You might forget your mallard, You might refuse to stay, And so the best that I can do is… eat some yummy duck.
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Guys and Dolls holds a special place in my heart. I was privileged enough to be cast as Sky Masterson in a school production, where I began to hone my New York accent, and have continued to enjoy the music since. It was an absolute pleasure to then hear that the university club/society I joined which performed shows was to mount a production of Guys and Dolls in my fresher year, where I got to play Big Jule, which was an absolute joy – its great fun being a baddie. More than that though, its a show which has some great ensemble numbers and in the hands of the right production team can be a real joy to work on, and form lasting memories to share with everyone involved.
Anyway, the show begins in New York, tells the story of Nathan Detroit, trying to find a place to host his floating crap game (do you know how difficult it is to find a venue in NYC, I totally sympathise!). The highest roller of them all, Sky Masterson is in town, and in an effort to get the money to host his game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson he can’t get a doll to fly with him to Havana – Nathan picks a Sergeant Sarah Brown of the poorly attended Save A Soul Mission! Through some very smooth talking, Sky gets Sarah to agree to dinner if he delivers a dozen sinners to the mission, unbeknownst to her the restaurant is in Cuba! In the meantime, Nathan’s fiance Adelaide, a performer at the Hot Box, has a cold – and the book she reads tells her it’s because she’s still not married after fourteen years! Nathan pushes ahead with his crap game and has the bright idea of running it in the Save A Soul Mission. Of course, everything comes to a head at the end of Act I when Sky and Sarah return, Sarah having seen another side to Sky in Havana, sees the mission being raided by the cops and thinks Sky was in on the whole thing. When we return to the action, Sarah’s uncle Arvide holds Sky to his promise of a dozen sinners. Nathan has found salubrious venue for his game – the sewer. Sky rolls the dice, and gets the gamblers to turn up to the mission. Nathan and Adelaide get married at the mission which is now run by Sarah and Sky!
Now of course, we all know the title of one of the most famous songs from the show does not really involve our quacking aquatic friends – it should of course be Luck Be A Lady, but we love a good (tenuous? -Ed) excuse to cook and devour some tasty food! So this is Duck Be A Lady. I love duck, all kinds of ways, but this has to be one of my favourites. I also really enjoy skin on duck, and this is an unbeatable way to make that skin amazingly crispy.
So buy yourself some duck breast, and the only other things you’ll need are a frying pan, salt/pepper, a chopping board, some kitchen towel, and a good sharp knife. Some tongs will come in useful for moving the duck around.
- Dab away any moisture from the duck breast with some kitchen towel.
- Season the meat side of the breast to your liking, but bear in mind that you are going to salt the skin quite a bit.
- Score and salt the skin. I like to go diagonal with my scoring, and the score lines being about the same distance apart as I would like to slice the duck later. For the salting, you want to go with a good (but not outrageous) amount of salt – it works better with salt you have to grind I find.
- On a COLD pan (I just mean room temperature, don’t put your pan in the fridge!) place the duck skin side down.
- Set your hob/burner to medium heat and let it cook for 10 minutes (which browns the skin and renders the fat).
- Turn onto the meat side and cook for a further 3½ minutes. If you prod the meat you should feel it resist your prodding. You don’t want it to be stiff, but it shouldn’t give too much to the pressure either. I like my duck pink, so adjust to your own tastes.
- Rest for 5 minutes before slicing. I like to rest it on a piece of kitchen towel starting with the skin side down and then dabbing the other side too, which gets rid of any excess surface fat. With a well sharpened knife and a little determination you should be able to get a nice clean slice through.
I quite enjoy just serving this with ‘boring’ vegetables – it keeps things focused on the duck and gives you a wonderful delusion that what you’re eating is healthy. Green beans are my favourite (just steamed/boiled), you can always grate yourself a little cheese on top of the veg if you are feeling adventurous.
Top Tip – Keep the rendered duck fat for future use – great way to do roast potatoes/vegetables!