Do you like free stuff? Me too! Living off a cooks wage isn't easy. Eating well off a cooks wage is even harder. Buying a whole duck will help you in so many ways. How? Patience... we'll get there. I source my ducks at the 82nd street green market from the Garden of Spices stand. They're absolutely delicious and the farmers responsible for them also offer a variety of poultry, and poultry products. We also recently got a grab bag of wild mushrooms for six dollars from them. I cannot stress it enough, shop at the green markets. It's inexpensive, and the food you get is unbelievably good, and good for you.
So what can I do with a whole duck?
Roasting a duck whole, like any bird can be tricky. Poultry and game birds are inherently flawed in that breast meat and thigh meat like different things, and have different cooking times and temperatures. Unless there's company coming, I rarely go for this option. I like to break my birds down and treat the parts right.
You might think this is all you can get from a bird. Untrue.
Yes you get two breasts and two legs, but there is so much more to it. Once your duck is broken down, and you've trimmed the carcass and the "choice" pieces, you'll have quite a bit of fat available. Pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes so we can grind it up and render it. If you don't have a meat grinder, you can pulse the semi-frozen fat in a food processor. So why save the duck fat? Why go though these steps? To begin, its not hard. It takes minimal effort, and as I mentioned above its FREE DUCK FAT. Duck fat normally retails for something like 10 bucks for 8 oz. When you make close to 10 bucks an hour after taxes, it's hard to think about working a whole hour in a kitchen for a cup of fat. Additionally, of the animal fats, duck fat is relatively healthy. Its mostly unsaturated fat, and contains oleic acid. Cooking wise, it's resistant to breaking down at high temperatures.
You can use your fat in a variety of ways. Each duck gets me about a cup of golden beautiful fat. I usually freeze this until I have enough to confit the legs. You can also use it to roast any vegetables. It's got great flavor, and again, free.
Bones, and stock:
If you throw away any bird bones you are a lazy person. You also must be rich because stock isn't free. You also must dislike full flavored stock since you purchase boxes of stock. The supermarket chicken stock has something like 1 oz of meat per gallon of water. Boring.
Overnight stock "recipe" :
- roasted bones
- aromatic vegetables ( carrots, celery, onion )
- black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- fistful of parsley stems
- 10 cups of water
- Put everyone in the slow cooker.
- Let it go overnight.
- Strain. Quart up.
From here the world is your oyster. Duck is an awesome protein you should be cooking. Don't have the fat for confit yet? Don't worry you'll get there, just keep buying them ducks. Legs are awesome.
Endless possibilities. Google will certainly prove that. Since it's the most familiar cut for people, the content out there is insane. Tea smoke them and serve with rice and pickled vegetables. Be Mr. or Mrs. Boringstory and sear and put over a salad. Actually I love crispy duck breast with fuji apples, fennel, arugula and roquefort.
All told, it's just a good idea to buy a whole duck. Whole everything. For 22 dollars I get a weeks worth of food, and extra stuff for the larder.
Go buy a duck. Seriously.