What to do with a duck
I really like the idea of buying a whole pig from an organic farmer and processing it myself, nose to tail. I’d cut and grind and pack joints in salt, my perfectly clean equipment laid out on a marble slab. I’d stuff my freezer, and have hams drying in my cool, farmhouse cellar in France.
Alas, I live in a city, and it this time of year, a sweaty, airless city at that. Even if I did have a kitchen big enough to deal with a whole hog, the thing would be rancid by the time I had got half way through. Although I’ve read a few books on the subject, I lack the confidence in my skills to sink so much money into what could turn into a warm salty mess, or worse.
I reckon there is probably a lot of people out there like me; big dreams, huge appetite, tiny freezer, but I think I’ve found a good compromise: start on a duck. For a charcuterie novice they are perfect: small and relatively cheap, more interesting than a chicken, but still more manageable than a pig. You can make air dried ham from a duck breast, which is similar to a really tasty prosciutto, or you can smoke it, or you can make a pâté. The French confit, and pâté made from the liver (foie gras can be made from duck or goose) are sublime as well, of course.The possibilities are nearly as varied as for pork, and it’s a great way for a beginner to practice.
If you can, always buy a whole duck. It is much cheaper than buying fillets or legs, and you can make a wonderful stock with the bones. Duck stock is so much better than chicken stock, but I’ll save that for another post.
First check the insides. Are the innards in a nice clean bag, or is it still pretty primitive in there? If they are where nature intended, leave them. it’s a messy job and not worth the effort unless you want to roast the bird. Split the ribcage down the back and remove the breast meat. Take the legs off next, being careful not to leave any little jagged bones. Save the legs for a cassoulet. Next, go over the carcass and pick off any other bits of meat still clinging to the bones and add them to the breast meat. Now proceed with the recipe:
(Make one small terrine, enough for about four people)
Two duck breasts
150g of streaky bacon, or however much it takes to line your terrine dish.
A handful of dried prunes, chopped
½ tsp Allspice
½ tsp Nutmeg
Salt and pepper
- Chop one duck breast and about half of the other into small pieces and put it in the freezer to keep it very cool while you deal with the rest.
- The leftover duck breast will be the inlay of the terrine, so you can choose to leave it whole, to cut it in strips or into neat cubes. Sear it in a hot pan, but leave it very rare on the inside.
- Remove the other meat from the freezer, put it in a blender with the cream, egg, chopped prunes, salt, pepper and spices. Process it until it is almost smooth, but leave a few chunks of meat and prune for texture
- Line an earthenware dish with bacon, reserving some to make a lid. Pour half of the duck and prune mixture into the dish, then lay the seared duck breast neatly on top. Cover with the rest of the forcemeat, and finish with a final layer of bacon. If you don’t have a lid for your dish, tie a piece of tin foil on with string.
- Put the terrine in a waterbath, and bake in a low oven (about 140°) for one hour. Allow to chill completely overnight in the fridge before serving. Makes a great lunch with bread and pickles, or a very posh picnic.
I’m going to be posting more duck Charcuterie recipes, using everything from the webbing to the quack, but I’d love to hear any unusual uses for a duck that you might know.