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Braised Duck (or Mussels) with Red Curry

2 Five-pound ducks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 c Rendered duck fat or vegetable oil
16 md Shallots; thinly sliced
8 Garlic cloves; minced
2 tb Freshly grated ginger
1/4 c Red curry paste; see recipe
5 c Brown duck stock or chicken stock
1/4 c Fish sauce
1 cn Coconut milk; (14 oz)
3 tb Palm sugar or brown sugar
1/4 c Fresh lime juice
2 bn Cilantro--chopped; stems trimmed
2 Limes; peeled and diced
1 bn Scallions; white & 1/2 green part only, trimmed & thinly sliced along diagonal
1 Recipe jasmine rice; see recipe


Bone ducks and remove the skin. (You can ask a butcher to do this, reserving the carcass for stock making and skin for rendering.) Cut breasts in half, then into about 3 pieces across the width. Chop legs and thighs into about 4 pieces each. (Remember: You want to start with generous pieces of meat, since they will shrink when cooked. Don't worry about cleaning the tendons, since they will soften with long cooking.) Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.


Heat rendered fat in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven over high heat. Brown duck on all sides, then transfer meat to a platter.


Reduce heat to medium low and cook shallots until well browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, increase heat to medium high and cook about a minute, then add curry paste. Cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes.


Return duck meat to pot along with brown duck stock and cook at a slow simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, about 40 minutes.


With a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a platter and reserve in a warm place. Puree sauce in a blender and strain back into pot. Cook over high heat until liquid is reduced by one third. Stir in fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice, and remove from heat. Stir duck back into warm sauce. Ladle stew over Jasmine Rice. Garnish with remaining ingredients and serve immediately.


Yield: 6 servings


Variation RED CURRY WITH MUSSELS: 4 pounds fresh mussels, washed and debearded


Prepare above recipe, substituting vegetable oil instead of duck fat, and fish stock in place of duck stock. After cooking the sauce, add the mussels along with the stock and simmer mussels until shells open. After transferring to platter, remove mussels from shells and stir into warm sauce. Yield: 6 servings


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