A few weeks ago my mom and step-father were in town for a visit to see our new house and help get some stuff in order (my step-father’s an awesome carpenter) and while they were here I roasted a duck for dinner, but this isn’t about the delicious roast duck dinner I made. It’s about the realization I had when I noticed I could purchase a whole duck for the price of one boneless duck breast. As I do more and more home-curing I’m inclined to pay attention to being more efficient and economical. I wanted to make some duck prosciutto for Christmas but instead of taking the quick way and buying one breast to make it I’d get a whole duck and fillet the breasts off. As a bonus I’d also make some duck confit, get some duck fat, and make some awesome stock. A real tip to tail operation!
Last week I saw some fresh ducks in the case at the grocery store so I picked one up. Time to put my idea into practice and break down the duck. I was a little nervous and didn’t want to make any horrible slips and ruin the meat so I made sure my boning knife was very sharp. While I’ve carved up many a chicken I wouldn’t feel horrible making a bad cut on a chicken. Ducks aren’t very meaty either so a bad slip could potentially lose a good percentage of valuable meat. I started with the legs to build some confidence and quickly had two full duck legs (with “oyster” intact!) weighing a little more than 1 ¼ lbs altogether. The breasts came next and were also successfully removed without any loss of meat, as far as I could tell of course. I’m sure a real butcher may disagree!
Ok, so I had the legs for confit and breasts for prosciutto but there were still lots of good things to get from this one duck. I trimmed any remaining skin and fat from the carcass and added it to the small pile I had from trimming and cleaning the legs and breasts. It added up to about 10 oz. I put the pieces into a heavy bottomed pan, added a ¼ C of water, and put the burner on low in order to render out the glorious duck fat. From those 10 oz I pulled almost ¾ C of beautiful golden fat. Side benefit: we now also have some duck skin crackling. Double win.
The rest of the carcass and wings went into a big pot covered with water for stock. End result there was about 6 C of stock.
One duck, 5 products, all for the price of one duck breast. Needless to say I’m pretty impressed with myself on this one.
Cheryl will be too because my grand plan is to make cassoulet sometime in the next couple weeks using mostly ingredients I’ve made, like the garlic sausage and bacon. Just needed the duck legs, which I’ve now taken care of!
Duck Confit (cure is for each pound of duck legs)
- 8 gr kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
- Olive oil
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl.
Rub onto duck legs.
Place duck legs in a small baking dish or other non-reactive pan.
Place in refrigerator for 48 hours to cure.
48 Hours later…
Pre-heat your oven to 180°F.
Rinse the cure from the duck legs.
Place legs into a heavy bottomed pot like a Dutch oven or large casserole dish and cover with olive oil. Make sure they are entirely submerged and no part is poking out.
Place pot into the pre-heated oven and let it slow cook for at least 6 hours. Side Roam: I’ll put the dish in the oven when I go to bed and when I get up it’s done. Kitchen smells great first thing in the morning too!
Allow to cool and if in a pot transfer legs and oil to a container for storing in your refrigerator. They should keep in your fridge for a very long time provided they stay submerged in the fat. When you want to use a leg simply take it out and wash/scrape off the fat. The oil will have some good duck flavor too.