No–it’s not a single serving, but it’s so good that you just have to make it when there are fresh figs available. So invite friends and enjoy.
Adapted from In Search of the Perfect Meal, a collection of writing by Roy Andries de Groot, pp 148-150.
- 2 Long Island ducks (one about 2-1/2 pounds, and one about 4-1/2 to 5 pounds).
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped with leaves
- 3 springs of fresh parsley
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 12 whole fresh figs (I like black mission, but any good ripe fresh fig will work)
- 2 ounces French Orgeat, almond syrup
- about 2 cups chicken bouillon
- 1 cup white wine, preferably Sancerre
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons sweet butter
Ducks: Preheat the oven to 350 ° F. Rub the ducks inside and outside with the lemon. Prick the underside skin to allow fat to run out. Place the ducks on a rack in an open roasting pan and roast until the breasts are pink (usually no more than about 45 to 50 minutes).
Stock: While the ducks are roasting, put chopped onion, chopped carrots, chopped celery and parsley springs into a 2-quart sauce pan. Pour a pint of cold water over these and bring rapidly to a boil. Stir, and reduce heat to a simmer and continue simmering until the duck carcass is ready to go in.
Figs: Put figs in a 1-quart saucepan. Dribble the Orgeat over them and pour enough of the chicken stock over them to cover. Heat this to a gentle simmer and continue simmering, covered, until the figs are warm and puffed up (usually 5 to 10 minutes). The stock should be vaguely sweet with the fig juice. Remove the figs (carefully) and keep warm in a covered container.
Now boil the fig-chicken stock hard to reduce to about half and concentrate its sweetness. Hold covered until you need it later.
Back to the roasting ducks: When the breasts are pink, put the larger one in a covered casserole and let stand tightly covered over extremely low heat on top of the stove, gently ripening in its own juices for about an hour.
Carve off the breast, legs, thighs and wings of the smaller duck and put them into the covered casserole with the larger duck.
Chop the carcass of the smaller duck into pieces, about 8 pieces, and put them into the 2-quart saucepan with the vegetables; press the pieces down into the liquid fairly tightly. If necessary add more water to cover. Continue simmering, covered, until the stock is needed later.
Skim off the fat from the pan in which the ducks were roasted and set the pan over a burner, and deglaze with the cup of white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the fond. Pour this deglazing mixture into the simmering duck bouillon.
Completion and assembly: Preheat grill. Strain the duck bouillon, return to the saucepan and boiling it hard to reduce it and concentrate the flavor. Reheat the fig bouillon to just bubbling. While finishing the sauce here, you must taste continually the duck and the fig stocks to get them just right to combine. If the sauce is too sweet it will overwhelm the duck–you want just a very delicate on sweetness in this sauce so that you still appreciate the “duckiness” of the meat. Defat the duck stock. Pour the fig bouillon into the duck stock, add the 2 tablespoons of shallots, and continue boiling to further reduce the combined sauce.
Place the figs on a platter and quickly glaze them under the broiler–for just a minute or two.
Now, carve the duck (the whole bird) and the parts from the casserole. Set portions on warmed plates and garnish with the glazed figs. When the sauce has just the right sweetness, turn the heat down to below simmer, add a fair amount of white pepper–enough to cut across the sweetness of the sauce, but not enough to “prick your throat”. Do not let the sauce boil after adding the pepper or it will have a bitter taste.
When the sauce is just right, monter au beurre. (Melt the butter on the surface, a small piece at a time, stirring in. This will give the sauce a luxurious, velvety mouth-feel. Pour the sauce around (not over) the duck and figs on the plate. Rush them to the table.
Wine: Because of the sweetness of the sauce, red wine is not quite right with this dish. The recommended wine (from the French restaurant where this dish is served) is a white burgundy. I did this with a Meursault and it was luxurious. For domestic wine, a California PinotChardonnay from the Alexander Valley was recommended.
Even though this is a fairly complicated preparation and definitely not a single serving it is an exquisite dish. If you have duck at other times, by all means make stock from the carcasses and freeze it. If you have the stock, you can do this sauce at any time you have the fresh figs available and perhaps serve with pan-seared duck breast without roasting the whole bird.
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