Duck Filets and Pastilla with Jus court aux épices, and Charlotte and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

Filets de Canette, et sa cuisse en Pastilla, jus court aux épices, gratin de charlotte et topinambours. A mouthful isn’t it?
Our dinner and lunch services over the last two days were two polar opposites. Where the dinner service was chaotic, and a down-right cock-up, the lunch service went much more smoothly with minimal glitches. This may have been due to any or a combination of the following:
1. We gelled better as a team over time
2. We got closer to figuring out what we were supposed to be doing
3. We got through 24 whole ducks – de-feathering, de-capitating, de-gutting, de-boning, and got better and faster
4. We got the hang of getting yelled at

The dinner service was in shambles. It was my first time seeing a whole friggin duck. It was my first time touching a whole friggin duck. It was my first time violating a whole friggin duck in more ways than ever imaginable. And being face-to-face with 14 whole ducks to clean and dress was making me feel queasy like never before. Talk about a rude awakening. Gone are the comforts of having giblets neatly tucked into a plastic pouch stuffed into a cleaned, pristine, shiny duck. This required brute force. Even the dudes on the team were pulling all sorts of constipated facial expressions pulling the heart, liver, guts and what not out of the birds. Oh yeah, if while pulling out the guts you see green spunk bursting out into your eye and going all over the place, you’re screwed.


Donald's bits (notice the green bile sack. yeah that's the gross stuff)

Breast and carcass

Chef: “Arrêt! Arrêt! Arrêt! What eez theeez??!! You broken ze biliaire?!” staring with a gob-smacked expression at the bright green goo spraying all over the place
Me: “Uhh..biliahwhat??” rubbing green gunk off my face
Chef: “Ze biliaire!! Eet ees bitter and weel spoil ze meat! Wash now! Ze duck, ze chopping board and your face!”

So I washed. Rule 101 of poultry – thou must not wash the bird. The water gets absorbed in and takes away any flavour. So I quickly patted it dry after without rubbing it too much but I got yelled at again.

Chef: “Why ees your cutting board wet?! You must not flood zee duck!” pulling my bird up with its leg and watching all the water pour out from inside in disdain

And the scoldings came in at a regular rhythm without fail…
“Why have you cut off sooo much zee skeeen?? The breast is not to be protected now!”
“No no no! You have done ze overcooked ze meat!”
“Ze breast need cutting in nice way! Zees is ugly! Bad work. Very bad work.”
Demoralising much?

So when nothing was going right with the prep we thought not much could go wrong with the plating, right? Wrong. Like an idiot I elected myself as Chef of our duck station. I had no idea how this whole order system “J’annonce-Je reclam” worked. I was barely coping with the orders as they flooded in and managed to confuse a whole lot of people. What a disastrous evening.

But I survived. Got home, scrubbed off the guts and slept for four hours before waking up to do it all over again for lunch. Even though I was dreading it, I fared much better with the ducks. Much much much. I wasn’t feeling so grim about shoving my hand in it and pulling out chunks of fat and the organs. Plus, I only burst one bile sack! Score!

There were fewer covers for lunch so one could assume that it would be a less hectic service but the pressure was on as orders were coming in a lot faster and we have a VIP in the restaurant – Monsieur Regis Marcon, 3 michelin starred chef. It was an intense few hours that flew by very very quickly. Of course we couldn’t serve last night’s quack so everything had to be perfect. We knew a bit more about what we were supposed to do so we faffed around less and got on with it. Timing and plating were a lot smoother as well. It certainly was the most awesomest feeling ever when Chef tells us, “VIP say ze duck was super. Parfait saisoning, parfait cooking. Good work. Well done.” Wakao!

Canette and all its accoutrements

Filets de Canette, et sa cuisse en Pastilla, jus court aux épices, gratin de charlotte et tapinambours

Main Ingredients
2 whole ducks, cleaned, de-boned, breasts and legs off
4 carrots, mirepoix
4 onions, mirepoix
2 shallots, emincer
3 cloves of garlic
2 bouquet garnis
500ml duck stock
French 4-spice powder (quatre épices)

50g apricots, brunoise
50g raisins
50g pistachios, roasted, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped
50g pine nuts, roasted, chopped
4 sheets ready-rolled brick pastry
100g butter
100g honey

1. Prepare stock from duck carcass if there is none already by roasting the carcass, liver and neck, adding in stock garniture (2 carrots, 2 onions, leeks if you have, bouquet garni) and water. Bring to boil. Simmer.
2. Brown the legs. Add the veg and brown. Cover with stock and season with salt, pepper, 4-spice and bouquet garni. Simmer and braise for 3 to 4 hours till the meat comes off the bone.
3. Pastilla: Remove the duck legs and remove the meat from the bones and skin and place in a bowl. Add in the dried fruit and nuts to the meat. Pour in a few ladles full of stock to give the mixture a good consistency (not too dry, not too moist). Season.
4. Make a paste out of the butter and honey by slowly melting them together. Brush the paste over each layer of brick pastry and slice the brick pastry into 4. Place a small amount of the leg meat mixture into each strip and roll into a pastilla by going from one corner to another (in a zig zag motion).

Pastilla mix

Pretty Pastillas

5. Sauce: Filter the braising liquid with a strainer. Reduce to a demi glace. Season. Add more 4-spice if needed.

Potato and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin
500g charlotte potatoes, washed, peeled, sliced into 4mm width-way
500g jerusalem artichokes, washed, peeled, sliced into 4mm width-way
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
1L milk
1L cream
100g parmesan, grated
Salt, Pepper

1. Add garlic, thyme, salt, milk, cream and vegetables in a pot. Make sure the milk and cream cover the veg. Season and cover with parchment paper. Cook over medium heat.
2. When veg has reached desired tenderness (takes about an hour), drain the veg while reserving the liquid. Reduce liquid by half.
3. Layer in the veg into mini cocottes, lining the small pot with alternating layers of potato and jerusalem artichoke slices. Cover with the reduced cream and top with parmesan cheese.
4. Bake in oven for at 170C for 10 minutes till it gets a golden crust.

Filet de Canette and Plating
1. Cook the breasts in duck fat in a sautoire, skin-side down first. This takes about a minute on each side. Finish in the oven at 200C for 8 minutes.

Breast in pan, skin-side down

2. Cook the pastillas at 200C for 6 minutes till golden and drain on paper. Dust with icing sugar and 4-spice.
3. Serve breast, pastilla and gratin with the jus sauce.

One Response to “Duck Filets and Pastilla with Jus court aux épices, and Charlotte and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin”
  1. MadaboutDana says:

    Wow, this did make me laugh! Actually, I was trying to find a definition of “Charlotte of Duck”, but enjoyed myself reading this entry instead…

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