We know, we know! We all have that thought from time to time when trying a new recipe, or an ingredient we maybe haven’t cooked with before. That moment inevitably occurs when you are quite sure it is going to be a failure, and the thought passes through your mind like a freight train. “What was I thinking?” From that point, the recipe is either wildly successful or a complete disaster. We find that duck is one of those things that troubles many home cooks.
When preparing for an event, our ducks are cured whole in a dry brine for several days, the ducks are rinsed and hung to dry age for three weeks. After being trussed, they are slowly roasted around our hearth basket for four hours. While roasting, the fat is collected and later used while cooking potatoes. (They taste just as amazing as you are imagining, we promise.) When the ducks are ready, they are carved, and topped with a pan sauce.
This is obviously a bit labor intensive for the average Sunday dinner, so we thought we would start out by demystifying the duck.
Native to North America, the duck (Anas platyrhynchos) find its place both in the wild and in domestic situations. At Heirloom Fire, we appreciate them in many ways. We admire their beauty in the wild, their eggs on the farm, and their sweet meat on our tables. Duck unfortunately has a reputation for the home cook as being greasy, gamey and tough. We would like to take that bad reputation and smash it, because we are about to make duck your new favorite bird.
You first need to start with a good, quality bird. Here in our area we can easily find a good quality duck easily at both the grocery store and specialty markets. Always with any meat, and especially with things like duck, spend a little extra for a really good bird, you will absolutely get your money’s worth in both flavor and texture.
How To Make The Perfect Duck Breast
2 Duck breasts
Fresh ground black pepper
With a very sharp knife, gently score the skin of the duck breast in a crosshatch pattern, keeping the scores about 1/8 inch apart. Season duck breasts with salt and pepper.
Place duck breasts, skin side down, in a large, cold pan. Place pan over low to medium-low heat. You should start to begin to see the fat starting to render after about 5 minutes of cooking. You'll want to take your time here, if the sizzling becomes any louder than a gentle sizzle, remove from the heat until silent again. Continue to cook the breast gently, until the majority of the fat has been rendered out and the breast is light golden brown; about 10-12 minutes.
Increase heat to medium high to finish crisping the skin, about one minute. Gently turn breast over to flesh side and cook for an additional minute, or until breast registers 130°F on an instant-read thermometer.
You can cook the breast further if you like, however, the breast is best served medium rare.
Once cooked, remove the breast from the heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Because duck has a rich flavor, serve the breasts with a sweet or acidic sauce. For the attached video we used our preserved cranberries that we prepared during our Thanksgiving cranberry video.
Duck Confit with Roasted Cauliflower, Sunchokes and Brussels Sprouts
3 tablespoons salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoons bay leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 duck legs
About 4 cups duck fat *
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of a dish or plastic container large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots, and thyme in the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the salt mixture, then sprinkle with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots, and bay leaves and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Melt the duck fat in a small saucepan. Rinse duck thighs and pat dry. Arrange the duck in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or dutch oven. Pour the melted fat over the duck (the duck pieces should be covered by fat) and place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit slowly at a very slow simmer until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2-3 hours. Remove the confit from the oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat. (The confit will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)
Serve confit along a rich and hearty vegetable side, such as the roasted vegetables below.
*NOTE: If you do not have enough duck fat, supplement with canola or vegetable oil.
Roasted Cauliflower, Sunchokes and Brussels Sprouts
1 head cauliflower, chopped into 1 “ pieces
½ lb brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
½ lb sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes), cleaned and cut into 1 “ pieces
Fresh lemon, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl combine the vegetables, coat with a layer of olive out and season generously with sea salt. Spread the vegetables in an even layer on a roasting pan, do not pile the vegetables up otherwise they will steam and we want them to get golden brown; use two sheet pans of necessary.
Transfer the vegetables to the oven and cook for fifteen minutes. Carefully remove them from the oven and stir. Put vegetables back in the oven and cook for another fifteen to twenty minutes until crisp and golden brown. Carefully remove vegetables from the oven, correct seasoning if needed. Right before serving, season with lemon juice for a bright pop.
Goes great with any hearty roasts in the winter months.