Citizens, your leader, the magnificent TFD, is celebrating a birthday soon!
As I enter the next phase of my beneficent and glorious reign, my thoughts go back to the halcyon days of my youth when a birthday dinner in New York City meant a trip to one of the finest restaurants of the 80’s – the Four Seasons!
Opened in 1959, the Four Seasons is associated with a number of milestone firsts in the hospitality industry. The Four Seasons is credited with introducing the idea of seasonally-changing menus to America. It was the first destination restaurant to print its menus in English. The Four Seasons was also the first restaurant in the US to cook using fresh, wild mushrooms.
The Four Seasons Crisp Duck With Orange Sauce And Fig Garnish was perhaps one of their most famed dishes, created by super-chef Seppi Renggli.
The Four Seasons has been famous for its roast duck since Chef Renggli introduced this recipe in 1976.
It was right after Tom Margittai and Paul Kovi bought the restaurant from Restaurant Associates, their former employer, and they had a new refrigeration system and a convection oven installed.
Says Chef Renggli now: “I saw the oven, and all this refrigerator space—rack after rack, and it had a fan — and I said to myself ’Oh, I can make Peking duck now.’”
Renggli’s recipe is not truly the Chinese banquet dish. The Four Seasons serves its duck with orange sauce, not in the Chinese style, though Renggli is well-acquainted with Asian seasoning and cooking, since he is married to an Indonesian woman.
His goal was not to create authentic Peking duck, but seriously crisp duck skin. He achieved this by the Chinese method of letting the skin dehydrate through several days of air circulation in the refrigerator, then painting it with what amounts to a teriyaki glaze, a coloring and flavoring mixture of soy sauce and honey with spices.
The drying is easily done in a home kitchen, if you are willing to monopolize a refrigerator shelf for three days. A convection oven is not needed. The following recipe is devised for a conventional oven.
This remains one of my favorite classic recipes and I am honored to share it with you, my Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Recipe adapted from The Four Seasons, by Tom Margittai and Paul Kovi (Simon and Schuster) Copyright 1980
two 4 ½-pound ducks (if frozen, thoroughly defrosted), necks removed and reserved for the sauce
1 ounce, fresh ginger – peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic – unpeeled and cut in half
The zest (colored part of the peel) of ½ an orange – cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons, crushed coriander seeds
1 ½ teaspoons, black peppercorns
1 cup, soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
For Roasting the duck:
¼ cup, loose jasmine tea leaves
1 tablespoon, ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional but strongly recommended)
BASIC DUCK SAUCE – Makes about 1 ½ cups
1 tablespoon, vegetable oil
the necks and wing tips from 2 ducks
1 celery rib – chopped
1 carrot – chopped
1 onion – chopped
1 bay leaf
3 large mushrooms – cut in half
4 cloves, garlic
1 tablespoon, freshly crushed black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons, tomato purée
2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
1 cup, dry red wine
4 cups, Brown Veal Stock or beef stock
cavity juices reserved from 2 crisp ducks (see preceding recipe)
ORANGE SAUCE: Makes at least 1 cup – enough for two ducks
1 ½ cups, Basic Duck Sauce (see preceding recipe)
2 tablespoons, Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons, currant jelly
2 tablespoons, lightly salted butter
freshly ground black pepper
FIG GARNISH FOR CRISP DUCK:
vegetable oil for deep frying
4 to 6 walnut halves
1 tablespoon, raisins
1 tablespoon, candied fruits
8 ripe figs
2 cups, all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups, beer
For the duck:
Cut off the wings at the second joint, and reserve for the sauce.
Cut or pull away all the fat from the duck’s cavities.
Clear a rack in your refrigerator and place the ducks on it, [if you have all glass shelves, place the ducks on wire racks so air can circulate underneath them] arranging the ducks breast sides up and a few inches apart.
It is important that air be allowed to circulate freely around the ducks so the skin will dry. You can place a large baking pan on another rack below the rack with the birds to catch drippings [or, in the case of glass shelves, simply place the baking pan immediately under the wire racks].
Leave the birds for 3 days.
Prepare the Marinade:
Place all the ingredients in a jar. Shake well to combine and refrigerate for 3 days, shaking daily.
About 3 hours before you plan to serve the ducks, remove them and the marinade from the refrigerator.
In handling the ducks, avoid pressing on the breasts since this will leave dark spots after roasting. With the point of a small sharp knife, prick the skin all over, except for the breasts.
Place a rack over a shallow pan and place the ducks on the rack. Strain the marinade through a sieve into a bowl. Brush the marinade liberally over the entire skin surface of both ducks.
