Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sous Vide Sezchuan Duck & Bok Choy

There are a number of different meats that benefit from Sous Vide, if you were to single out one of them though, I would have to say it is duck.

The reason for this is that good duck has a number of factors to make it enjoyable and a lot of technical reasons for why it is a challenge.

The desirable factors for duck breast are crispy skin, well rendered fat and a pink centre but not raw/uncooked. Get one of these wrong and you end up with soggy skin, lots of fat or meat that is uncooked or dry. The margins for getting these right are quite fine.

Traditionally one would cook in a pan, skin side down, flip and finish in an oven. The challenges around this are that the skin is so thick it acts as an insulator preventing a lot of heat getting in to the meat and I have found whenever you take the skin off the direct heat the skin starts to go soggy rather rapidly. As for getting the meat right, it is also hit and miss. you can use a probe, but preventing the outside from getting too cooked and a well cooked pink centre is fiddly at best.

Sous vide fixes all of this, I repeat, sous vide fixes all of this.

Duck breast protein denatures and sets at 62 degrees. So to cook the meat perfectly, all one has to do is vacuum bag the breast and drop in to a water bath, it will cook perfectly edge to edge a nice juicy pink. Of course out of the bag, the meat is cooked, but the skin is an insipid white. No problem, did I mention before that the skin acts as an insulator? Skin side down on a medium heat will crisp it up nicely rendering a lot of the fat out and not ruin the good work of the sous vide treatment. Don't throw that fat away though, there are many uses for duck fat, all evil, but all enjoyable.

So here is my first attempt at sous vide duck and inspired by my recent visit to Spice Temple I decided to pair with Sezchuan Pepper

Sezchuan Duck with Bok Choy
(Serves 2)


2 Duck breasts
Sezchuan peppercorns (lots, ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle)
Ground rock salt
2 bunches of Bok Choy well washed with outer leaves removed
2 tsp of finely chopped Lemongrass stalk
1-2 Birdseye Chilli de-seeded and finely chopped
Sesame Oil
Soy Sauce

L: Duck seasoned to dry out
R: Vacuum sealed duck ready for water bath

Preparation & Sous Vide of Duck
  • Wipe off duck meat with paper towel
  • Sprinkle liberally with salt & sezchuan peppercorn that has been ground in a mortar and pestle, rub well in to skin
  • Leave in fridge for 1-2 hours to season and for moisture to draw from skin
  • Remove from fridge, wipe off all salt and peppercorns with paper towel removing as much moisture as possible
  • Add some more sezchuan pepper and vacuum seal
  • Place in water bath for 1 hour at 62 degrees

Duck rendering in pan

To Complete
  • Remove duck from the bags, pat down drawing off excessive moisture, score the skin diagonally approx 1.5 cm apart
  • Blanch the bok choy for approx 20-30 seconds in boiling water, drain and refresh in chilled water
  • Place duck skin side down in a medium-hot pan with a bit of olive oil. Skin should sizzle but not burn. Will crisp up in a few minutes
  • While duck is cooking heat 2 tbsp of Sesame oil in a work, when hot add in lemongrass and chilli to cook off but not go black. Add in bok choy, toss for 20-30 seconds add a splash of soy sauce, allow most of it to evaporate and remove from heat

Sous Vide Sezchuan Duck & Bok Choy

To Plate
  • Place duck skin side down on a chopping board, slice through on an angle and turn over and fan out on plate
  • Add bok choy next to the duck. Plating leaf by leaf will help keep presentation neat.
  • Sprinkle some Sezchuan pepper on top


Quite pleasurable and the amount of time to cook/prep is really quite minimal for such a quality dish. Meat should be perfectly pink and glistening, no need for any sauce. The numbing effect of the pepper is unique.

1 comment:

  1. Well this article will get to the bottom of this new fangled cooking method and tell you how you can now do it in your own home. Thank you for a very informative post. more information


Prawn Star