Ok, so maybe I have too much free time… I was at the farmer’s market on saturday and had a flash of inspiration… I was going to buy a duck and use every last scrap for something. If a cute little quacker had to die for dinner, I would enjoy every last bit. In about 10 seconds of brilliance I came up with an ad hoc plan:
1) buy duck
2) cut up duck into 2 half breasts, 2 legs, 2 wings, fat/skin, and carcass
3) render fat
4) confit legs using the fat from the previous step
5) roast one breast and make a salad
6) grill the other breast for a second entree
7) turn liver into pate
So over the next week or so I’ll detail my adventures here at Chez Travie. Today I’ll focus on dismembering the duck and rendering the fat. At this point you might be wondering “Why would I want to render and keep duck fat?” I’m glad you asked! Duck fat is amazingly useful and flavorful. The obvious use is to make duck confit, which I’ll detail in my next entry. Duck fat is also great for roasting potatoes, frying french fries, and maybe even to start sauteing the onions for a risotto. Now that we have that out of the way we can get started.
Cutting up the duck was actually the most intimidating part for me. Anyone who has seen me carve a roast chicken can tell you why – it isn’t a pretty sight. I’ll apologize now for the lack of pictures while I cut up the duck. I didn’t have the energy to wash and dry my hands after every step so I could take photos without turning my camera into a poultry related biohazard. The process is really quite straightforward; if you have ever cut up a whole chicken this process will be very familiar.
Here is the starting material:
Here is the procedure:
1) Remove the wings: Flip the duck breast down and remove the wings; your knife should slide fairly easily through the joint.
2) Remove the legs: Turn the duck breast up. Slice along the side of the duck (don’t cut the breast) until you reach the joint where the thigh meets the body (analogous to our hip joint). At this point it is best to reach in and break the joint with you hands (you aren’t squeamish are you?) Wiggle your knife to slide through this joint and cut the rest of the way through.
3) Remove the breast: Slice along each side of the breastbone (one cut on each side) to detach the breast. The only trouble spot here might be the wishbone, be sure to slide your knife under it when you get there.
4) Skin/fat: Trim the pieces you have removed of any excess skin/fat. Go over the carcass and cut off any large pieces of skin and fat. Don’t forget all the skin on the back of the duck. Also be sure to get all of the yummy fat from the neck as well. Be thorough, duck fast is like liquid gold in the kitchen.
Ok, so after you go through that (it is much easier than it sounds) here is what you get (I don’t think I did too bad 🙂 ):
At this point, I packed up the legs, breast, and liver to work with later this week. Onward to the fat!!
Rendered Duck Fat
2. Cook the mixture over low heat, adjusting the flame to keep it at a simmer. Stir occasionally. The fat will melt and the water will slowly boil off.
3. When the water is completely gone, the bubbling will seem to almost stop (only small bubbles will be seen), any pieces of skin will be crisp (like pork cracklings), and the fat will turn a light golden color.
4. At this point remove the fat from the heat and strain it into a heatproof container several times. The cleaner you make the fat at this point, the longer it will last. A cheesecloth lined strainer would be ideal for this.
5. When the strained fat has cooled to room temperature, transfer the fat to the refrigerator or freezer for storage.
Other than the fact that I’ll have to burn down my apartment to get rid of the duck smell everything went very well. I now have one cut up duck and 12 oz. of so of rendered duck fat to play with. Not too shabby for the fairly minimal amount of work involved.
Up next: Duck confit