Sunday, December 04, 2005

Duck for beginners

Duck legs were on sale at the Public Market the other day ($3.99/lb) so I took four of them home with no clue how to cook them. I considered a duck ragu, red roast duck, and braised duck with orange peel and almonds. I though I might just roast them as I do chicken legs with olive oil, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt. But then I settled on this recipe for duck legs roasted with mustard from gastropoda. I've done almost the exact same thing several times with salmon: coat with dijon, press panko into the mustard, cook. This treatment might make even stale Wonder bread taste good. The duck legs roasted for an hour at 325 and rested about ten minutes before we dug into them. They were fine but the mustard-panko coating was the tastiest part. The excitement of cooking something new and a bit fancy raised my expectations too high, I think, and the result was a little disappointing

In preparing the duck legs I trimmed off extra pieces of skin and set them aside. I can't think of a mundane kitchen task that brings me more pleasure than rendering fat. The byproduct, grebenes (you may call them cracklins), were tastier than the duck legs themselves, but that's like saying that ice cream is tastier than milk. What do you expect? To render duck fat, you cut the skin into small pieces and heat them up with a bit of water in a pan. Eventually the water evaporates and the skin turns into cripsy little pellets of delicious. It doesn't hurt to salt them well the moment they come out of the hot fat. I'm saving the schmaltz for a future preparation. (If you have a favorite use for it, the comments are yours.)

At the same time as I was doing this I was also making alphabet soup to feed the little man and when a tiny M noodle fell into the schmaltz I quickly fished it out with a fork and popped it in my mouth. It might not surprise you that this was, far and away, the best M I've ever had.

Today I recycled the leftovers into duck fried rice with the usual fixings. E said it was better than the kind I made the last time with cardamom and SPAM. And that's Huy Fong brand sriracha sauce, which I always call red rooster sauce, behind the plate of rice. It makes a lot of things better.

UPDATE: Slashfood asks for duck fat suggestions too. One commenter recommends roasting root vegetables in it. That had already crossed my mind.


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