It all started with a duck breast. I built the plate around it with ingredients I’ve wanted to work with. Nasturtium, pickled banana flowers, baby Japanese eggplants from the school garden, mirin, wasabi powder…
Let’s start with the protein. I scored the duck — oh, also, this is my first time cooking a duck breast. Yes, I know, it’s weird.
I placed fat side down on a cold skillet and rendered the fat, reserving it in another container as necessary. My cross mark got crispy, the fat layer got thin and I removed the duck from the pan to hold. Later when everything else was ready, I finished the other side in a hot pan with a little bit of the duck fat and seasoning. I sliced it thin, fanned it and put it on top of my sauce. I finished it with additional sauce on top as well.
For the sauce, I sauted shallots, carrots, and ginger until I developed sufficient color and flavor. I added a T of my white miso, a T of mirin, the juice of an orange and a half a cup of brown duck stock, which I luckily had in my inventory. I strained and reduced to thin nappe without a thickener.
For the carbohydrate, I toasted a cup of barley. Then I soaked it — though not sufficiently, I only soaked it for an hour. Then I simmered it for two hours in three quarts of shiitake stem and ginger broth. Once al dente, I cooled it and finished with mirin, wasabi powder, and chives. The deep mushroom flavor, the sweetness of the mirin, and the mustardy heat of the wasabi worked well with the texture of the barley, though I would have preferred soba noodles.
The eggplant, the mushrooms, and the banana flower were seared in sesame oil and finished in a miso, shoyu, mirin and Thai bird chili glaze.
Nasturtium flowers were stuffed with a strawberry (from the school garden), cilantro, labnah (I needed something to bring the stuffing together and not fall out of the flower), and chili oil stuffing. They were then dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. The tempura batter needs work and that’s why I’m not going into the details. The stuffing worked wonders although the flowers were stuffed in minute amounts.
I think the plating needs work. Some of the glaze should have gone on the plate along with the vegetables. The plate looks too sterile without the duck sauce as well as the glaze visible in the photo. And the inclusion of the banana flower is purely whimsical.
Overall — three hours of work, lots of trial and error, well worth it.