>I was watching a No Reservations episode where Anthony Bourdain went to a market in Paris. He remarked how seasonal the market was, as there were deer, geese, and ducks, which presumably were in coming in season. I like eating seasonal things.
I have eaten duck many times, but I have never made it myself. I love the taste, and after watching a Good Eats episode on cooking duck, I decided to give it a try. The week prior, I had seen some at the grocery store. The next time I went, I bought two.
I knew that I was getting myself into a quandary in terms of how to cook it. I remembered watching an In Pursuit of Perfection episode where the guy was pumping air between the skin and the meat of the duck to enhance skin crispiness. When Alton Brown made his duck, he brined it and steamed it before roasting. And of course, I’ve eaten duck at Chinese restaurants where they hang the ducks for the skin to dry out and get crispy. I was going to do none of these things. All that stuff is way too hard. Or annoying.
First thing I had to do was buy the duck. Alton Brown said that he uses Long Island Pekins. My grocery store only had some sort of Canadian duck, which at first sounds inferior. But I mean, Canadian duck sounds pretty bucolic. So I figured it would be all right.
Next, I had to defrost it. Under slowly dripping water in a big bowl, this took a day.
Then, I had to start handling the duck. When I found this food network roast duck recipe, it wanted me to go over the skin of the duck and pull out any remaining feathers. I looked over my bird. Thank god I didn’t need to do that. Getting the neck, organs, and sauce packet (yes, sauce packet. i know) out of the bird was gross enough.
I put the bird into a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish. I’ve never owned a proper roasting pan, and I don’t own a roasting rack, so I figured I would make a bed out of some celery and put it all into my lasagne dish.
One thing I did want to do was to douse the duck in boiling water. This seemed like a pretty fancy trick and like something I could handle. I grabbed the duck with my biggest tongs, held it over the sink, and poured a couple ladle fulls of boiling water on to it. As I poured the water over the skin, it began to shrink up like a shrinky dink, but only slightly so. I felt like I was christening the duck, or knighting it.
After the hot water bath, I put the duck into the pan on top of the celery and began scoring the skin. This, I gathered, was to let the extra fat render out from the meat so that it would turn the duck into a self-basting marvel.
That was it. No other seasoning, washing, brining, stuffing, or other treatment. Not even salt or pepper. I put it into a 300 degree oven for three hours. At first, I put it in breast side down. After an hour and a half, I drained the drippings and flipped it over.
After three hours, I cranked the oven temp to 450 for another 30 minutes. This got the duck skin nice and crispy.
I brought the whole bird out to the dinner table. Sarah and I started at it in utter incredulity. Somehow, I expected that it would deflate and disintegrate into dust the moment I tried to carve it. But it didn’t. The duck meat was heavenly. Like a mixture of pork and turkey, my relatively low frills duck method turned out some really tasty food.
Sarah admitted to me that, throughout the day, she had been planning on making macaroni and cheese, as she stated that she didn’t particularly like duck usually. But even she liked this.
I saved the rest of the duck for leftovers. I shredded up the meat and put them into some corn tortillas I was trying to get rid of. Then, I topped it with hot sauce and shredded cheese. I guess you could call it duck carnitas. Or Mexican Mu Shu. Either way, it was yummy.
I saved all of the drippings from the duck too. That’s duck fat, which I’m told is culinary gold. When it cooled, it turned into a loose white solid, like lard. When you put it into a pan to saute something, it makes the food taste wonderful and puts an aroma into your house that will bring back memories of that crazy time you made duck.