Cooked to the Right Point For Duck Or Chicken

The meat of a duck or chicken has flavor distinct from that of any other member of the bird family; so does one kind of seafood as compared with another, not to mention beef as distinct from mutton or veal. This being so, it is only good sense that the natural flavor, since it is good, should be preserved. -It would be bad cooking to prepare anything in such a way as to transform it into something else, or to over-encumber a principal with ingredients which, though good in themselves, have a strong taste of their own.

Creating a “mixed” taste, like the French bouillabaisse, is quite popular in Chinese cooking. So also is the “community” taste of elements first cooked separately, then together, as in the Danish labskovs. But a Chinese would object to the showy pressed duck as a gourmet dish, on the grounds that it does not taste like duck at all.

First of all, it is partly cooked and then cooked again over a spirit lamp, like a cigar that has been half smoked, left over and lit again. Then nearly all parts of the duck are ground into juice for cooking the breast alone. Admittedly this highly flavors the breast-but nature has her secret: that the breast of a duck (or any other part of the bird) is endowed with all the sweetness that properly belongs to it. If you think you will “improve” nature with a pressed duck, you are in fact transforming rather than improving it.

The same might apply to pompano en papillote. If a pompano is greatly prized, encumbering it with crabmeat, diced cooked shrimp, and fish stock is certainly gilding the lily. Much is to be said for the simple American or English way of roasting beef or grilling steaks and chops, for this brings out the original flavor of the meat in full. Unfortunately, few of the world’s peoples can afford such profligacy with large pieces of meat.