The Cook's Book of Intense Flavors: 101 Surprising Flavor Combinations and Extraordinary Recipes That Excite Your Palate and Pleasure Your Senses by Robert and Molly Krause includes recipes like Deconstructed Lobster Bisque; Braised Duck with a Lift; and Sardinian Toasted Pasta with Chestnut Sauce.
Yield: 4 servings
This is a richly complex combination, with the deep intensity of cocoa powder, the bold burst of red wine, and the bright lift of fresh mint. Cocoa and mint often get paired (think minty hot chocolate), as do cocoa and red wine for baking applications (think cocoa merlot cake), but it's rare to find them all grouped together.
In the application recipe, they become a braising liquid for duck (also great for chicken or other poultry), with slow, long cooking that softens and incorporates the flavors. To preserve the mint's zing, add it at the very end. These bold flavors work well with rich meats such as duck, lamb, and squab.
Not to be confused with the chocolate normally found in finished candy bars, cocoa is a product of the processed leftover solids from making chocolate. It is an unsweetened powder used in baking, desserts, and beverages. In this application, it adds a complex chocolate depth minus the sweetness typically associated with chocolate. Use cocoa as an underlying accent-as in this combination-or more pronounced, as in desserts.
Don't substitute white wine for this combination, as it will not provide the flavor profile suitable with the cocoa. Go for a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel (not pink!) for maximum impact. In sweeter applications, consider using a port wine for its increased sweetness and flavor concentration.
Mint provides an element of surprise to this dish, but use it with a delicate hand. Consider it the accent flavor, not a dominant taste, and incorporate accordingly-a sprinkle of chopped mint over a finished dish or combined with other herbs to give a bright note to an otherwise luxuriously rich flavor combination.
Yield: 4 servings
Braised dishes are great for entertaining because most of the work takes place at the front end. Serve this with risotto or mashed potatoes for a satisfying meal.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (140 degrees C, or gas mark 1). Season duck with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, sear the duck on both sides over medium-high heat. Place duck in a large oven-safe cooking pan and arrange thyme sprigs on top.
In the same skillet used for searing, add the onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger. Cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the cooked vegetable mixture to the cooking pan, along with the cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon (6 g) mint, wine, Cointreau, zest, orange pieces, and water. Cover with lid or foil and bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the duck is very tender.
Remove the duck from the pan to a serving dish. Transfer the liquid and vegetables to a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and reduce slightly to a sauce consistency. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon (6 g) mint and lemon juice and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve duck with sauce in shallow bowls.
This page created December 2010
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