Sometimes I get the urge to do things I don’t know how to do. Up to this point I’d never cooked as much as a duck breast, but I decided I wanted to challenge myself and see how much I could do with a whole one.
24 hours after being buried in salt
i’m really good at knots
One thing I knew from the outset was that I would have to to do some preservation. What really got duck into my head was Michael Ruhlman’s post about duck prosciutto. It seemed like a pretty straightforward way to preserve the breast and create something delicious in the process. The pictures here are basically the entire process: salt, wrap, hang. It took about 10 days for mine to finish, and man oh man was it worth the wait. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at charcuterie, this is the place to start.
Duck fat has a reputation for being the creme de la creme of cooking fats. Unfortunately the process for getting that fat is entirely unphotogenic, so you’ll have to take my word that I did the above myself. I cooked some skin over low heat for about an hour, yielding about a cup of fat plus a nice batch of cracklins.
With the meat divided I made a stock with what was left. The process was almost identical to that of making chicken stock: add carcass, vegetables, and aromatics to water, and simmer for several hours. I’m looking forward to some baller risotto in the not too distant future.
duck breast and grits
With the other breast I pulled a recipe from Michael Ruhman’s fantastic book, 20. I cooked the breast skin side down in the pan over low heat for about 20 minutes, flipped it, and cooked it for a couple more minutes to get to medium rare. Unfortunately I cooked it to well-well-done, but the accompanying sauce, a cranberry-orange gastrique, literally and figuratively covered up my mistake.
let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to cook in lard for 9 hours
if you’re keeping tally, you probably remember that ducks have legs. thankfully i was, so I decided to make a small batch of duck confit with the lard I had leftover from making pork belly confit. (Yeah) Anyway, these guys are sitting in my fridge where they’ll keep for who knows long. Probably forever.
Though I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do at the outset, I’ve found time and again that the best way to become a better cook is to keep pushing yourself: buy ingredients you have no idea how to use, use cooking methods you’ve never tried before, and end blog posts with prescriptive clichés.