The Board Meeting – Ducking the major issues.

Wooden boardWhen I decided to form a tight group to keep things in the food blogging world above-board, I was presented with a number of challenges. Firstly, I wanted a good spread of experience. I wanted somebody with high level financial experience. I wanted some youth and enthusiasm. I definitely needed some solid legal wisdom and guidance. I needed a top team. I scoured the blogs. I took advice. Numerous candidates were analysed. Their personal lives investigated. Many were rejected (You know who you are.).

My payment for board membership was a board (of course). There were limited boards at my place and this limited the places on my board. Eventually, I settled on three stellar candidates whose blogs say all you need to know about them.

To prove their worth, each was set a small task. They had to prepare and/or present a dish, on the board, to the board (and the rest of you of course). I would never ask somebody to do something that, as Chairman, I wouldn’t do myself so I also took part. The board presentations are/were due to take place at 09:00 EST on January 23rd 2014. This to prevent any jockeying for position and one-upmanship on our exclusive board.

Board Minutes 1: As the self-appointed Chairman of the Board, I have to take full responsibility for the lack of gender and ethnic diversity on the board. My bad. No doubt, in time, we will be expanding the board and candidates will be judged, in part, by the nature of the comments left here. So don’t denigrate the Chair. 

My contribution to proceedings is Hot Smoked Duck with Orange Marmalade. I have to admit that I have leaned heavily on one of my board members in that I blagged the method from a recipe by Stefan. I also used a gift, given by Stefan, to perfect the timing. I do believe that a good Chairman should take support from members of the board, don’t you?

It was difficult to bring myself to start cutting on the board. Too nice!

It was difficult to bring myself to start cutting on the board. Too nice!

The ingredients list is very short. For four people you will need:

  • 4 duck breasts
  • Juice of 3 oranges and zest of 2
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

You will also need a smoker. Mine is a €40 thing bought online. Great value.

First, cut a nice diamond pattern through the fat but not the flesh of the duck breasts.

Being careful to not cut the chopping board. Silly really.

Being careful to not cut the chopping board. Silly really.

Next, trim the excess fat from the edges of the breasts.

Proof that I did cut on the board. The fat trimmed.

Proof that I did cut on the board. The fat trimmed.

Wash and zest the two oranges.

You will need the zest of two big oranges for this. Zest only. No pith.

You will need the zest of two big oranges for this. Zest only. No pith.

Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Then rub in the orange zest. Use about half the zest on this.

Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, orange and rub them in.

Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, orange and rub them in.

Transfer to a plate, cover and pop these in the fridge for a few hours.

Board Minutes 2: As I write this, I don’t know what Nick, Stefan and Richard have planned. I do know that they are all very competitive and will be doing their best to be the outstanding board member in this little test. Getting the best out of one’s Board is part of a Chairman’s responsibilities, IMHO, as they say on Twitter.

In the time available, spend some time reading the minutes of meetings, drink some brandy and smoke a cigar or two. It’s what Chairmen do, I believe. I used some of my time preparing some sweet potato chips. I also thought I should prepare some green beans. They go nicely with duck.

Pretty accurate measurement needed for Board presentation.

Pretty accurate measurement needed for Board presentation.

Time for a gratuitous duck breast and meat probe shot.

The plated duck breasts hiding behind my meat probe. Thanks Stefan for the gift.

The plated duck breasts hiding behind my meat probe. Thanks Stefan for the gift.

Place the duck breasts in the smoker. Place your meat probe into the centre of one of the breasts (You all have meat probes, don’t you?)

Breasts in the smoker, probe inserted. Sounds vaguely rude...

Breasts in the smoker, probe inserted. Sounds vaguely rude…

Set the alarm to 55º C. Smoke them outside until the alarm scares the neighbours overly curious cat away from the smoker. Wrap the breasts in tinfoil and leave them for 10 minutes.

This took about 20 minutes. Just time for a Chairmanly cigar.

This took about 20 minutes. Just time for a Chairmanly cigar, if you are so inclined.

Use the next 10 minutes to prepare the orange marmalade. This involves adding the sugar, remaining zest and orange juice to a pot.

Sugar, zest and juice make for a fine marmalade.

Sugar, zest and juice make for a fine marmalade.

Heat this mixture. Evaporate a lot of the water to intensify the flavour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if it is too sweet.

Reduce the marmalade until it is nice and thick.

Reduce the marmalade until it is nice and thick.

If you are cooking the sweet potatoes, they will have been in the oven for 15 minutes at 200º C.

Take the duck breasts out of the tin foil and slice them like in the picture.

No avoiding the edge of the knife. The breasts get cut.

