GRILLED DUCK ASIAN-STYLE
The festive duck is done, and we're sitting around here sighing gently, with damfool smiles of satisfaction on our faces.
Early in the day, I cut up a domestic duck, separating and setting aside the two breasts (boned) and two leg quarters, which I dried well with paper towels and set on a plate in the refrigerator so they'd get good and dry.
About three hours before dinner, I put the other parts of the carcass (fat and most skin removed and discarded) and the giblets and heart (but not the liver) in a large saucepan with a carrot and a celery stalk, half of a large sweet (Walla Walla) onion, two mashed garlic cloves, two slices of fresh ginger, a sprig of fresh sage, and two star anise, with water to cover, a teaspoon of salt and a dozen whole peppercorns. Brought to a rolling boil, skimmed off the scum, and then reduced heat and left on a slow simmer for a couple of hours. (I lifted the star anise out and discarded it after about 15 minutes to keep its flavor from dominating.)
One hour before dinner, I put the four duck pieces out on the counter top, painted them with dark soy sauce on both sides, and pointed a fan at them to make them super-dry (an old Cantonese duck technique). I strained the broth, discarded the veggies and put the meat and bones aside for the cats, except for the gizzards and heart, which I diced and reserved. Let fat rise to the top, skimmed it off, and then put the clear broth back into the saucepan, added 3/4 cup dry red wine and the reserved giblets, and continued to reduce over medium heat.
Thirty minutes before dinner, I put the two leg quarters on the grill over direct heat, skin side down. (I also put a handful of Italian eggplants, cut in half and smeared with olive oil, over the side of the grill that wasn't over direct heat, so they'd start to smoke.) Turned the duck and the eggplants every five minutes, keeping an eye on them so they wouldn't burn as the skin turned increasingly crisp and golden.
Fifteen minutes before dinner, I put the raw duck liver (which I had set aside earlier) in a small saucepan with salted water to cover and a smooshed garlic clove, and set it to poach at a slow simmer, skimming off the scum after it came up to heat.
Ten minutes before dinner, I put the two boned breasts on the grill, skin side down, and turned it every two minutes to sear on both sides.
When the duck broth on the stove had reduced about as far as it was going to go, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary and sage and about 1 heaping tablespoon of minced orange, lemon and lime zest in 2:1:1 proportions and 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice.
At serving time, I thickened the sauce slightly with 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in a little cool water, then poured it onto the serving plate. Served the four duck pieces, skin up, and the liver, sliced thin and fanned out, atop the sauce, with a juicy fresh tomato cut into eight wedges as garnish.
The eggplant, a sliced cucumber stirred with nonfat yogurt, and a crusty Italian ciabatta loaf made a meal.
For the wine, I went with an Italian-style Nebbiolo from Southern California. It was a triumph. The wine is highly fruity and tartly acidic, and so was the sauce; like synergized like to make a great combination that exceeded the sum of its parts.