Thursday, September 8, 2011

marx chiles contest: curry duck confit with red rice hash

Friend of the blog, Marx Foods, is having a dried chiles recipe contest for which they provide the chiles and in which this post is my entry. They sent me a sampler of dried chiles to choose from: organic habaneros, puya, japones, mulato, aji amarillo, and cascabel. Once all the entries have been sent in, I'll link you to Marx's blog post where you can vote for whichever recipe you like.

Though I didn't use them in this recipe, the puya chiles were a nice find - similar to guajillo, the chile I use the most, but a little hotter.

But I decided to use the aji amarillo here, because they were the only chile that I'd had fresh but not dry. Aji amarillos are a yellowish-orange Peruvian chile, a variety of the Capsicum baccatum species - the same species that includes Peppadews and Lemon Drop chiles. All three chiles are noted for their sweetness, fruitiness, and moderate to high spice level, which was perfect for what I decided to make:

Curry duck confit, with red rice hash.

Curry duck confit, red rice hash

Two duck leg quarters, plus any excess skin and fat from the duck, if available
About two tablespoons good curry powder
Two dried aji amarillo chiles, crushed; use more chile if you want a high heat level
About two teaspoons salt, divided
Coconut fat, amount variable
One cup rice
Two to three very fresh red tomatoes
Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Four small links sweet Chinese sausage

I think it's probably clear that I often cook Southern food. In this case, you have Southern dishes (Country Captain chicken - a fruity tomato-based chicken curry; and red rice - rice cooked with tomatoes and usually peppers, a sort of simplified jambalaya) melded with some Asian concepts (curry itself, obviously; fried rice; and the Chinese sausage in the rice hash).

Obviously the aji amarillo chile is neither Asian nor Southern, but the color reminded me of curry, and the fruitiness works with both the rice hash and the traditional inclusion of raisins with Country Captain.

Curry duck confit

There's a reason I'm not calling the duck "Country Captain duck" - it wasn't cooked in tomato, the tomato is only present in the rest of the dish. Instead, I used coconut fat - the health food section of your supermarket may have it - to cook two duck leg quarters duck confit style. The coconut flavor really permeated the duck, as much as the curry flavors did - you get a similar flavor profile to coconut-milk-based curries.

Duck confit was originally a way to preserve duck in salt and fat. Because modern duck confit is usually made with much less salt, it shouldn't be kept for years on end, nor stored at room temperature. In this case - as in most cases when I make duck confit - the goal wasn't to preserve it at all, although I do believe that the flavor of duck confit improves if you let it stay covered in fat in your fridge for a week.

Cover the duck legs with the curry powder, three quarters of the crushed chile, and half the salt, and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. Add enough coconut fat that, once it and the duck fat have melted, the legs will be covered in melted fat. That's a judgment call, obviously, but it's easy to add a little more coconut fat during the cooking process. The fat shouldn't be bubbling violently during cooking the way it would if you were frying, so it's okay if the level of melted fat comes fairly high up on your cooking dish; if you're worried about anything bubbling over, use a lower cooking temp and a longer cooking time.

Cook the duck at 250-275 for most of the day. You get to where you can tell if it's ready by looking at it, but what you want is for the duck to be very tender, almost like pulled pork, and for all of the fat to have cooked out of the skin; the bone of the drumstick will be at least a little loose. Let it cool on the stovetop and then refrigerate it until you're ready to make your dinner.

Red rice hash

The red rice hash is easiest if you make the red rice the night before. I used my rice steamer - adding the rice, a large fresh tomato (chopped), the rest of the chile, the rest of the salt, and the minced ginger, and adding the appropriate amount of water. This made it pretty easy to get the amount of water correct, because I just added it to the fill line. If you use another method to make your rice, just account for the liquid the tomatoes are going to add. Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a plate (to help it dry out a little) and keep it in the fridge overnight.

The Chinese sausage I used is sold frozen, in packages of four small links (each one about half the size of a hot dog), in Asian markets. It's greasy, it's sweet - sweet enough that the sugars caramelize when you cook the sausage long enough - and it's mild, with a little tanginess.

To assemble the dish

Reheat duck long enough to melt the fat, heat the duck up, and crisp the skin;

Chop up the Chinese sausage and heat it in a pan with the rice on medium to medium-high heat, turning periodically to help crisp the rice. You will not need to add cooking fat; if the rice is still especially wet, just let the sausage cook a while first. You definitely want to crisp up a lot of the rice, so that you have the textural contrast;

Sear two halves of a big fat tomato (ends trimmed off) in a pan with a little bit of the duck/coconut fat.

Serve with lime wedges to be squeezed over everything. The acidity of the lime and the fresh tomato is really needed in order to cut through the richness of the duck, the coconut fat, and the Chinese sausage.


  1. Just checking out the competition:) Your dishes sound like they are loaded with flavor. Best of luck!

  2. What a great dish. One of the best :)

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