).
I’d been very pleased with brining a whole turkey last year and was all set to do the same again. Just as I filled my enormous container ready to bath, I started flicking through a few online articles just for any interesting ideas. I came across this article comparing brining techniques by the impressive J. Kenji López-Alt. Most surprisingly of all, he advocated so-called “dry-brining” based on some detailed research. Crucially, you get an easy recipe that promotes succulence and flavour without diluting the turkey taste. And this is certainly what you get. The turkey comes out crisp, tasty and moist and is easily the best way to eat it. Brilliant.
I combined it here with some orange flavourings to bring out the best of the meat and add a festive zing. It could easily be adapted with another citrus fruit or left out altogether. I’ve also paired it with Jamie Oliver’s sensational get-ahead gravy with some turbo-charging flavours, which is definitely becoming an annual tradition in my house.
Many thanks to Jen at GolinHarris for the turkey and seasonal ingredients. The turkey was an excellent Seldom Seen bird and was truly delicious.
Dry-brined turkey with orange (serves millions, as turkey always does):
For the gravy:
1kg chicken wings / drumsticks etc
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 onion, quartered
1 celery stick, chopped
1 glass white wine
1 tablespoon flour
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
For the turkey:
1 large orange
- The gravy can be made well in advance and frozen until required. To make this, preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the chicken pieces, herbs and vegetables and roast for an hour. Bring on to the hob over a medium heat and add the wine. Scrape away at all the crusty goodness on the bottom of the roasting tray for a minute and then shake over the flour. Stir well for a further couple of minutes, and then add the stock pot and enough boiling water to cover. Bring to the boil and then simmer for another 30 minutes, before straining into a freezer bag. Freeze until needed.
- For the turkey, untie the turkey and remove all the gubbins you get with it. Dust the turkey generously with salt so there is a fine layer over all of it. Grate the zest of the orange liberally all over too (retain the orange halves). Cover loosely with a tea-towel and put in the fridge overnight to let the salt do its magic.
- The next day preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the turkey from the fridge and remove the excess salt – do not rinse it under the tap as you will be losing flavour here. Instead use a damp kitchen towel to wipe off the excess. Cut the orange as necessary and stuff inside the cavity. Grind over plenty of pepper and put in the oven.
- Meanwhile, in a pan add turkey trimmings, giblets etc and cover with water. Simmer for 45 minutes to make a light turkey stock.
- After an hour and a half, check the turkey temperature at various points of the bird, looking for it to go over 70°C. Check every half hour until ready, and cover well to rest before carving.
- While the turkey rests, warm up the gravy. Add resting juices from the turkey, any interesting bits from the resting, and add the turkey stock. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Carve the turkey and serve with lashings of gravy, and of course plenty of roast potatoes.
Heston’s latest series, How to Cook Like Heston, is probably the one that could finally convert the non-believers. It’s vintage Heston treading familiar recipes, but taking them just far enough, and just explaining enough to make them accessible for those that want to try. The best example of this is roast chicken: I’ve previously cooked his perfect roast chicken (from In Search of Perfection) and it’s a brilliant recipe. But despite its relative simplicity there are a couple of stages in it that could be intimidating: plunging into water a few times, trying to cook a whole chicken in a frying pan, and chicken wing butter. So I was intrigued to see him show an even further simplified version on the show.
The brining is still there; an absolute necessity in my book. A low solution of 6% keeps the meat moist without making it too strong and cure-like. The slow roasting is also there, “low and slow” as Heston puts it, and after a simple resting back into your hottest oven to finish off. For the roasting itself, you simply have to use a meat thermometer to be sure that it’s done. I recommend Salter’s Heston-branded one but any one will do. It is recommended that you take the meat to 75°C; Heston admits that but says 60°C gives you the perfect succulence. If you have bird of spotless provenance that would probably be fine but I took my mid-range supermarket bird to 70°C.
And it’s tremendous of course. In fact I’d possibly argue that the extra stages introduced by the Perfection version are unnecessary. You get a fabulously juicy, tasty chicken, plump with flavour and intense chickenness. It’s well worth giving a go once – it takes no more effort than a regular roast chicken, just the brining the night before and a bit longer time blocked out for the oven. If you love your Sunday roast chicken, you owe it to your dinner table to try this one out.
The link to the Channel 4 recipe is here. An even more developed and detailed version of the recipe is in the book Heston Blumenthal at Home.
Heston Blumenthal’s roast chicken (serves 4–6):
6% brine (I used 240g salt dissolved in 4 litres of water)
1 bunch of thyme
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for rubbing into the skin
30ml dry white wine
- Remove the trussing from the chicken to allow it to cook more evenly then place it in a container. Pour over the brine ensuring that the chicken is submerged then place in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 90ºC. Remove the chicken from the liquid, rinse with fresh water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray.
- Roll and pierce the lemon then place it in the cavity of the bird with half the thyme. Rub some softened butter on top of the skin. Roast the chicken until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 60ºC (for mine to hit 70ºC took 2 hours 20 minutes but there’s so many factors involved you should check every half hour from about 2 hours onwards).
- Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven temperature as high as it will go. This is a good time to use the oven if you’re doing roast potatoes.
- In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan and add the wine and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil then remove the pan from the heat and use the melted butter to baste the chicken before browning. Grind over some black pepper.
- Once the resting time has elapsed, put the chicken back in the roasting tray and return it to the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown, taking care that it doesn’t burn.
- Once coloured, remove the chicken from the oven and carve. Serve with Heston’s perfect carrots and my perfect roast potatoes, a combination of methods including Heston’s.