There are a few things that I consistently order at Thai restaurants - tom kha gai soup, tom yum soup, soft shell crab, and duck in red curry. I love a nice piece of duck in a nice spicy, yet somewhat sweet curry. I try to mix it up sometimes, but those are my favorites that I return to time and time again. Even though I have a serious thing for duck in all of its many forms (Peking duck, Cantonese roast duck, crispy duck, five-spice duck, etc), I rarely cook it at home. I'm not really sure why that is, because duck is fairly easily available in NYC, but somehow it rarely makes it into my shopping cart. I really need to fix that. I also need to make more curries at home, so when the idea struck me to make duck I figured why not go for a Thai curry and kill two birds with one stone. The recipe for Red Curry Duck is one of the least complicated recipes in my Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges cookbook, but I still had to modify it a lot. I wasn't about to start pureeing red Thai chilis and fresh pineapple. As much as I love this cookbook, it really is meant for the restaurant chef and not the home cook. So I tend to steal ideas and flavor profiles from it, but not cook entire recipes. This is as close as I have ever come to actually following a Jean-Georges recipe and I'm still not that close at all.
My favorite thing about this curry was the bright sweetness of the chunks of pineapple. The curry itself had a nice flavor, with a nice lingering spiciness to it, although our Thai chilis weren't as hot as I had expected them to be. I could have done without the carrots, but that is a personal thing since I'm just not a huge fan of cooked carrots. All things considered, they didn't hurt or help the dish. The duck itself was fine, although it would have been a little better if it had a little more flavor to it. Next time we might try this recipe with duck legs so we can simmer them longer in the curry without overcooking them. Or perhaps we will create more of a spice rub on the duck breasts. Since this is the first time we have ever tried this recipe, or any variation on it, we will have to tweak it a bit in the coming year to perfect it. But this was a very good start.
Recipe after the jump!
Red Curry Duck
Adapted from Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges
By Jean-Georges Vongerichten
2 duck breasts
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots or 1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced
1/2 medium carrot, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, crushed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 red or green Thai chilis, finely minced, separated
1/2 tbsp sambal
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Sprinkle duck breasts with s&p on skin side only. Put the duck breasts in a heavy pot or Le Creuset, over medium-high heat. Place duck in skin side down. Sprinkle other side with s&p. Brown duck carefully until skin is golden brown and fat has rendered, about 3 minutes, then flip breast over and cook 2 more minutes. Remove duck from the pan, leaving 2 tbsp of rendered fat behind and disposing of the rest. The duck will render a ton of fat, so you will have to get rid of at least a few tbsp of it. Add ginger, shallots, carrot, lemongrass, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the curry paste, lime leaves, and 1 cup chicken stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is boiling and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Add 1 of the minced Thai chilis. Lower temperature to an energetic simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cutting duck into 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch thick slices. Return duck, and any juices to pot. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until duck is cooked to your liking. Stir in sambal and fresh pineapple, and season curry sauce with salt and pepper to taste.