Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Whole Lot of Duck

Jessica and I dropped Bella off at the dog groomer and had some time to kill. We meandered around, got some lunch, and went to the bookstore. We then swung by Central Market with the intention of getting something for dinner. We had been thinking about fish, but the dreary rainy weather pushed us towards something more warming in function.

They had whole fresh duck that looked quite nice. Duck seemed like the perfect compliment to a rainy evening in.

This was the first time I'd actually broken down a whole duck. I've done countless chickens, but duck is a bit different. Tonight, in particular, we were mainly interested in the breasts. At the same time I wanted to use all of the animal productively. I won't go into the details of breaking down a duck here. While the angles are a little different than with a chicken, it's not rocket science.

After a little bit of work, I had my duck down to the following components:
  • 2 breasts, skin/fat on one side
  • 2 legs, skin and fat retained, but trimmed within reason
  • 2 wings
  • 1 carcass
  • 1 liver
  • 2 kidneys
  • some other muscular organ, heart perhaps

I started with the breasts and dry rubbed them with a freshly prepared ancho-pasilla-garlic dry rub. I then allowed them to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Next, I deep rubbed the leg pieces with a traditional salt, garlic, thyme, bay rub and refrigerated in preparation for a future duck confit.

I next cubed all of the fatty pieces and slowly simmered them in a saucepan covered by about 2 inches water to render the duck fat so that I could add it to my ever utlilized collection of duck fat.

I sliced the liver up into about 1 inch strips and pan fried it along with some shallots, garlic, and herbs in about 3 ounces of duck fat I already had laying around. Next I threw the whole mixture into the Blendtec along with a splash of cognac. I pureed for awhile until smooth and then pressed through a tamis to make extra smooth. I then refrigerated the small amount of yield to resulting in what is effectively a duck fat based duck-liver butter. The stuff tastes phenomenal. My mind is doing cartwheels thinking of all the awesome things I could do with duck fat liver butter.

I bagged all the bones and the carcass and froze them. I will certainly be making some duck stock in the not too distant future.

I grabbed the kidneys and seared them with some garlic slivers in olive oil until they were golden brown. I next poured in a couple of inches of homemade chicken stock and simmered covered at medium low for awhile. The result was slow braised duck kidneys. I'm still sort of squeamish about eating offal, particularly when I prepare it. That said, Bella, my dog, is my fearless taster. She liked the braised kidney well enough, so I tasted a few slices and they were actually damn good... Slightly tough, not magicly transformed like the rabbit kidneys we got at French Laundry, but still very nicely flavored. I'm starting to get comfortable with basic offal preparation. I expect to be serving it on the dinner table more often soon.

OK, so now I think I have offically used the whole animal in some capacity or another, or at least frozen/refrigerated planned to.

Having dotted my i-s and crossed my t-s, I prepared tonight's actual dinner:

Ancho-Pasilla Rubbed Duck Breast with Maple Fig Pinot Noir sauce. Mixed Wild and Brown Rice. Garlic Wilted Leeks and Spinach.


This dish worked quite well, especially the sauce!The leeks and spinach worked very well together and tied back nicely to the duck and sauce. Thanks to Jessica for coming up with the ancho-maple-fig-duck pairing which worked very nicely.


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