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Sous Vide Duck Breast

Hi guys, someone just left a comment on my blog advising me about this community and I just have to say wow, this is certainly food porn heaven with some amazing photos! :) So here's my first post! It's basically just a cut and paste from my LJ post.

I was planning to make a special dinner for my wife and decided to try something fancy that may very well turn out to be the epitome of a fail bomb.

I was going to try to Sous Vide a duck breast with none of the proper required equipment but instead with just makeshift home kitchen tools. I figured if it was just a basic Sous Vide, a temperature variation of a couple of degrees won't make too much of a difference. Hopefully! Now the main criterion to Sous Vide cooking, of which the literal English translation is "under vacuum", is to vacuum seal the meat. Unfortunately I tried a test run at home using a freezer bag and a vacuum cleaner without much success as you could probably guess :P Well it was worth a try!


And so I went to the butcher to buy the duck meat hoping that the duck breast would already come vacuum sealed! And that it did, but unfortunately it was sealed with a tray made from polystyrene! Probably not a good thing to cook with that. I figured what the hey, and asked the butcher if they had the facility to vacuum seal themselves. Yes they did, booyah! So I got them to remove the tray and reseal it in a new bag (they call it Cryovac).

Done! Now unfortunately this meant I couldn't marinate the meat or seal spices into the bag with the duck to flavour it, but no matter, I'll hope the sauce will be tasty enough to overcome the lack of seasoning. If this whole experiment works out, I'll definitely buy my own vacuum sealer! For the sauce I decided to try making a simple Orange and Cranberry Reduction to go with it as Duck always goes well with orange.

Duck Breast

Now the hardest part about my makeshift home job was to keep the water at a constant 54 degrees for the next 5 or so hours. It took a huge amount of messing about to get the temperature to stablise enough so I could just leave it. Changing the fire strength, mixing hot and cold water, removing and replacing the pot lid..... Eventually I managed to get the temperature to stabilise at almost 54 degrees exactly and so in went the duck where it would stay for the next 5 hours or until it was time to eat!

As a result, in theory, I'll have meat that retains all the wonderfully soft and juicy texture of undercooked meat, but yet is thoroughly cooked. So it's time to test that theory!

Stabilizing the water temperature

To go accompany the duck, I also tried a new recipe of making Potatoes with Garlic, Pancetta, and Rosemary, roasted in Goose Fat. Ohhh.... yeah..... That sure sounds pretty damn decadent. Instead of going through the hassle of rendering my own duck fat, I managed to find a tub of Goose Fat at the gourmet section of David Jones in the city. At $25 a tub it ain't cheap, but will hopefully be worth it!!! Many people seem to say that duck/goose fat is like the magical ingredient in many many dishes. Let's see if they're right :)

Goose Fat

Sprinkling the Rosemary

On the way into the oven

Potatoes with Garlic, Pancetta, and Rosemary, roasted in Goose Fat

The Potatoes turned out wonderfully! Though they aren't as crispy as I would have liked because the pancetta started to burn. Next time, I'll first par roast the potatoes before throwing everything else on it. Hopefully it'll be golden crispy perfect then! The flavour and aroma from the goose fat was just wonderful. It gave the potatoes a terrific flavour highlight without being too rich. It's something I'm also going to be experimenting with a lot in both future dishes and gravy.


When the duck was done, I sliced open the bag, drained the blood, then washed the duck breasts. I then scored the fat side and gave them a quick sear in a hot pan to brown and crisp the skin side. I didn't fry it long enough as I wanted to play it safe and not cook the inside further, but it still turned out great. I'll just remember to sear it for longer next time. The thick layer of duck fat under the skin acts as a pretty good buffer to keep the flesh away from the heat.

And finally, I also prepared a light, fruity, and refreshing salad of Pear and Blood Orange. I figured the citrus and tang of the Blood Orange will help neutralise the fat and richness of the duck and potatoes, plus also compliment the sweetness of the pear and the sauce. It turned out to be a wonderful combination.

For the entree we had a toasted brioche that we picked up from the Patisserie during brunch with tinned Black Truffled Foie Gras. Needless to say, simple, rich, and decadent.



And after slicing the duck and plating the bugger, it was finally time for our special dinner!!! Now I don't normally rate my own cooking. Usually I'm quite content with through very critical of my own preparations, but this was fucking amazing. The sous vide technique had worked out absolutely incredibly!!! This was arguably the best duck I've ever had in my life. Which actually isn't hard seeing as I don't usually order duck in restaurants. I usually only eat them either as part of degustation courses or picking from someone elses plate. This excludes chinese roast duck of course.

