Aylesbury Duckling, Steamed and Crisp-fried, and Served with Salad

Never confuse the Aylesbury or Chinese variety of ducks with Barbary or other lean ducks. The native variety has delicious skin, a small but tender layer of pale meat, and quite a lot of fat. It suits roasting and steaming. Barbary ducks (or Challans ducks from France and, to a lesser extent, Gressingham ducks) have a thick, dark breast, and skin which is unpleasant to eat. These are best treated like steaks and served underdone.

Ingredients

  • 1 × 6 lb (2.75 kg) Aylesbury duckling
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons groundnut oil

Cassis dressing

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Cr è me de Cassis
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

Salad

  • 1 frisée
  • 4 small bunches corn salad (mâche)
  • 1 lollo rosso
  • 4 spring onions

Method

The duck

  1. Take out the wishbone. This forms an arch around the base of the bird’s neck which you can feel if you run your finger along it. Remove it by lifting back the flap of neck skin to expose the meat, and then cutting the bone out. It is easier to dismantle the duck after steaming if the wishbone is out.
  2. Mill plenty of salt and black pepper over the bird, wrap in foil and steam for 1½ hours. Use a steamer or a large covered saucepan with a little water in the bottom, in which case you will need to rest the duck on a grid to keep it clear of the water. You will also have to check the water level periodically lest it runs dry.
  3. Unwrap the foil and pour the clear cooking juices into a container for use in the dressing.

The Cassis dressing

  • Mix the vinegar, Cassis and a tablespoon of the duck’s cooking juices (keep the rest of this – it freezes well and is useful for sauces or soup). Whisk in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

    The sweetness of the Cassis should be ‘balanced’ by the vinegar. The cooking juices from the duck dilute the dressing so that it remains an emulsion – not separating back into components – and so helps you eat more of it!

The salad

  • Wash the lettuces in plenty of cold water. Shake dry and separate into leaves. Trim the spring onions.

To Complete

  • Cut the duck into four joints: two legs and thighs and two breasts. Try not to tear the skin, which will be quite fragile.
  • Heat the groundnut oil in a frying pan. Fry the duck pieces skin side down until they are crisp and brown. Lift them on to kitchen paper to drain for a few seconds.
  • Place the salads around the edges of four cold plates, dipping each leaf briefly into a saucer of the dressing. Leftover dressing can be poured into the centre of each plate. Season the salad with a little salt, and put a piece of crisp hot duck into the middle of it. Serve straightaway – the salad will wilt if you wait.
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