I'd never cooked duck before we butchered the drakes in our backyard flock of Welsh Harlequins. I'd barely even eaten duck before, just a couple of bad-to-okay experiences with it. When I placed my order for ten ducklings (the minimum) with the idea of keeping a few for egg production, I knew I'd eventually have to butcher a few.
Cooking with duck has been fantastic. I've been thrilled with what I've made so far, especially the smoked duck. It was so succulent, savory, delicate and delicious - it exceeded my expectations, and I hope to make it again. Perhaps a small duck farm is in my future?
Sorry I didn't photo document cooking the ducks the way I usually do when I'm presenting a recipe. I didn't know exactly what I was doing, so I can't say, "this is how you cook duck". I just want to show you a few delicious possibilities.
Breasts and legs of one duck.
I felt compelled to do at least one "a l'orange" dish. I made an orange sauce by cooking down a mixture of fresh squeezed OJ, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, orange zest and Chinese 5 spice.
I scored the skin of the duck breasts so that some fat would escape. Salt and pepper of course.
I seared the breasts, skin side down, on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Look at all that duck fat! Then I turned the breasts and cooked them for another 5 minutes or so.
My first duck dish: duck breasts a l'orange. The orange sauce was a triumph!
I decided to bake the duck legs, so I made a marinade of soy sauce, oyster sauce, fresh ginger and garlic, brown sugar and Chinese 5 spice.
I marinated the legs overnight.
I lined a baking dish with foil.
I baked them at 425 for 35 minutes.
Juicy duck leg.
Baked duck leg with whole grains and salad from our garden.
From that first duck that I cut into pieces, I gathered all the skin and fat from the carcass and rendered it by cooking on medium heat until the hissing and popping ceased.
I salted and ate the duck skin cracklins.
I poured the rendered duck fat into a jar and refrigerated it.
With the carcass from the first duck I cooked, plus the necks, feet and giblets from all four drakes we butchered, I made stock.
The duck stock after simmering overnight. I poured it through cheesecloth to filter out the bits.
Duck fat and duck stock.
My internet sources say potatoes cooked in duck fat are way in, so I gave it a go. I boiled the potatoes briefly (with salt, garlic, and herbs) to bring the starch to the surface. Then I drained and air dried the potatoes.
Blob o' duck fat into the frying pan.
Parboiled taters frying in duck fat.
Wow - nice golden brown potato skins.
Okay, those people who love duck fat are onto something. These were the most delicious fried potatoes I've ever made. I served 'em with sea salt and parsley.
For the second duck, I decided to use my smoker. I made a rub with honey, soy sauce, fresh pressed garlic, black pepper and Chinese 5 spice (yeah, I know I'm using the 5 spice a lot, but I've got a big bag that's just been waiting for a duck to hop on.)
This is my holly hobby smoker. The perfect size for smoking one whole duck or chicken. (To see how to smoke a chicken in one of these, check out my video: smoking chicken with Frankie Kimm.
I used apple wood chips.
I hot smoked the duck, using the box the smoker came in to keep in the heat. The temp inside was almost 250 degrees.
These ducks are pretty small at 3 pounds, dressed. I figured three hours would be sufficient in the smoker, so I took the duck out at 1.5 hours, added more rub, and popped it back in the smoker for another hour and a half.
This duck was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.
Smoked duck leg and breast with duck fat potatoes and salad from our garden.
I'm going to save the smoked duck fat for more potatoes, and the skin and wings to make black beans.
I simmered a pot of black beans with the leftover smoked duck skin and wings.
This is a dish I generally make in the winter, but what the heck: smoked duck skin black bean stew with jalapeno cheddar cornmeal biscuits.
I still had that big jar of duck stock in the fridge, so I decided to make another dish I'd been meaning to try at home - Pho. I added these spices to the stock: cinnamon, star anise, coriander, thai peppers, cloves, and cardamom in the form of two tea bags. Hey, that's all I had!
I broiled an onion and some fresh ginger to add to the stock.
I simmered the duck stock with the goodies for a few hours.
Duck stock Pho: I added elk meat, rice noodles, jalapenos, and fresh mint, basil and cilantro from our garden.
All these glorious ducky dishes were made with only two drakes, plus the necks, feet and giblets of two other drakes we butchered. I gave one of the drakes to a friend who helped butcher them, and I'll be smoking the last one I have in the freezer.