Duck Vindaloo

Duck VindalooGOA-an Somewhere?
In December of 1999, when my husband and I were just engaged, we were invited by a dear friend to stay with him and his family in Mumbai, India. The plan was to be in Mumbai to soak in all that the city has to offer before heading down to Goa to ring in the new century at a resort on the beach. This would be my first time traveling outside of the United States. And, if the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland comes to mind, you wouldn’t be wrong.

My husband has traveled all over the world. The only continent he has yet to explore is Australia. He’s lived in Mexico and Canada, gone on safari in Tanzania, explored much of Europe, and traveled through South America and parts of the Middle East—to name just a few destinations.

Back then he was only a few years removed from a stint in the Peace Corps. I was definitely a fish out of water. But, I was curious and fascinated by India, the food, the people, and the customs. (Don’t get me wrong it was a shock to the system. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer number of people, among other things.)

The markets were an explosion of color. I went with our friend’s mother and grandmother one day to pick out a sari and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Getting it to fit correctly was a challenge. At 5”10”, I couldn’t buy off the rack. Alas, after 3 kids, it no longer fits…) We ate spicy curry every morning for breakfast and drank the best chai you ever tasted. (It was rough on my Western stomach, but it was sooo good.) But the tandoori crab we ate one night…OMG. We still talk about it in hushed and reverent tones…

Goa was a totally different experience. It has a much more Mediterranean feel, and, because of Goa’s Portuguese history, you see things there that you would not see anywhere else in the country. The architecture is different. The lifestyle is different. It is a much slower pace. Most people live in villages versus the city. Goa is a haven for the Bohemian and creative-minded and artists from all over come here to live.

Lastly, Goan food is different. As you would expect of an area on the coast, the diet of Goa relies heavily on fish and seafood. But, it is not uncommon to find pork and beef on the menu thanks to its Portuguese Catholic roots. And you will always find something spicy. The Portuguese are responsible for bringing chilis over from Brazil and introducing them to the rest of India. So, it should come as no surprise that Vindaloo, or Vindahlo, the spicy curry found on the menu of numerous Indian restaurants, comes from Goa. Shrimp is everywhere in Goa, and I am always down for a spicy shrimp vindaloo. Paired with steamed Jasmin rice it’s a great way to warm yourself up on a cold winter day.

I was intrigued, however, when I saw this recipe for Duck Vindaloo. I can count on one hand the number of duck recipes I have come across while looking for Indian food. I see it more with Thai or Indonesian food. This dish can be served with rice in true Indian fashion. And, for a more Portuguese/Goan feel, serve it with some boiled potatoes and your favorite sautéed winter greens.

Duck Vindaloo Recipe
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible
Yields 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon bright red paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon garam masala
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 6-pound duck, cut into pieces (or 6 whole duck legs, separated into legs and thighs)
1/2 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
15 fresh curry leaves, if available (you can substitute with Kefir Lime leave)
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into thin half-rings
2 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
10 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a pulp
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 8 oz. canned diced tomatoes
4 ounces cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Prepare the spices
Mix together the turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, and garam masala in a small bowl and set aside.

Brown the duck
Pour the oil into a large, wide, lidded pan and set it over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in as many duck pieces, skin side down, as the pan will hold easily in a single layer. Lightly brown the duck, about 3-4 minutes per side, and remove it to a bowl. Brown all the duck pieces this way and place them in the bowl.

Toast the aromatics
Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds to the hot fat and, as soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, which will happen in a matter of seconds, put in the curry leaves and onions. Stir and fry them until the onions begin to turn brown at the edges.

Now add the ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the mixed spices from the small bowl and stir to toast (about 30 seconds).

Cook the duck
Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they have softened (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape the bottom of the pan as you do this.

Now add the browned duck pieces, the vinegar, salt, sugar, and 2 cups of water. Stir and bring the sauce to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook gently, lifting the lid occasionally to stir (about 45 minutes).

Increase the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, a bit more vigorously, stirring more frequently, until the duck is tender and the sauce has thickened slightly (about 30 more minutes).

Remove as much fat as possible before serving.

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