Little Taste of the Dahlia on duck at Dahlia Lounge – Downtown, Seattle
Posted Thursday 29 March 2012on:
I was thrilled that the first Little Taste of the Dahlia this year was duck. I’ve never cooked duck at home and was keen to learn the basic skills of the game.
With crimson walls and amber lights, the Dahlia Lounge had a sultry feel. The dining room was set for the evening service.
The event was held in the private dining room, divided by sliding opaque glass panes.
Dahlia Lounge menus were creatively recycled as booklets with the duck and wine menu printed on the back, and blank pages for notes.
Beverage director Adam Chumas matched the duck dishes with 2008 Château Grande Cassagne Grenache Syrah Costières de Nîmes (right) and 2009 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling (left).
Groups were seated at round tables and couples at bar tables. Our attention centred on Tom Douglas and Dahlia Lounge Chef Brock Johnson. The employer and employee was an entertaining pair. Duck has been on the menu since Dahlia Lounge opened more than two decades ago. It’s Tom’s favourite ingredient and he ‘would pick Chinese barbecue duck (烤鴨) over Texas barbecue any day’!
Pekin duck is native to China and Muscovy duck originated from South America. Restaurants cannot serve wild game and local ducks can be expensive. There was a discussion on the definition of local. Tom explained that the animals may be farmed locally but the butchering and packaging are often centralised. It may be branded and marketed as meat from Willamette Valley but the reality is it was processed in California.
A jar of duck liver mousse was sealed with rhubarb jelly. I spread a thick layer of the silky mousse on a slice of bread. Its intense, rich flavour was heightened by flecks of sweet jelly.
Tom commentated while Chef Brock demonstrated how to confit a duck leg, an ancient method of preserving. Rubbed with a herb salt as a dry brine overnight, the leg is then rinsed, submerged in rendered duck fat and slow cooked in 180°F for twelve hours. A five pound duck yields two to three cups of fat. It can be strained, frozen and reused.
The second course was duck confit with duck fried potato. A tumble of shredded meat was atop a halved fingerling potato.
Chef Brock expertly separated the breasts from a whole duck. The skin was scored, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme, and pan fried on medium low heat. Tom emphasised it is better to err on lower heat. One of the ‘lost techniques of cooking is warmth’, once the stove is off, the residual heat will continue to cook. Rest for at least ten minutes, sprinkle with fresh thyme and the duck breast is ready to serve.
Dolloped with cherry preserve, the slice of Muscovy duck breast had a sliver of crispy skin attached.
Dahlia Lounge roasts an average of thirty ducks on the rotisserie per day. The Dahlia duck is stuffed with aromatics, wing tips clipped and trussed in slits of its skin. Tom recommended 425°F for half an hour and 325°F for forty five minutes in a home oven.
Our final course was the famous Dahlia duck bun. Similar to the versions at Momofuku Seiōbo and Wild Ginger, the tender duck was wedged in a soft bun with mandoline cucumbers, a squirt of hoisin sauce and a spring of coriander.
My appetite was subdued by a bout of laryngitis but the duck morsels roused my palate!