Duck geniuses of Metafilter, save me
April 11, 2020 5:04 PM   Subscribe

I have received a surprise whole duck from my local farm. I look to you all for the tastiest way to process it. I'm game for anything but want to try to use every part somehow. Tell me your duck recipes!

I am operating under COVID-19 constraints, Boston edition (so I'm not going to find an extra pint of duck fat for confit) but I'm game to break down, roast whole, process in sections or across multiple days, etc. I've got a sous vide and in the absence of any guidance I would probably sous vide/reverse sear the legs, roast the breast and turn the bits into stock. Hopefully I can extract maximum duck fat for delicious potatoes later. But I hardly ever cook duck so I need to know: how would you prepare an unexpected duck?
posted by range to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

For the legs, I season them with salt/pepper and any spices that sound good (Penzey's Tsardust Memories works well for this) and mostly surround them with some combination of fat/oil. I've used a mix of schmaltz/duck fat/butter (and a little water, for extra volume) with great results. Then I bake them in a covered baking dish (Corningware or Pyrex or similar) at 300F for two hours. They can go in the fridge at this point if you're not serving them yet.

When you want to serve them, transfer the legs to a wire rack on a baking sheet, and roast at 400F for 30 minutes. I brush them with a mix of equal parts white wine vinegar, agave nectar, and honey garlic sauce a couple of times during this process so the skin gets some extra crispy glaze to it.

For the breasts, I lightly score the fat in a crosshatch pattern and sear them skin-side down, starting them in a cold skillet to render the fat as they cook.

I remove as much skin and fat as I can from the carcass to render it, and use the bones for stock. I also save any fat from the cooking steps above. I did this whole process a few months ago and still have some fat and stock left because I would hate for any of it to go to waste!
posted by cp311 at 5:41 PM on April 11, 2020

For the breast - cross-hatch score the skin and cook it gently in a skillet, skin down. As the fat renders, baste it over the top to cook the top half of the meat. You never flip it over. The skin ends crispy and the meat cooked however far you like.
posted by janell at 5:42 PM on April 11, 2020

Serious Eats recently did a whole series on using an entire duck that I am too lazy to look for, but I'm sure you can find easily.
posted by praemunire at 6:24 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do you have the innards? Duck liver pâté is the bomb. There are many recipes out there, but I made that one on my one encounter with an unexpected duck liver.

(Some recipes call for duck fat, some for butter. You can use either.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:59 PM on April 11, 2020

You may want to save a breast in the freezer as something to look forward to for when the quarantine finally lifts - because this recipe calls for culinary lavendar, which is likely something you're not going to just conveniently have in the cupboard.

But oh my God you want to eat this. It's just a pan-fried and then roasted duck breast, but you slather it in a spice rub involving lavendar, cumin, and coriander first, and not only does that taste delicious, it makes your kitchen smell incredible.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 PM on April 11, 2020

this recipe is the best.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:22 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sous-vide is a great way to confit and it doesn't require a ton of fat, just a few extra spoonfuls to surround the legs. (Don't believe the recipes that think you need zero extra fat, I did not find this to work as well.)

Also, you don't need to use duck fat. You can confit with olive oil.

What I'm saying is, confit those legs.
posted by desuetude at 7:42 PM on April 11, 2020

Once you’ve taken it apart and have just the bones left (spine and ribs, without the legs) with scraps on them, you can grill it. My family from the southwest of France (ie, duck country) does this in the coals of the hearth, since you generally process the ducks in the winter. They call it “carcasse de canard” and everyone loves it.
posted by ohio at 11:22 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Serious Eats duck project is here.
I think I would just stuff it with apples and oranges and roast it whole. You will get a lot of duck fat from that. Enough to confit a couple of extra legs or roast many, many potatoes, or actually both. Roast the liver with a shallot and pour over a little wine. When the alcohol has evaporated, slice it up and eat it on toast. The rest of the innards and the neck go into a little stock, for making gravy, or save it for later and combine it with the stock you make from the carcass and bones. This will be great for Eastern European style soups.
The reason I'd just roast it is that I love sandwiches with roast duck, so even though I can't eat a whole duck on my own, I'd get rid of the leftovers really quickly. You can make duck bahn mi sandwiches. Or duck on rye bread with pickled red cabbage. Or just pure and simple, sourdough, good butter, duck and salt. And then when time comes, I can buy little frozen duck legs that are better for confiting than the big ones on a whole duck.

If you cook the parts separately, there is a duck breast salad I often make: I score the skin and sear them on a cast iron skillet, starting from cold with the skin side down, to render off the fat. The other side gets a good browning too, but I want it pink inside. When it is done and resting, I use the fat, and there will be enough fat, for roasting thinly sliced potatoes. Meanwhile, I arrange a salad of crispy lettuce or kale for more heft, slices of apple and oranges, walnuts and a dressing of olive oil, lemon, garlic, rose pepper and ginger. I blend the dressing in my mini food processor. Slice the duck breast and put it on top of the salad, serve with the roasted potatoes on the side. (This can serve 1 or 2, depending on how many potatoes you make and wether you use lettuce or kale in the salad).
posted by mumimor at 11:35 PM on April 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

First, keep in mind that this is a farm bird and not a game bird, so game recipes may not work as well. Wild ducks are smaller and much less fatty than domesticated ones.