Spoon the remaining marinade into the ducks’ cavities. Allow the ducks to dry, breast side up, on the rack for 15 minutes. Scrape any marinade drippings from the pan and spoon those drippings into the cavities.
Adjust the oven racks so that one is at the lowest level and the other is directly above the first.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Fill a large roasting pan with 3 quarts of water and the tea leaves. Place the pan on the lower oven rack. Position the ducks directly on the higher oven rack over the roasting pan. (Do not let the ducks touch each other.)
Leave the ducks to roast undisturbed for 1 ½ hours. When the ducks are cooked, the skin should be shiny, dark caramel in color and very crisp.
Remove the ducks, still on the oven rack, to your work area. Insert a kitchen fork into the neck cavity of one duck and tip it over a bowl to collect the juices. Repeat with the second duck. Set the juices aside for the sauce.
Place the ducks on the carving board and sprinkle with the Sichuan pepper. Allow them to stand for at least 10 minutes before carving.
To Carve the Ducks:
Place one duck on your carving board, breast up, with the legs facing you. Have ready a fork and carving knife. Rest the fork against the left wing to steady the duck on the board. With the knife, make an incision through the skin just above the right leg.
Press the knife blade to the right, forcing the leg away from the body and exposing the thigh joint. Work your knife through the thigh joint and cut down to the board, separating the thigh and leg from the body.
Keeping the fork in the same position, cut off the other leg and thigh in the same way. Scrape away the fat. With the tip of your knife, find the joint between the thigh and leg and separate the leg from the thigh.
Turn the bird around so the neck end faces you. Place the tip of your knife at the far end of the duck against the bone, just to the right of the center bone. Bring the knife toward you, following the breastbone until you reach the wishbone.
Feel with the point of the knife for the wing joint. Bring down the blade to cut through the wing joint to the board. As you cut, keep the knife against the rib cage, separating the wing and breast in one piece. Scrape away all the fat.
Repeat this step on the left side of the duck. Cut the wings from the breast pieces.
Repeat the entire procedure with the second duck.
To Serve the Ducks:
Spoon a layer of Orange Sauce over the bottom of a warmed serving platter. Arrange a pair of drumsticks, wing bones and thighs at each end of the platter. Place the breasts in the center and surround the meat with the fig garnish. Sprinkle with the sugared orange rind (see the Orange Sauce recipe, below).
Place the remaining orange sauce in a sauceboat and serve on the side.
For the Basic Duck Sauce:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the duck pieces and brown over high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Place the skillet in the preheated oven to cook the duck pieces for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the celery, carrot, onion, bay leaf, mushrooms, garlic cloves, pepper and cloves. Return the pan to the oven and allow to brown in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Place the skillet on top of the stove. Stir the tomato puree into the middle of the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the entire mixture and stir. Add the red wine and brown stock; stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
Stir the cavity juices into the sauce and cook for 10 minutes longer.
Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Press against the solids with a ladle to remove as much liquid as possible. Heat the sauce. Skim any fat. Cook until thick.
Remove the rind from the oranges with a stripper. If you don’t have a stripper, use a vegetable peeler and then cut the rind into thin julienne strips. Place in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Drain.
Squeeze the oranges and place the juice in a pot. Cook over high heat until reduced to about one-fourth the volume.
Place the basic duck sauce in another pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the sauce.
Place ½ cup sugar and 1 cup water in a pot. Bring to a boil and add the julienned rind. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the syrup begins to caramelize, turning light brown.
Have a dish ready with a layer of sugar in it about ½ inch thick. Remove the rinds from the pan and toss in the sugar to coat completely. Set the rinds aside to cool.
Continue cooking the syrup until it reduces to a dark caramel syrup. Stir in the Grand Marnier and currant jelly, then the reduced orange juice. Whisk until smooth.
Pour in the basic duck sauce and whisk until smooth. Cook for a few minutes to thicken slightly. Whisk in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a deep pot to 375 degrees.
Place the dates, walnuts, raisins and candied fruits in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, pulsing until coarsely chopped.
With your finger, work a hole into the center of each fig through the bottom, leaving the stems intact. Divide the nut-and-fruit mixture into eight portions and stuff one portion into each fig.
Mix the flour and beer to make a batter. Season with salt and sugar to taste, about 1 teaspoon of each. Dip the figs in the batter. Add them, one by one, to the oil, holding the stems until the batter begins to set.
Drop completely into the oil and cook until crisp. Drain well, then roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.