But this was truly amazing. The flesh was incredible and hard to describe. It was fully cooked and yet still.... undercooked. There was absolutely no resistance in the flesh and I could not even imagine that this was from a breast. The fibers of the meat were plump, juicy, and every bite truly melted in my mouth. The sauce complemented the duck perfectly along with the salad and roast potatoes. Although next time I'll reduce the sauce even more just to thicken it up more so and add in a tad more fat.

Unfortunately it also was accompanied by no small amount of guilt. But well.... special occasions call for special exceptions I guess! I'm very very happy with my first foray into sous vide cooking, and am really thinking of investing in a temperature controller or water circulator/thermobath, and a vacuum sealer when I move back to Singapore. The possibilities of the world of sous vide cooking is so exciting and I really can't wait to explore them further! Who knows, I may hopefully after a bit more experience be confident enough try cooking it for guests! :)


Sous Vide Duck Breast with an Orange Cranberry Reduction,
Garlic Rosemary & Pancetta Roasted Potatoes, and a Pear & Blood Orange Salad




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Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
thefragrantelf
Sep. 30th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Why, hello :) Hell yes, this is totally food porn!
hazakaza
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
WOW. I've been looking for ways to not mess up duck breast (heaven knows I like everything rare, though, even my pork chops) but this sounds brilliant and actually quite low-maintenance! Wonder if i can get some duck breast locally . . .
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
It's actually really really really easy! The hardest part is just getting the water temp stable. Once you do that, everything else is just a piece of cake :) Because of the huge margin of error, it's really hard to mess it up (as evident because my dish turned out!) :)

When you have time, just grab the biggest, thickest pot you have, put in the hottest water you can from the tap, and bring up the temp or down the temp with cold or boiling water. Once you hit the temp you want, put it on the smallest burner with the lowest heat setting. Monitor for 20mins to see if the temp changes. Keep the lid on the pot on initially, if the temp goes up then leave it off. If it holds for 20-30mins, you're good to go :)
badseed1980
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Mmm, duck! That's duck fat you've got there, by the way, not goose. Canard = duck. Oie = goose. The food looks gorgeous!
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
haha, thanks for the correction. As is quite obvious I can't read French :) The lady behind the counter said it was goose fat so I just took her word for it!
tudorpot
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
It might have been helpful if you had explained what sous vide style cooking was- I thought it was going to be a video.
acrimonius
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
She did, sort of, it's just hard to piece together if you don't already know what it is. Basically, sous vide = vaccuum sealing whatever you're going to cook and cooking it in water held at a very low temperature for a very long time.
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
Sorry, I should have included a tad more of an explanation! And no need to put an "S" before "he". In fact my penis would prefer it if you didn't :)
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Hey sorry about that, I actually did have more of a description in my original blog post about sous vide but I was worried about sounding too patronising or something and so cut it out for this one. Sorry!

The idea of Sous Vide cooking is to bring the internal temperature of the meat to the exact same temperature of the surrounding water. The meat is gently cooked even though it may not look like it at all. Some preparations of meat are cooked this way for up to 36 hours I've read. Anyway, the meat, should the technique be a success, will be wonderfully tender. Because of the gentle constant heat and the vacuum sealing, the fibres of the meat don't constrict and squeeze out all the juices as would normally happen under direct heat. The protein still gets broken down or denatured, but remains wonderfully tender.
tudorpot
Oct. 1st, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
It would have made the post more understandable- Sounds rather like overkill to me, not the least bit tempted to try it.
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
For me, it's just a different way of approaching the traditionally compact and tough cuts of meat which I personally am not a fan of, specifically breast meat. At least this presents a way for which I can enjoy them :)
tudorpot
Oct. 1st, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
I've never had any trouble cooking duck breasts. My only problem is finding a butcher who will sell only the breast now that I live in the booonies.
blacknoise
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Hard Gay Icon! Yay!!
You're using duck fat, BTW. Graisse de Canard=duck!!
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
Re: Hard Gay Icon! Yay!!
Haha, thanks for the correction! I really need to learn French! I just went by what the sales lady told me whom obviously also needs to learn French!
onlyindreams22
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Nice! I would have roasted the potatoes on their own, cooked the panchetta in a pan, and then dumped it the panchetta (fat and all) into the potatoes. :-)
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
I wanted the fat from the Pancetta to mix in with the potatoes as it was cooking. Not sure if it made any difference, but well..... :) Man... fat this, fat that... Oh the guilt, the heavenly guilt....
onlyindreams22
Oct. 1st, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
Hmmm...then maybe you could cook the panchetta first, save the meat, pour the fat over the potatoes roast them, and then sprinkle the panchetta over the finished potatoes?
my_little_voice
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
good lord that looks amazing.
celtic_catgirl
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
omg yum!
kalaam
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
amazing!
kampachi
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
Inspired!!!!!!!
kampachi
Sep. 30th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
How did you know when the duck was done?

