It was Maple Sunday, and after nearly 20 years of living in Maine I’ve never experienced it. Found out there was a farm in Skowhegan called Tessiers Farm, so I decided to take my son. Oh boy! I should have known better, he hates livestock. Always had since he was a baby. He never like petting zoos, any kind of farm animal. He just hates the smell. He pinched hi nose the whole time while I was trying to convince him how cute the cows were. Needless to say, that was a short lived visit. I managed to sneak into the little shop they had (my son waited outside the whole time because he couldn’t stand the smell — yeesh! I have a city boy on my hands I think). I bought a nice duck and a nice chicken. I love locally raised poultry. It’s just so fresh and tastes so much better. I love that the chickens don’t look like they’re super mutated beasts. Commercially raised chickens look like giants and have so much fat. We bid a quick adieu to the cows and then he told me never to bring him again. So that was a Maple Sunday fail. Next time I’ll bring my daughter. At least I left with some wonderful meat.
The duck was beautiful. I decided I was going to confit the thighs and wings. I’ve never done that so it’ll be interesting. As for the breasts, my first thought was “laab.” Laab is a dish from Northeastern Thailand heavily influenced by Thailand’s northern neighbor Laos. It’s often made with pork or chicken, but duck’s a nice treat. Laab always has minced meat, shallots, lots of herbs like mint, culantro and cilantro, lots of spice, fish sauce, lime juice and “khao khur” which is essential. Khao khur is a fragrant rice powder. Raw rice is toasted with generally lemongrass, kafir lime leaves, galangal and dried chili pepper. It is then pounded into a powder (not too fine) using a mortar and pestle. This powder brings a well rounded flavor to the dish as well as texture. You can’t make laab without it.
I broke down the duck and reserved everything but the breasts for confit. I carefully removed the skin from the duck breast which was very little. I rendered the duck skin so I could use the duck fat to later cook the duck meat.
I minced the duck breast with an awesome cleaver from Thailand. You want a pretty fine mince. I prefer mincing meat for laab by hand and not use a meat grinder. I think the texture is much better, a little rougher providing more texture to the dish.
I then heated the rendered duck fat with some dried chili peppers, and added the minced duck breast. I cooked it completely through, about 6-7 minutes. Usually, the meat for laab is just cooked in a pot with minimal water, but I thought the duck fat would provide an awesome flavor.
I prepped the other ingredients – shallots, shredded kafir lime leaves, mint leaves, khao khur, fresh chili, chili powder and added it to the cooked duck. I used thin soy sauce and lots of lime juice to flavor.
I mixed everything gently with my hands. The flavors should be bursting with spice and tartness from the lime juice. This tasted amazing. The duck breast is so lean. Wonderful clean flavor with no gaminess at all. I will definitely be making this more often. It tasted even better knowing the duck was locally raised. Eat local and buy local whenever possible. I appreciate it so much more now.