Rye and duck cookery: Part 2
While part 1 of this week's blog entry explored the wonderful world of rye, part 2 is fully devoted to the good things that come from the duck. I don't use duck that often, but when I do, I like to buy a whole duck and book the whole weekend for fun in the kitchen. Even though it can be quite delicious roasted, I personally think it's better to work with the different parts of the duck separately. If you roast the whole bird, you know that when the breast pieces are perfectly cooked, the legs will be partly done and far from tender. Roasting the bird longer will make the legs more palatable, but the breasts will be dry... So why not break it down and cook each part on its own?
My plan for the weekend was to pan fry the duck breasts, make a stock from the bones, render duck fat from the skin and confit the duck legs. The legs are rubbed with coarse sea salt, some crushed pepper and cloves, as well as a little thyme and slices of garlic.
Leave the legs in the dry cure at least overnight, or up to 48 hours, and make sure you wash it off with cold running water before continuing with the confit. Just rubbing the salt off might leave you with overtly salty duck legs (a shame after so much work!!).
Marching onwards, render fat (for the confit) and cook stock with the bones.
A duck stock is a nice substitute for chicken stock, and is perfect in a risotto for your duck breasts. You could also braise the legs using the duck stock as a nice alternative to the confit method of preparing them. To extract as much flavour as possible, I like to roast the bones until well-browned, before adding to a pot with stock vegetables and topping up with cold water. Skim, skim, skim and let it simmer for a few hours, and then reduce it to the concentration you're after.
While the stock is simmering away, get some pasta going:
and if the stock still needs some time before it's done, this is a nice time to cook the breast pieces and enjoy them with pasta, some greens and a crisp white wine:
This left me rather exhausted, so I called it a day and came back fresh and relaxed the following day to get the legs going (literally). As mentioned, cleanse them under cold running water, pat well dry, and snuggle them tightly into a cooking vessel. The amount of fat needed to poach them tender is very dependent on your cooking vessel; this time, I only had two legs to confit, so I used an ovenproof baking dish for the job. Melt the fat and get it close to 100 dC, before pouring it over the legs and into the dish. Put the dish in a low oven (roughly 90 dC - 95 dC), and let it work its miracle for 4 - 6 hours, depending on how melting-and-falling-off-the-bone tender you like them.
Previously, I've tried to prepare the confit on the stovetop, but I found it very hard to keep a constant simmering temperature (I want somewhere between 85 dC and 90 dC for the duration of the cooking time), and the meat ended up tasting slightly "stringy". I think this can be due to cooking the legs at too high temperatures in the fat; a low oven and an instant read thermometer inserted into the cooking vessel is a much more convenient way, I think. After it's time was up, I left the legs to cool in the fat:
These would sit very well right where they are, but preferrably in the fridge, for weeks. Another use of the confit, is to make rillettes, probably my most favourite bread and baguette spread:
It's hard to make shredded and potted meat look delicious in a photography, but I hope you believe me when I say it tastes wonderful. Moist, spreadable and intensely duck flavoured. After all, this is pure duck; the leg meat is simply shredded and moistened with fat and the jelly from the confit cooking vessel. Kept air-tight, the rillettes can be stored for weeks. It also makes the most astonishing ravioli filling:
Phew! That was a long weekend, but it was also a ton of fun. I like to shift around and work in the kitchen, and putting all the bits from an animal to good use, feels rewarding. Stored (confit jelly, confit, and/or rillettes in the fridge, raviolis made up and frozen), this duck will keep me happy for a long time to come.