If you were using another meat (say bambi or lamb chops with bone) how would you adjust for time and temp?
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Basically the thing about Sous Vide cooking is that it's all formula. As long as you follow that formula, it will turn out perfect every time. There's no direct heat and your cooking time is so long and gentle that you suddenly have a massive margin for error.

In this case, I did research and found that duck breast is best cooked at 54 degrees Celsius, or 130 F, from 3 hours +. Other meats have a higher temp or longer time depending on what they are.

Because the internal temperature of the meat will not ever exceed the temperature of the water, you don't have to worry about over cooking it. For a very basic sous vide, you probably have a buffer of a few hours even before where the consistency of the meat doesn't change, which makes it very forgiving. Of course I'm not talking about the advanced techniques where even a 1 degree fluctuation will ruin the dish :)

Check online, there are plenty of sites which give you the timings for various types and cuts of meat. Follow them and you're golden :) For me, massive margin of error = win :)

miffy_kiss
Sep. 30th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
WOW. can i have some ? LOL

p.s. is that hard gay in your icon??
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
Haha, yes it's certainly Hard Gay :) I love him as long as he's not in direct proximity to me :)
miffy_kiss
Oct. 1st, 2008 01:01 am (UTC)
amazing. have you seen the fathers day one? honestly i'd love to thrust with him haha.
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Haha, I think I've seen that one :) They should send Hard Gay to film a section in Europe or the US and see if he gets his lights punched out or not! Lol....
browngirl
Sep. 30th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
This is a *spectacular* post. Duck is my favorite meat, and reading your detailed account is almost, almost like making this myself. Except that when I licked the photographs they tasted like glass instead of duck and goose-fat potatoes!
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
Duck is actually one of my least favourite meats because I always thought it as pretty unversatile and that it would turn out tough when cooked at home. But this technique has definitely changed my thoughts on it :)

And I hope your screen isn't too streaky now! hehe...
kxo
Sep. 30th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
Wow.
afterthought_
Sep. 30th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thomas Keller is coming out with a Sous Vide book next month.
And Grant Achtaz's Alinea book is out in two weeks.
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
I would love to get a sous vide book. The thing is that it's not as mainstream here in Australia as it is in the US. They have things there for sale like SousVide Magic and other cheap temperature controlling devices available for the home cook. I searched online and can't find anything like that for sale in Australia.

Hopefully I can find a non-US device so I won't need a power inverter, then I can really start to experiment more with Sous Vide cookery :)
afterthought_
Oct. 1st, 2008 12:55 am (UTC)
I've heard of people using temperature controlled rice cookers as a substitute immersion circulator.

Also, a lot of places in the US are cracking down on sous vide. A coworker of mine and ex JG line cook said a lot of people in NY are getting their circulators and vacuum machines taken away.

The logic by the Health and Safety people is that they should be HACAP certified to use the machines and that they're risking anerobic bacterial growth (botulism anyone). It does make sense, I'm sure there are restaurants out there who were vacuum keeping stocks/sauces for weeks to extend shelf life.
ptechnix
Oct. 1st, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, I read that botulism thrives under oxygen deprivation which is what Sous Vide is all about. I know that vacuum sealed meat lasts far far longer than meat exposed to even a small amount of O2, but would think that restaurants would still not take any chances by storing meat/sauces/stock for long periods!

Also places like hotels sous vide their ribs or steaks in advance so when the room service call comes, they can just sear it up in a flash. Hopefully regulation will be increased instead of just an outright ban.

Basically the temperature controllers work by plugging the rice cookers into them. Then sticking the thermometer probe into the water through the steam vent. And the controller shuts the cooker on/off to maintain the temp as needed. I can't find one that doesn't run off the US voltage unfortunately that is both reasonably priced and available in Aust.
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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