Duck Treat!

Posted by johngl

By now you are probably thinking, “Duck, again? You need to get some variety in your life johngl!

What, the pig head wasn’t enough of a diversion? I got some interesting comments on that one: “a bit much” said one friend. “Awesome!” said another. Yet another proclaimed, “THAT’S DISGUSTING!” Hey, I do what I do and if you want to come along for the ride, so much for the better.

Anyway, this is about duck, not pig heads…so, let’s get started with the basics. First, you need a couple of ducks:

George and Ringo
Meet Muscovites George and Ringo. George knows what’s coming. Ringo is clueless.

Again.  George and Ringo.

That’s George on the left.

To do this properly, you really need to get a lot of pork fat from your local butcher. This isn’t as difficult as you think. Just ask the guy behind the counter if you can get 10 lbs of pork fat. This is usually enough to do one duck.

cutting the fat

Then you grind it up:

doin the grind

Remember, this is nearly pure fat. Fat should be rendered out slowly and carefully, so get a big stock pot and put about a half inch of water in the bottom. Add all of the ground pork fat to the pot. The water keeps the fat from burning initially. Eventually, the water evaporates leaving the ground up stuff to render in its own fat.

Heat it up until it just starts to crackle. Then back down the flame so it simmers at around 200°. Stir it frequently. After about 4 hours, strain it, and you now have a nice supply of freshly rendered lard. You may never go back to vegetable oil again.

Remember George and Ringo? As the pork rendered, there was ample time to roast the duck. I gave the boys (I think they were boys) a nice bath, then dried them off with paper towels. I liberally applied kosher salt inside and out. I pierced the skin with a fork to allow the fat to render out and put them breast side down on a roasting rack. I put a few cups of water into the bottom of the roasting pan, then covered the whole thing with a sheet of aluminum foil. I popped them into a 325° oven for about an hour.

Yes, I steamed the duck. A lot of fat renders out; easily, a cup per bird. Do NOT, under penalty of death, dispose of this fat. It is great to use to fry up some eggs, make a roux, whatever.

So, after an hour or so, pull the duck out, take off the aluminum foil, flip over the ducks so they are breast side up, slather them with your favorite maple syrup (the REAL stuff), then pop them back into the oven for another hour. They come out looking like this:

steamed, then roasted

Now, the fun part. Butchering the duck.

Grab your favorite kitchen shears, and give the duck a cut right up the keel bone (that thing the runs up the middle of the breast). Then, with half the duck in each hand, break the back. There is no way to do this gently. There will be a nice cracking sound as you do this. Be brave, the duck doesn’t feel a thing. At this point, you should take out the rib, back, and breast bones by running your thumbs between the flesh and the bones. It should come off fairly readily. Yes, it is messy work.

These bones will make an awesome duck stock. Set the bones aside for use later.

Once the de-boning is done, you can refer to what happens next by jumping to the Duck! post.

Hi, welcome back (you did go off to that other post, right?)

To recap: the duck has now gone through a series of cooking procedures. We have steamed, roasted, butchered, and cursed–don’t forget the cursing. It is an essential part of cooking. Ask the most glorious spousal unit if you don’t believe me. Again, I digress.

Now, it gets to sit in a 200° lard bath for two hours. Make sure your oven thermostat is accurate. We wasted a couple of hours because while the temp control said it was at the proper temp, we discovered it was really only at 160°. Luckily, we still had plenty of time, but I had to forgo the terrine of duck that I had planned to make (using some of that hogs head gelatin). Oh well, we certainly weren’t short on food.

Actually, the two hours weren’t wasted at all. We sat on the porch, drank some fabulous wine, chatted a bit and enjoyed the afternoon. It was a welcome respite after four hours of some pretty hard-core kitchen action.

After the two hour lard-a-thon, the duck comes out looking like this:

hot-tub duck

Obviously, great care must be exercised when moving a huge roasting pan full of hot lard around. I can’t stress this enough. One slosh could be a disaster. Be careful!

So, now that the duck has cooled a bit, you can pick it apart and make a “pulled” duck of sorts. Pick it apart with your fingers and remove any bony or fatty bits you encounter. Peel the skin off carefully and set aside. You can crisp this up in the microwave later.

We did two duck dishes, the small confit potato boats:

potato boats of duck
Duck confit in hash browned potato boats topped with duck gravy and crispy duck skin

And an entrée sized dish:

duck with orange
Duck confit rests atop hash-browned potatoes. This is topped with duck gravy and a cara cara orange segment. A sweetened reduction of orange juice, orange liqueur, and orange marmalade are off to the side

Along with the duck, the entire dinner consisted of:

carrot salad
Asian style carrot salad with a sesame oil, carrot vinaigrette

Pan seared halibut planks topped with a cilantro vinaigrette and corn fritters on the side

rack of lamb
Roasted rack of lamb encrusted with pistachio

creme brulee
Crème brûlée two ways: one lemon, one orange

And resulted in:

many happy people!
Many happy people

Did I say what a great treat this was? A day with good friends, good food, and good wine. It just doesn’t happen often enough.

This entry was posted in Air, Meat, Recipes: Eats and tagged , , by johngl. Bookmark the permalink.

About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.