Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roulade of Pekin Duck Breast with Creamed Sweet White Corn and Morel Mushroom Sauce

Guess what you can pre-order on Amazon? Michael Ruhlman's new book -- The Elements of Cooking.

As you know, Ruhlman is the writer behind The French Laundry Cookbook, as well as a host of other wonderful books. In a piece he wrote to share why he wrote this latest book, Ruhlman said:

It's a way of thinking about food. I wanted to write a book that would have told me, ten years ago, everything I needed to know in order to learn the rest. In order to put good food on the table for my family, in order to make it through a night of service on the line without having my ass handed to me. The Elements of Cooking is a glossary of cooking terms. It is opinionated but it is not dogmatic -- I tell you what defines a braise, and I'm right, but people will argue with me, and I want them to. The Elements of Cooking is a reference book, but it also describes a way of thinking about food, describes a way to be aware in the kitchen, how to see.

Doing French Laundry at Home has already changed the way I look at, think about, and prepare food. I've never had any culinary training, and I'm grateful for books like The French Laundry Cookbook and now The Elements of Cooking, because they can only make me better at the one thing I love to do most, whether I'm marinating foie gras or making a grilled cheese sandwich. You all know I'm a big fan of Ruhlman, and I've already pre-ordered the book. I hope you will, too.

On to the food!

In contrast to the last post in which the mere thought of cheese and sauerkraut made me gag, I was really looking forward to making this dish. Duck and corn with a morel mushroom sauce? Sign me the heck up. Keller's approach to duck in this dish is something that seemed very appealing to me. I rarely make duck, but I do order it in restaurants when the preparation sounds like it will be good. Most of the time, it's overcooked or dry, and seeing this recommendation of a roulade was something I never would've come up with on my own. I couldn't wait to try it.

This was the last week to get fresh corn at the farmer's market, so I loaded up and bought way more than I needed for this dish. It was fun to sit out in the front yard and husk the corn, then come inside and cut it off the cob, blanch and freeze the extra. The weather was beautiful and it reminded me of when I was a kid and my mom and grandfather used to sit outside our house doing the very same thing. It was such a treat to have "fresh" corn in the middle of winter back then, and now I'm looking forward to the very same thing this winter.

I shucked the five ears of corn required for this dish, three ears of which went into the blender to make a purée. I poured the purée through a strainer and let the corn juice drip through into a bowl:

This yielded a little over a half-cup of corn juice. I blanched the other two ears worth of corn, cooled it in an ice bath, drained it, and dried the kernels on paper towels. I put both the corn juice and the corn in the refrigerator until I was ready to do the final steps.

The next thing I did was get the duck ready. I ordered duck breast from Hudson Valley when I bought my foie gras, so all I had to do was cut off the skin, cut it in half, and cut both halves into rectangles. I seasoned the underside with a mixture of salt, pepper and ground allspice:

Next, I blanched a few leaves of swiss chard for the roulade:

After they'd been in the boiling, salty water for about 3 minutes, I put them in an ice bath, then dried them in paper towels. I laid them on a cutting board and removed the center rib. I rolled each duck breast lengthwise, then wrapped it in swiss chard -- 2 leaves per duck breast:

I then wrapped each roulade tightly in plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator for a little more than an hour:

During this time, I soaked the morels in a few changes of warm water to clean them and get them ready for the sauce. When the duck had sufficiently chilled, I removed them from the refrigerator, brought a pot of water to 190 degrees and put both roulades in the water for 7 minutes:

While they were cooking, I made the morel sauce. I melted a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, added the mushrooms, then added a third of a cup of "quick" duck sauce (if you have The French Laundry Cookbook, it's on page 228, and it's anything but quick), followed by some chives, shallots, some brunoise and parsley. I removed it from the heat and stirred in two more tablespoons of butter:

By this point, it was time to take the duck out of the water and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it. While the duck was still wrapped and resting, I made the creamed corn. I whisked the corn juice over medium heat until it thickened, then stirred in 4 tablespoons of butter, then added the corn kernels and a little bit of salt and pepper. You'll see the creamed corn in the final plating.

Last, but not least, I sliced the roulade and plated everything. First on the plate was a spoonful of the Quick Duck Sauce (not to be confused with duck sauce from a Chinese restaurant -- not even close), topped with some creamed corn, then the duck, then the morel sauce:

I can tell when I'm plating whether or not I've got a winner, and this was certainly was. The duck was a little on the rare side, which I love, but some of my tasters preferred it a little more well done. Regardless, we all agreed this was a big hit. I love that I can adapt it as a main course when I have people over for dinner. The crunch of the sweet corn with the earthiness of the morels, the hearty chard, and the succulent, perfect duck made me incredibly happy. Each bite was a pleasure, and if anyone ever needs to buy me a present, I'll happily take gift cards to Hudson Valley so that I can order their duck and prepare it this way again.