If you want to maximize fat extraction, I would not roast the bird whole. Part the bird out and hang on to the legs and wings for now - you might actually get enough fat off the carcass to confit them later. I like the breasts cooked very simply - sear in the pan with salt and pepper, let it rest a few minutes after they come off the heat, then slice in to segments. You can make a pan sauce with whatever you have handy (a little orange juice for the classic "a l'orange" flavors if you like), and serve it with rosemary roasted potatoes, asparagus... whatever's in the pantry!

Another alternative if you want to experiment a little - duck breast prosciutto. I think Ruhlman's method in Charcuterie is probably the definitive guide for the home cook. Basically - bury the breasts in salt, stash in the fridge for about a day. Once they're firm and no longer raw-floppy feeling, pull them out, rinse and dry, then dust in white pepper and wrap in cheesecloth. Hang in a cool, dark place (a little bit of humidity is actually good here, so if you have a typical Boston basement that would be ideal) for around a week. Slice very thin and eat as is.

Now you have a parted out carcass. To render the fat off that, cut every last piece of skin off of it. Cut those in to roughly 1" segments, then throw in a saucepan with maybe a quarter cup of water. Put it over medium-low heat and let it do its thing for a while (an hour at least). The idea here is that the water will slowly evaporate to prevent the skin from burning before a lot of the fat has really rendered out. If it looks like the skins are sticking to the pot or starting to burn, add some more water. They're done when... they're done, basically. If it doesn't look like more fat's being generated. Strain out the solids and you're golden. BUT DON'T THROW OUT THE SKINS!!!

Now that you have defatted skins, take those pieces and dust them with salt. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or a Silpat, put the oven on 325, and lay those skins out on the tray. If you have a second identical sheet tray, lay some parchment on top of the skins and then nestle the second tray in to the first so you're sandwiching those skins flat. (If you only have one tray, don't worry about it, they'll just curl a little bit.) Throw that in the oven until the skins are totally crispy and browned. Half an hour maybe? Keep an eye on them. You'll probably have more fat rendered out here, too, so you can save that. Let them cool when they're done - I like these as a salad garnish or just to snack on.

You can probably get a cup or more of fat off of the bird skins, which would be enough to confit the dark meat if you have the right sized pot (I haven't tried the sous vide method but I'm sure it works fine). If you don't want to confit, then I would probably grill the legs (and the wings, or if you don't feel like dealing with them you can save them for the next step). I like Asian flavors here, so glaze them with a mix of soy and hoisin and serve them with a cucumber salad dressed with sesame oil.

So now all that remains is the carcass which you've pulled all the skin off. Make stock with it! Break it down in to smaller pieces if you like (I don't bother most of the time), rub it down with olive oil, and throw it in a 375 oven for around an hour to get nice and brown. Cover with water in a pot, bring to just a bare simmer, and let it cook away for as long as you feel like (at least 4-6 hours). Quarter an onion, a celery stalk, and a carrot, rub all that down with olive oil and a healthy tablespoon or so of tomato paste, in the 375 oven for around half an hour to brown up. That all goes in to the pot with some thyme, bay leaves, whole peppercorn, marjoram, dried mushrooms... whatever you've got for another hour or so. The vegetables should not be mush when you're done. Strain everything after it's cooled down some. If you want to defat it (and you probably will, even taking all the skin off that carcass is going to be fatty), put it in a container and then stash it in the fridge overnight. The next day, all the fat will have risen to the top and solidified a bit and you should be able to take a spoon and easily scrape it off. You can reduce the stock at this point or store it as is however you would normally store stock.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:00 AM on April 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also, hook me up with your duck supplier!
posted by backseatpilot at 6:01 AM on April 12, 2020

I sear our duck breasts and serve them medium. Deglaze the pan and make whatever pan reducktion makes you happy. Put the legs aside for sous vide confit. I put the rest in the Instant Pot for duck broth with a fair amount of stewed meat, but the trick is, I cool that broth and use the fat off the top as my extra duck fat. The duck broth goes into a Chinese noodle soup.
posted by advicepig at 8:48 AM on April 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't remember the recipe for Szechuan duck anymore, but have used this technique ever since. First, you make duck soup by slow simmering the whole duck for an hour or so, until the legs become loose but the meat is still not falling apart. Remove the duck and let it cool - even overnight. You now have duck soup (as is or you can reduce it into stock) and most of the fat has rendered out and is floating on top. Let it cool, and you can scoop it out as a solid sheet of fat and keep it in a jar (there will be a lot) in the fridge for schmaltz, cooking fat, or a dollop on top of packaged Ramen noodles.

You also have a parboiled duck: if you let it cool and then roast it (about 45 minutes, much shorter than the time for a from-scratch duck) you get a juicy duck and crispy duck skin without the ocean of fat splattering the oven. You can roast it with a glaze ( a la orange or , soy sauce / sugar for faux Szechuan style) or not (I like it with a generous dusting of za'atar but you can make do with a mix of thyme and oregano.)
posted by zaelic at 11:41 PM on April 12, 2020

I like Alton Brown's Might Duck recipe.

What makes it work:
1. Brining the duck brings out the flavor
2. Steaming it cooks it and defats it
3. Searing it gives you crunchy skin

What I typically do with any bird is cut it into pieces and take all the non bulk pieces and turn that into broth. Duck broth is delicious and makes a great base for soup. I usually make broth in a slow cooker by dumping all the leftover ducks bits and the bones left from however you cooked the rest with a bay leaf, some peppercorns, celery tops and bottoms, garlic cloves, an onion with some cloves stuck into it, and lots of water. Cook on low for hours and hours and strain out the bits keeping the broth.
posted by plinth at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Can I eat this unopened skordalia that's 3 days...   |   Actually good hot cross buns Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.