No avoiding the edge of the knife. The breasts get cut.

Quickly wash the board. Turn it over and serve on the unblemished side. “Best side out.” as we have got used to saying here in Ireland over the past few years.

Note my additional "Wine Board". A present from youngest daughter. Chairman's privilege, I say.

Note my additional “Wine Board”. A present from youngest daughter. Chairman’s privilege, I say.

The smokey duck really wanted lots of the delicious marmalade. The whole thing worked particularly well. The wine was an Australian blend with lots of fruit. Perfect with this.

No matter which of the board posts you deem most worthy, this has been great fun for me and this smoked orange duck has been a revelation. Three of us sat down to eat that evening. We had the fourth breast cold the following day. It was even tastier. This is a permanent fixture on the menu, for as long as I remain Chairman of the Board.

Every board needs close inspection. Here's evidence of a sweetener being proffered.

Every board needs close inspection. Here’s evidence of a sweetener being proffered.

Board Minutes 3: The chopping boards are walnut. They are made by my friend Terry who crafts them by hand in his Wicklow workshop. I don’t do commercial promotion here but, you will forgive the link to Terry’s site. He’s a nice chap. 

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Latest comments
  • Dear Mr Chairman, your recipes go from strength to strength. I may have to give up writing a food blog and just cook your stuff. Sincerely, Sally Vating.

    • Thanks Linda (Sally), you are too kind. We had a bit of fun with this and I certainly enjoyed the duck.

  • This is pure brilliance!

    • Thanks Mimi. The things grown men will do for a bit of fun!

  • Gorgeous and delicious! You are a master. And the Boards… would they ship to France, I wonder…?

    • Thanks Darya, I can see no reason not to ship there. And, we don’t have French representation on our high powered board.

      • Daryl, Conor obviously only wants men on his board…

        • Mimi, please see “Board Minutes 1”. There is a real lack of gender and ethnic diversity. However, the board is a pretty fluid thing with members coming and going at the whim of the Chair…

  • I love the boards, Conor. I was surprised to see how unique each board was coming from a single block of walnut. Love your wine board, too. Now, about the duck, THAT looks fantastic. I love duck and definitely need to give this a try. 🙂 As usual, the photos are stellar and I like the little sweet tater corral to prevent the haricot verts from returning to France before you could eat them. 😀

    • Thanks Richard. I put more than my usual amount of sweat and tears into the ‘plating’ (boarding?) shot on this one. The duck was really excellent and even better cold on the next day.

  • Conor, love the “board” you’ve created and you have selected a great bunch of guys! Kudos to the idea!

    • Thanks Danny,
      I hope all is good with you over there.

  • That looks great, and really quick and simple. No time to get bored … sorry.

    • Thanks Adam,
      All good clean fun. Very easy to do and very tasty. I’ll forgive the board/bored puns for as long as the meeting lasts…

  • Absolutely gorgeous duck!

  • Well done, Mr. Chairman.

    • Thanks Adam. No ducking my responsibilities, I’m afraid.

  • Cracking stuff, Conor. I was about to make a joke about you not ducking your responsibilities, but you beat me to it. It was great being part of the board, I hope we have another meeting in the not too distant future. Also, you’ve given me the desire to buy a smoker…

    • Hi Nick, thanks for agreeing to serve and for serving such a great post. So true about the photogenic nature of good wood. The smokers are pretty frugal stuff and well worth the small investment. I got mine in an online fishing store.

  • I am so buying one of those boards (they are stunning)! And then maybe I’ll start my own board to which you will not be invited as a board member… I am afraid I bruise easily! 😉 P.S. The duck looks incredible.

    • You might be writing your self out of any chances of joining our possibly extended future board. The duck was really easy to do and very tasty both hot and, later, cold.

      • You said yourself you needed a bit of diversity, I’m both female and from Cork (and everyone knows Cork people are like an entirely different race!)

        I’ll definitely try the duck. My Dad does a mean duck with plum sauce and serves it with lemon cous cous… The cous cous soaks up the sauce and juices nicely, worth a try!

        • I like that idea. I love couscous but I have a job getting enthusiasm going for it here. I might tell them that it is “lemon mash” and see how we go. The duck is great and the same price as chicken breasts at the moment. More because the chicken has got so expensive than the duck being good value. And, yes, ye Corkonians are a breed apart.

  • Damn. I haven’t had duck for way too long. Yer making me hungry here Conor!

  • Beautiful board. Duck’s not bad either, Mr Chairman. I totally understand your reluctance to sully its pristine surface with a knife. Here’s a thought. Chop on one side only. Keep the other side for Sunday best. And that probe shot was totally gratuitous.

