Monthly Archives: February 2012

Five-Spice Duck with Fregola and Balsamic Jus

I love duck and have been craving duck breast with Chinese Five-Spice powder for weeks.  Something about the richness of duck meat and all the different flavors of the five-spice were just calling me.  So I found a recipe on and generally followed that with a few tweaks to make it my own.   I also picked up some Hibiscus powder on a recommendation from a friend and thought it would be a really good addition to the duck.

Here is the link to the Epicurious recipe:


I decided to prepare the duck with just the spices in the recipe rather than trying to incorporate the Hibiscus powder.  I planned to add a small amount of the Hibiscus powder into the wine/balsamic jus to give it a more fruity / sour flavor, which sounded like it would really compliment the duck.

To round out the meal, I wanted something that we could pour the jus over and soak up the duck juices.  We had a bag of Fregola, which is a pebble shaped pasta and decided to do it risotto style, which is slowly adding warm chicken broth and stirring until the pasta becomes soft and creamy.  We also cooked a small butternut squash to add some color and a vegetable.


For a wine, Pinot Noir is a great match with duck and the recipe suggests a Russian River Valley Pinot from Sonoma.  I decided to open the DuMol Aidan Pinot Noir from the Green Valley in Sonoma.  I wanted a darker and fruitier wine to stand up to the sauce with Hibiscus powder.


What Went Right

The duck was cooked really well, a perfect medium rare.  The duck breasts I used were thicker than those in the recipe so I had to increase the oven roasting time by another 10 minutes (20 minutes total in the oven).

The Fregola turned out great.  We actually sauteed a few green onions before starting the risotto process, which gave the pasta a nice little flavor kick. The creaminess of the pasta was a very good contrast to the duck.  Would definitely do this again.

The wine was very good, but didn’t exactly match the flavors of the meal – more on this below…


What Went Wrong

The duck did not have much of that Five-Spice Powder flavor I was craving.  I think since the duck breasts were thicker, I should have increased the amount of spice.  I would definitely increase the amount by half next time and perhaps cut the duck breasts in half to give more surface area for the spices.

The wine / balsamic juice was terrible.  Adding the Hibiscus Powder made the sauce gritty and gave it an unpleasant sour flavor.  We decided to abandon the sauce and remake a wine / balsamic reduction.  It didn’t have much of the duck drippings however, so it lacked a lot of the richness I was expecting.


What I Would Do Differently

More Spice!  As I mentioned, more spice and better coating of the duck breast to really give it that Five-Spice flavor.

Skip the Hibiscus Powder since it really clashed with the Five-Spice Powder.  I will probably try duck breasts with just Hibiscus Powder because it really does seem like it would pair well with duck.


Well, my first recipe post is out of the way.  I learned a lot including that this is harder that I thought.  Time to step up the game.  So look for new and improved posts coming soon.



My First Recipe Post…

Before I began this Flavor Blender blog, I studied a number of food and wine blogs to get ideas, find styles, etc.  They all made it look so easy.  Recipes that worked perfectly, food that tasted great and looked amazing, and beautiful photos of the process and finished results.  “I can do that” I recall saying to myself.

So imagine my surprise when I attempted my first recipe for this blog over the weekend and things didn’t go so well.  Hmmm a learning process indeed!

So I have been thinking about how to post this first attempt and have decided that perhaps just telling the whole truth would be best.  My “challenges” might just save someone else from those same things.  It also confirms that things don’t always turn out perfectly.  So for this post and probably for most posts I’ll include “What went right”, “What went wrong” and “What I would do differently” sections.  I also realized I need to improve my photo skills.  Most of my pictures turned out like a middle school art class still life.

At least I have a lot to work on and improve.  So look for better posts in the future.  For now its a work in process.