Earlier this year, my sister treated us to a fantastic meal at a Cantonese restaurant in Quezon City. We ordered the duck, of course! Now if I remember correctly, this was a duck served 3 ways (or was it 4)? Anyway, the duck found in Chinese restaurants are usually the pekin duck and not the muscovy or barbary duck.
Both pekin and muscovy are domestic duck breeds. The pekin breed is descended from the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the muscovy duck breed is descended from the muscovy (Cairina moschata).
The meat of the pekin duck is probably what most people are familiar with since it is the staple in many Chinese restaurants. This duck meat is quite fatty and moist and imparts a taste and flavour that is typically associated with “duck” flavour. The meat of the muscovy duck, however, is quite different. It is not as fatty and it has a flavour much closer to that of sirloin steak or beef.
Anyway, here are a few photos of the meal at the Chinese restaurant. Typically, the duck is baked and the meat is carefully carved. The meat is used to prepare a number of dishes (such as chopped and mixed with vegetables and spices, and eaten by wrapping in lettuce; or wrapped in rice paper with onion leeks and hoisin sauce), and the bones used to make soup. The idea is to use the whole duck to serve a fantastic meal.
Here is a fantastic video I found on The Lexicon of Food (below), showing how duck can be prepared from beak to butt! – nothing wasted. This looks more like muscovy duck meat to me! I love it totally – definitely a must try!
If you’re familiar with Pad Thai Noodles, a dish of stir-fried rice noodles, here’s a version done with duck. Remember we still had the duck bones leftover from making seared duck breasts, duck leg confit and rendered duck fat? Here’s what you can do with the duck bones.
First you need to get the stock. This means cooking the bones in a bit of (duck) oil and the necessary spices (salt, crushed peppercorns, ginger, Chinese Five Spice powder, star anise, sugar, bay leaf, garlic, etc) until well browned, then deglazing that with water. The rich brown stock is duck sauce which you’ll use for soupy dishes as well as for sauce.
Duck stock can be used for noodle soup. But this time, I decided to use some of it as sauce for Pad Thai Noodles. But before doing that, the meat needs to be collected from the duck bones. This is very easy to do because the bones have been cooked and the meat easily falls off the bones.
So, as you can see, a whole duck can be used entirely (wait till we get something cooking wit the duck liver!) ?
Sunday lunch preparation started early today. Naan bread needs time to rise so I made that quite early, just after feeding the pigs. Next was the duck leg confit. This involves taking the rendered duck fat out, and putting the marinated duck legs in to cook in the fat. This is slow cooking, and fat cooks really hot so you only need a low fire. Like olive oil, duck fat has a very high burning point so this can be used many times over, it is fantastic rich oil.
Duck legs were cooked in oil for about an hour, just enough to make soft meat, not too much that it falls off the bone. The flavour and texture of this meat is remarkable.
My own recipe for using this duck confit is quite simple, and duck confit can be used in a wide range of ways. In this case, I cooked the duck legs in some peanuts with garlic and a bit of red chili. Side vegetables consist of what’s available, for now it’s squash, carrots and red bell peppers. Just a quick simmer in freshly squeezed coconut milk to keep the vegetables crisp, not overcooked.
This is then served with the naan bread. The rich sauce of the duck and vegetables go very well with flatbreads, you really clean up your plate with that bread, it’s wonderful doing that!
In a previous post, we showed how the duck breast is prepared. We still have some duck bones to use in stock or some brown sauce. That’ll be for next time. Bon appétit!
We had two ducks slaughtered yesterday afternoon and I finally came up with something new, something absolutely fantastic with this extraordinary meat. I started by butchering the whole duck, separating legs, wings and breasts. It is not difficult at all, it is much like butchering a chicken. I’ll post something about that next time.
How Much Did the Ducks Weigh?
Before butchering, the ducks weighed 1.65 and 1.4 kilos. After dressing, the carcass (with heart and liver) weighed 1.45 and 1.2 kilos. Both ducks were about 4 months old. We’re trying to feed the ducks better so as to get more meat before they get to 6 months. I would personally like to be able to have barbary ducks of about 2 kilos dressed weight.
How Do You Butcher a Duck and What Do You Do With It?
Although you can cook a whole duck – baked or braised – you can cut it up and use when needed. Today, I cut up the legs for use in confit. The leg pieces are salted and spiced, then placed in the refrigerator for no less then 36 hours. Later, these duck legs will be cooked slowly in duck fat until the meat falls off the bone.
The fat and skin are trimmed off the duck and rendered – that is, heated slowly until all the fat has melted into oil. This rendered duck fat is phenomenal in French cuisine. This is the fat that I will be using later for the confit.
The breasts (in halves) are salted and peppered on the skin side (skin sliced first to let the fat through when cooking). Don’t salt the meat side because this will dehydrate the meat and make it tough. Cook skin down, don’t use any oil because the duck fat will melt and it will be enough to cook the duck skin crisp.
The duck bones (head, feet, wings, backbones etc) will be used later to make delicious stock or brown sauce. More about those in the next posts!
Note: I prepared all this in the evening because the ducks were butchered late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to freeze them before using. This way, the ducks are prepared fresh.
Then I stored the duck legs in a sealed container and put it in the refrigerator, together with the seared duck breasts. The duck breasts will be prepared the next day for lunch.
Cooking The Duck Breasts
The seared duck breasts could be used right away – it can be grilled and cut up. However, today, I decided to fry it up, again with no additional oil – and no additional salt. I cooked it on the meat side using a non-stick pan. More duck fat oozed while cooking. Cooking doesn’t take long, maybe about 5 minutes on this side. Then I turned it over on the skin side again and cooked for about 3 minutes. What we mustn’t do is overcook the meat otherwise it will become dry and tough. Aim for medium rare meat.
To go with the duck breasts I decided on rotis and curry sauce. I made the rotis using flour, water and salt, and a small amount of oil, cooked in a non-stick pan on one side, then turn the other side directly over the fire. Cooking is about a minute on each side. My rotis have black sesame seeds, and I love these!
The curry sauce is prepared Thai red curry with lots of coconut milk and sliced string beans, and two red chilli. I used the same pan used to cook the duck breasts so as not to waste that fantastic fat and flavour.
Putting it all together – two pieces of roti, sliced duck breast on top, curry sauce around it and some sliced cucumbers. Absolutely fantastic.
The taste of duck meat is indeed amazing, and the fat (which is considered not as unhealthy as beef or pork fat!) exudes this extraordinary rich aroma. I personally don’t find duck meat gamey at all perhaps because I am very fond of beef, especially served medium to rare. There’ll be more recipe experiments to come with this fantastic meat! Bon appétit!
But What’s For Dinner?
There were some duck breast and rotis leftover. So I cut of the duck breast into small strips, intending to wrap them in the roti. But I couldn’t wrap up the duck slices in the roti, because the rotis were too small. So I decided to cook the duck breast slices with some string beans, onions, tomatoes, make some scrambled duck eggs with garlic, tomatoes and rosemary, served on top of the rotis and with some sate sauce on the side (sate sauce goes very well with duck!) Dinner solved! Thanks to the ducks! 😉 Confit will be for tomorrow!
Another way to serve duck -particularly the “duck bacon” 🙂 is as pizza topping. For the “pizza crust” we used homemade bread (topped with oatmeal and black sesame seeds!). Then some onions, garlic and tomatoes are sautéed with tomato paste and spread over the slices of bread. On top of this are laid crispy fried thin slices of duck bacon. Garnish is a tiny bit of blue cheese and slices of cucumber (the cucumber tones down the saltiness).