The combination of duck and fruit is well known, with canard à l’orange as the most famous rendition. I got the idea to combine duck with a spiced plum chutney from Jamie Oliver and have been making this for years, ever since I’ve had a stove top smoker (that I use with separate burners since I have an induction hob and since it’s easier to use outside anyway). I love hot smoking since it’s so easy, very tasty, and always gives a lot of oohs and aahs when I serve something straight from the smoker to my friends. Some slices of smoked duck breast with a bit of chutney make for a wonderful appetizer.
For this recipe you need tender fresh duck breasts. Do not use frozen duck breasts, since freezing the meat will give it a ‘livery’ taste and make it less juicy. In the USA for tender duck breast pick the Pekin variety if you have the choice rather than Moullard or Muscovy since Pekin is more tender; the others are by-products of the foie gras industry.
The amount of chutney is sufficient for 4 duck breasts. You could also make just 2 and freeze half the chutney. Unlike the duck meat, the chutney doesn’t suffer much from freezing.
For 6-8 servings as an appetizer
4 Tbsp freshly chopped sage leaves
2 Tbsp coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
500 grams (1.1 lbs) ripe plums
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar, preferably brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
pinch of ground cumin
pinch of ground cloves
1 tsp dried sage
freshly grated orange zest
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Refrigerate the duck breasts for a few hours to let the sage salt penetrate the meat. This is a bit like brining but without the water, which would partly replace duck juices with water (and that is not a good idea).
You can now easily separate the halves. One will have the pit that you should be able to remove easily with your fingers. If it’s stuck, your plums were not ripe! (Plums continue to ripen after they have been picked, so it pays off to wait if needed.)
Put the brown sugar in a frying pan and add just enough water to dissolve it (i.e. only a few tablespoons).
Add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil over high heat.
Let it cool and make sure not to serve the cinnamon stick or the star anise. (You could take it out straight away or leave it in for additional flavor.)
Put smoking dust into the smoker (about 2 Tbsp). Insert the probe of an instant read thermometer (if you have one) in one of the duck breasts, making sure that the tip of the probe is in the center of the meat where it is thickest. Put the duck in the smoker with the skin side up.
Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. The duck breasts will continue to cook, so you will end up with a nice pink medium. Please do not cook duck breast (or any meat or fish, for that matter) to death.
This one is quite difficult to pair because of the sweetness of the chutney. Because plums are red fruit and duck is a red meat, a red wine works better than a white wine. So a very good pairing would be a recioto della valpolicella, or another red dessert wine with some tannins. An amarone could work if it is not too dry. Another option would be a port.