Now that we've established that the duck was a hit, let's talk about the creamed corn for a minute or two or nine million, because WOW it was delicious. This hasn't been a good year for the corn crops in the mid-Atlantic. We haven't had much rain, and our corn yield hasn't been good at all. There's one farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that redoubled their irrigation efforts to produce good corn (and they still only sold it for $4.75 a dozen), and it was outstanding. It's the kind of corn you don't even have to butter when you eat it off the cob. This quality corn in Keller's creamed corn preparation was outstanding. I had a little creamed corn leftover after plating, so I hid it in the refrigerator from my guests and heated it up the next day for lunch. It's absolutely delicious. I rearranged my schedule on Sunday so that I can go to our farmer's market with the hopes that there might be one more corn-buying opportunity, so that I can make this again. It's that good.

Up Next: Pan-Roasted Breast of Squab with Swiss Chard, Sautéed Duck Foie Gras, and Oven-Dried Figs

Duck from Hudson Valley
Corn from Musachio Produce at the Takoma Farmers Market
Swiss chard, butter, shallots, chives, parsley and morels from Whole Foods

Music to Cook By: Prince; Planet Earth. I'm a sucker for anything Prince puts out; good or bad, it's always interesting and different. While there aren't necessarily any catchy singles, this album is a lot closer to what Prince was doing back in the late 70s/early 80s, and it has a lot of soul with a side order of funk. If you have $10 or an iTunes giftcard burning a hole in your pocket, this is a good album to download. You won't be disappointed, I promise.


Alex English said...

Mmmm, sounds yummy and a good music choice too! I am really enjoying your's very inspiring. Thanks to you, I am dying to buy the book but can't do it until I move home to the UK from Hong Kong in two weeks time (I'm currently banned from accumulating any more possessions to ship back, and it's incredibly frustrating!).

Jim said...

I think I'd be one of the diners asking for slightly more well-done duck, but man, the whole thing looks amazing. Good job!

Kevin Kossowan said...

I can't WAIT to give Ruhlman's new book a read!!

Rory said...

Looks delicious, and less daunting than I thought...I'll have to go back to my copy of TFL and give this a try. I'm disappointed that you didn't write up the "quick" sauce preparation (a cruel joke of a name, if ever there were one) or the veal stock making process (which I love, but it is certainly an endeavor).

Conor said...

First: if you are friends with people who want their duck well-done, please de-friend them.

Second: I thought of this blog tonight when I was preparing to pan-roast some chicken, then finish by wilting some kale with the left over heat in the pan. "Don't do what she did," I said to myself. "Remember that the pan will be HOT when it comes out of the oven. You wouldn't want to burn yourself."

I am currently typing with one hand in a bowl of ice, over 3 hours after the fact. Ouch. I feel your pain.

Great blog, though!

pdxblogmommy said...

OOoooohhhh...this dish sounds glooooorious.

I can practically taste that corn with the morels and the duck. I have recently become a fan of duck since we have so many fine chefs here in Portland. I, fairly recently, had a marvelous duck entree at Paley's Place which was truly outstanding.

We should go there when you're here.

Rachel Luxemburg said...

We haven't pre-ordered the book yet; I might pick it up on-site if Ruhlman does a signing here in SF, but one way or another we'll own a copy.

Rachel Luxemburg said...

PS -- duck. YUM YUM YUM YUM.

Anonymous said...

I just made the creamed corn with the last of the season corn. It was liquid crack! So unbelievably sweet, just the essence of corn. I never would have thought corn could be soooo good, and can't wait until next season to make it again.

Carol Blymire said...

Rory: I will do a write-up about the Quick Sauces and the Stocks at some point, because I think they're worth mentioning. That'll come this winter.

Conor: Sorry 'bout your hand. :(

PDX: We'll definitely go to Paley's when I'm there. And, I can make this duck for you and the fam. It's that easy.

Anonymous: I think the corn is even better than liquid crack. I hope there's one more week of surprise corn at the market on Sunday because I want to make it one more time.

Crystal said...

Heh, growing up my family would go to the local farmers and buy 3 bushels (180 ears) of white corn (before it existed in supermarkets or in the frozen food section). We'd husk it and clean it, parboil it, and stick it in the deep freeze so we'd have fresh corn all year round. Then we'd jump in the pool to clean off the sticky corn juice.