Let’s face it. If you want to make anything sound that bit special, say it in French. A shrimp might be worth scoffing down. But a langoustine is something that has to be eaten with the reverence its embellished title deserves. Pommes Anna evokes crisp cotton tablecloths, silverware, crystal glasses and fine wines. With due deference to my eldest sister, “Anna’s potatoes” really doesn’t do much for the imagination. So when I cogitated preparing some sweetened duck legs in a plastic bag, it really had to be Duck a l’Orange Sous Vide. It may seem like déjà vu as I have done Duck a l’Orange here before.

“Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man” – what a laugh.

My British friends, for I have a few, are more against than in favour of Brexit. I also hold an anti Brexit viewpoint. Looking on from the other side of the Irish sea I am aghast at the collapse of the already low standards held by so many UK politicians who seem to be scrabbling for party or personal power, caught up in a perfect storm of self interest. Apart, that is, from the leader of the opposition who takes up position sitting on his hands. Pathetic stuff. Perhaps the olde English phrase of “Opportunity makes the man”, from the original  “Opportunity Makes the Thief” is more appropriate to the sad behaviour we see. I am also astounded at seeing so many of my generation steal the opportunity that they squandered from the next generation. History will judge and not kindly.

Here in Ireland, we are such a bunch of hypocrites. We portray ourselves as being ruddy faced, outdoor types with knowledge that only someone born to wealthy working farmers could possess. We like people to believe we “know a fella” who can get us a poached salmon (uncooked poached that is) or a haunch of venison from “the Estate”, non, nod, wink, wink. When it comes to our feathered friends, a brace of pheasant or wild duck can always be had from “a lad I know”. This is mostly just tosh. Many of our better butchers now carry game in season and one only needs to pull on the wax jacket and green wellingtons to get from the car to the shopping centre.

Duck with mango sauce (8 of 9)I’m a sucker for fruit. I love the taste that makes me feel so alive and that feeling of fresh fruit juice, dribbling through my unkempt beard. One of my absolute favourites is mango. Living here in Ireland, I don’t get that feeling too often as we tend to get a pretty poor substitute for the real thing. The supermarkets conspire with international fruit companies to supply what is oft referred to as ‘market appropriate produce’ to different countries. They also charge ‘what the market will bear’ when setting prices. Hence, we in Ireland end up with mangos that would be more use in a civil disturbance than they are as a fresh fruit. I believe that we overpay for the privilege too. 

I’ve been doing a bit of cooking with amarena cherries of late. A special offer in the supermarket sent me over the edge of reason and I bought more jars than I will need this side of a catastrophic meteor strike. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and I needed to find some additional recipes for these delicious biter-sweet balls of shininess. A small amount of thinking brought the thought of Sous Vide Duck Breast with amarena cherry Sauce. A conversation amongst friends led to the idea of cooking the skin separately and a delicious dish was born. 

Smoked duck with orange ginger sauce (14 of 14)Most middle aged (be kind to me, late 50s is middle age) men have some unusual stuff in their garden sheds. More than half a lifetime collecting tools and labour saving implements and lots of redundant technology means that we have little space for that what really matters. When I say “we” I don’t mean me. No. I threw out all that gardening and domestic repair nonsense to make space for the Bradley Digital Six Rack Smoker. Just what every every self respecting old fart needs in his life.

There’s little point in having the latest and greatest six rack smoker if you aren’t going to smoke something. So this weekend, I smoked a brace of duck. For ye who think duck grow in a foil container in the supermarket, a brace is two. I got these in the butcher so using the old world description is good. What better way to serve duck than with some bittersweet sauce. Hence, I concocted Smoked Duck with Orange Sauce.

Duck with apricot and ginger sauce (1 of 8)There is a little bit of a back story to this post. The back story revolves around the plated shot and the arrival of winter. Having been in France in the holliers earlier in the year, I decided that I should do something with duck. The duck we get in Ireland is very different to the delicious, fatty, plump birds one encounters in La Belle F. However, I was not going to be put off by that. Nor was I going to be put off by the second class apricots we get here on this rain sodden outpost. No, I was going to do a great job with reasonably good ingredients. In fairness the duck here is very good, just not as great as that available over there. The apricots though, needed a bit of help. However, I digress….

Duck Breast and Plum Sauce (8 of 8)We were blown away by the range, price and incredible freshness of the produce in the French markets we had visited on this retreat. On one such early morning visit, I found myself in a state of some trepidation, wondering what to buy for that evening’s meal. The apprehensiveness was brought on by a decision made about ten hours previously. Saying “Yes” to the voice in my head; “Will I open another bottle of Rosé?” was not a good idea. An excess of wine, no matter how pleasant, is of no assistance to decision-making. I couldn’t make a choice. The lamb looked nice. But, what to have with it? The beef looked lovely. But they cut it in such a strange way. The fish also looked excellent but, which fish? How might I cook it? What would I serve alongside?  Too many decisions.

Duck with redcurrant sauce (13 of 13)You can keep a secret, can’t you? Good. Then I’ll let you in on something. Just do me one favour, keep it under your hat and whatever you do, DON’T TELL THE WIFE. She’ll kill me. Anybody who knows me knows I am motivated by getting value. So when I saw nice looking 2 kilogram ducks in a local supermarket at a paltry €8 per duck, I had to get one.

With the bird secured, I got to contemplating the sauce. Orange? No. Been there, done that. Plum? No. Ditto. Redcurrant? Hmmmmm, that sounds nice and they have a lovely colour. Let’s go for it! So began the road to familial deception and an evening of half-truths and ducking the truth, if you will pardon the awful pun.

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