Smoked Duck Nigiri with Cherries and Basil
Duck is perhaps my favorite non-traditional sushi ingredient and one that I have used for many years. To keep the duck tender for nigiri, I make use of the nami-giri technique – a type of wave cutting where the tip of a knife is rocked back and forth briskly while cutting, leaving the slice gently ridged with soft waves. This technique is commonly used for octopus to prevent excessive chewiness. The wave cutting technique takes a bit of practice but there are other ways to tenderize the duck if nami-giri eludes you. Lightly scoring each piece before placing on the rice ball will also do the trick.
For this nigiri, smoked duck is combined with dried cherries that have been reconstituted in soy sauce and sake. And a tiny chiffonade of basil crowns the finished product. If you prefer a bit of sweet sauce, try a small drizzle of honey or molasses on top.
1 – 1 1/2 cup
6 oz duck breast, smoked medium, skin removed
8-10 strips of nori, 4in x 1/4 in
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sake
3-4 basil leaves, chiffonade
To prepare cherries, place soy sauce, water and sake in a small saucepan and bring to a near boil. Add cherries and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and tightly cover top of pan with a piece of plastic wrap. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Drain liquid off cherries. Chop cherries into rough pieces and set aside.
Place side of duck breast where skin was removed face down on cutting board. Using a very sharp knife cut away pieces of duck approximately 1in by 2in. Score each piece several times with a knife being careful not to cut completely through the pieces.
Prepare enough rice balls to match the number of slices of duck. When making rice balls for nigiri at home, it is most important to make sure that your rice balls are of even size. You can achieve this by hand forming or by using a plastic nigiri mold. I hand form my rice balls into approximately 3/4 in by 1/2 in rectangles.
Place a slice of smoked duck on top of each rice ball. Wrap a strip of nori horizontally around the center of each piece so that the duck stays securely in place. Top each piece with a pinch of chopped cherries and a small bit of basil chiffonade.