    • Thanks Kate, That’s exactly what I did. Though, there is a motion before me to put it into service as a breadboard. I will have to buy time before deciding.

      • Don’t buy time. Buy another board. One for service, one for chopping/slicing. Your friend will be a happy man too.

        • He’s happy enough as far as my wallet is concerned!

  • Can you give me more info on your smoker please. Would love to try it. That duck looks fab

    • Hi Emma, have them.
      Great food fun.

  • Dear Mr Chairman ~ I seem to have entered thru’ the proverbial back door as I enjoyed both the pork and the talk at Richard’s first to the travel to Stefan and his wonderful steak ~ well, that is how the mails came up in my box, Mr C’man!!! And now we meet the third board and a very simple but lovely duck. Have fun guys!! Having worked almost exclusively with the male of the species all of my life I fully understood when the Rat Pack had but a few female members and yours as yet is too limited in numbers to include any 🙂 ! Off to Nick’s!!

    • Thanks Eha for your kind words. Nothing set in stone, so treating the Chair with respect and adoration will do no harm to future prospects….

  • Wow, you’re pretty good asian chef now Connor…..
    Smoked duck with marmelade sounds a fancy dish!!!
    btw, i had a chef series knives and i guess i’m not too often to used it because i juat too scarry to broke it, hehehe

    • Thanks Dedy, my view is that a sharp knife will give a cleaner cut, to you or the meat!

      • That’s what actually i’m talking about….
        i let the time goes by and the knives is blunted lil bit, hehehe

  • HIlarious. What a great recipe. You know I’m a sucker for duck. Delicious!

    • Thanks Amanda, probably my simplest yet. Very tasty.

  • I’ve been meaning to ask: your photography is excellent, and while I know the camera is only a part of it, I wondered what you used, since my is failing fast and needs to be replaced with a decent one? Of course, the camera can take no credit for the good lighting, tasteful mise en place and totally gratuitous meat and pouring shots….

    • Trust me the camera has a lot to do with it. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark 2. I use a (very inexpensive) Canon fixed 50mm 1.8 lens with this. Post shooting, I process and catalogue using Adobe Lightroom. Most importantly, I file the images and back them up in a separate place. Too much risk otherwise.
      The number one big thing that will improve one’s photography is practise. The second big thing is trying to understand light. The third thing is even more practice.

      • Thank you! I’m beginning to think that a Canon of some form is going to be the go. Too many other people have recommended them for me to ignore. I have an opportunity to buy one duty free soon…

        • The fixed 50mm 1.8 is a dream. I paid €125 for it (inc duty and tax). If you can get it as part of the package, go for it.

  • In a world where tv cookery is inspiring home cooks and bloggers to publish ever weirder stuff it is rather pleasant to see one of the good old fashioned classics for a change! Nice posting.

    • Thanks Mike,
      I had fun doing it. Very flavoursome and, more importantly, very easy to do.

  • I love the little board you’ve assembled, as well as the duck board you’ve assembled. Well done, Mr. Chairman. Well done indeed.

    • Thanks Tommy, I’m sure you are heartened to see that there is some Texas representation on the board too!

  • The boards are absolutely wonderful Conor, thanks again for such a great gift and the honor to be part of your Board 🙂 I really love your post. What a great idea to use my little surprise in there as well. The duck looks amazing on the board with the nice veggie presentation. The combination with orange is classic. The duck looks nicely pink and succulent. This must have been very nice. I would probably have paired it with a late harvest gewürztraminer, which works very will with the orange and the sweetness, but may be a bit of an acquired taste as most would regard it as a dessert wine.

    • Thanks Stefan. I had great fun doing this. I am a big fan of gewürztraminer. However, in our house, I am also in a minority of 1. So the big, fruity Australian red won the day.

  • Wow, your presentation is fantastic. Gorgeous board and that duck is succulent. Extraordinary post Conor!

  • I love the Godfather shot on REM! The duck looks lovely and I like the use of orange zest. Orange really is an amazing pairing with duck!

    • Hi Barb, one of my Norwegian nephews did the Godfather to wind me up. Richard certainly did his research. The orange worked very well.

      • He did a good job! Have a great day!

  • That is indeed a lovely board Conor. I know what you mean about not wanting to cut on it. Hubby is a cabinet maker and has made gorgeous boars for me. One with oak and one with cherry wood. I only use it for pictures and to present foods on. No cutting on those boards! And your presentation on that lovely board is stunning! Would love to take a bite into that crispy-looking duck.

    • I am at a half way house Lidia. Cutting I one side and presenting on the reverse. Difficult all the same.

  • Wow. Looks amazing.

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