Friday, February 11, 2011

Roast Local Duck

Last November, I picked up my turkey from Russ and Laurie at CG Ranch in Benton City.  It was really cold that darkening afternoon.  Later that night, the first snow of the year would blanket the land.  My friend Michele, several other customers and I were standing around waiting as the turkeys were weighed.  Russ's coveralls were bloodstained from dealing with the turkeys.

Then Russ said, "I have extra ducks if anyone wants one."  Instantly, I knew I had to have a duck.  Visions of a crispy, roasted duck floated before my eyes.  I had never cooked a duck, but in that visceral, rural, meaty moment, inexperience didn't seem any sort of obstacle.  A duck wasn't just meat, it was game meat, something our pioneer ancestors, nay, even primitive man had pursued, slain, roasted over smoky fires, and been nourished by!  (Yes, I know Russ raised the duck, but still.  Ducks have history!) 

And so the duck, wrapped and tucked in the freezer through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and beyond, was never far from my mind.  I Googled.  I read cookbooks.  I talked to people about ducks.  It seemed that ducks were regarded as problematic.  They have lots of fat.  They should be massaged for quite some time before cooking to soften the fat.  They should be poached before roasting.  They should never be poached before roasting!  They should be trussed.  They should be split.  The wings should be removed.  The wings should be left on and tucked.

A few days ago, I put the duck in the fridge to thaw, and it did.  I now had no choice but to Take Action.  I found the recipe I thought would see me though, and it did, splendidly.  We enjoyed a luscious duck dinner tonight, and with less work than I had feared. 

As I write this, I have about two cups of boned duck meat waiting to be made into a curry, about two quarts of luscious, savory duck stock, and a cup and a half of beautiful, golden, rendered duck fat.

All my duck dreams came true, and I am now a duck fan.  I hope you will be, too.

I am indebted to the blog The Hungry Mouse for the excellent instructions and photographs.  I followed the instructions except for the following adaptations:

Rather than scoring the duck's fat, I snipped it in a crosshatch pattern with the tips of kitchen shears.  I cut the wings off, and laid them beside the duck on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.  I salted the duck inside and out, rubbing the salt in.  I did not tie the legs.

My duck was 3.5 pounds, and I was worried about over-roasting, given the recipe's four-hour roasting time for a larger duck.  So I raised the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  The duck roasted in exactly two hours, and I turned it over once after the first hour.  At the two-hour mark, I tested the internal temperature in a thick part of the meat, and it was 165.  I removed the duck to a small, shallow casserole, basted it with the sauce, and returned it to the oven for just about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.  Shiny, fragrant, crackly, perfection.

My sauce adaptation included smaller amounts for the smaller duck:

1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
A 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
Grated rind of one organic orange

Combine all ingredients in a small pan and simmer over low heat until reduced to a syrupy state.

The 3.5-pound duck served two people with nice sliced pieces, and the two drumsticks would probably constitute another serving.  There are also the smaller pieces of meat taken from the bones later.

Here is my lovely duck fat!  Apparently, it is the French secret to glorious fried potatoes.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me wish that the chicken in my oven was a duck instead...