Roasted duck is worth the splurge

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I recently bought a duck from my CSA farmer. It's an extravagance; I like to cook one about once a year. It's probably my favorite meat, along with little birds like pheasant and squab, and I make it good to the last drop.

A duck is a great example of how you can make the choice to buy local even when it's a little more expensive (and it isn't always more expensive!). You'll pay between $5 to $7 per pound, but here's the bang for your buck: you can roast a whole duck with crispy skin, render more than a cup of duck fat to save for later, and make around 12 cups of duck broth. Very responsible, in terms of using the whole animal and supporting local farmers.

You may wonder what to do with the duck fat, which is a wonderful, incredible thing. You can enhance the flavor of basically anything; rub it on a chicken for an extra savory kick, or make incredible duck fat-fried potatoes or roast carrots with duck fat and a little ginger, or caramelize some onions in it, etc.

Roast duck

Directions:

I always cook mine the same way — sprinkled with salt and roasted for four hours at 300 degrees, then glazed and finished at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. I do this on a rack over a large cast-iron pan, but a roasting pan is fine, too. You want something where it will be easy to catch all that wonderful fat.

Before cooking, I score the skin on the top — cutting only into the skin, not the meat. Each hour, I poke at the skin with a knife — again, just the skin, not the meat — so that more fat drips out into the pan, and turn the bird over. Start breast-side up, then turn over after an hour, and so on.

At the end of hour 4, make this glaze (which I got from the blog thehungrymouse.com). Glaze your duck, then finish at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. To make the glaze, just simmer these ingredients on medium until they are thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes.

Glaze

Ingredients:

¼ cup molasses

½ cup honey

3 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

Important: Drain the fat out of the pan and reserve it before you glaze and finish the duck. The fat should be pure, not flavored with glaze. Keep it in the freezer in a thick plastic container with a good lid.

Your roast duck should be enough to feed three or four, or make it a dinner for two with leftovers (I made a duck, caramelized onion and kale pizza).

Duck broth

You'll definitely get enough for two soups or risottos, and homemade broth is the best. There is absolutely no store-bought equivalent. Just simmer your duck carcass in a heavy stockpot with water for at least an hour or so — I do two stockpots over around three hours if I have the time.

Buying a duck

I've ordered one from the Meat Market in Great Barrington, Mass., before; it was excellent.

Many, many local farms raise ducks, as well. Mine was from Square Roots Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., (www.squarerootsfarm.org/). I preordered it, which is recommended. Generally, small farmers don't process lots of animals they haven't already sold.

According to Berkshire Grown, the following area farmers raise ducks:

Moon In The Pond Farm, Sheffield: http://www.mooninthepond.com/

Mountain Girl Farm, North Adams: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mountain-Girl-Farm/

Raven & Boar, New Lebanon, N.Y.,: http://ravenandboar.com/

When Pigs Fly Farm, Sandisfield: http://whenpigsflyfarm.com/


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