Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fun Playing With Fresh Duck

No, our house was not the set of a Marx Brothers movie. But the smells and tastes were unmistakable - as another fabulous Kathy Breychak product moved from farm to table with grace and taste. I speak of Duck Soup, prepared as suggested by the late, great Barbara Tropp in her fabulous China Moon Cookbook.

This all started back in September or October, when Kathy Breychak told her CSA members that she would have fresh ducks available at the same time as her geese (the geese had already been reserved through the CSA in early 2008) - December 2008. We reserved a duck. After enjoying Kathy's fresh turkey so much in November, we could hardly wait to roast one of her fresh ducks in December!

But it was not to be. Kathy thinks that she waited a few too many weeks to process the ducks and geese - and so she was unable to get their feathers off without taking the skin with it. Bummer.

Kathy advised her CSA members that she would return their deposits if they didn't want eviscerated poultry - but I told her to bring it on! Our friend Edsel felt likewise, and last Saturday, picked up our packages from Kathy and brought them to us at the Slow Food Baricelli Cheese Tasting. I say "packages" because Edsel had two bags for us: one entitled "Duck, Duck, Goose" and the other containing duck heads and feet, which Kathy knew we would happily use.

Even though we hadn't ordered goose, we were delighted to discover a whole (if skinless) goose, and the breasts and legs of 2 ducks. And, as luck would have it, on Friday 12/12, Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman blogged about making Duck Breast Prosciutto. So - we knew where two of the four breast pieces were going!

But what to do with the remainder? Bob wanted to confit the legs, but we had precious little duck fat in the house. Well, we, you should pardon the expression, killed two birds with one stone - starting with duck stock to be coaxed from the heads and feet.

Bob had never flicked [de-feathered] poultry before, but the heads still had their feathers, so he got a crash course before roasting the parts, then immersing them in the stockpot.

Do I Detect A Smile On That Beak?

An enticing smell filled the house as the stock simmered - it took many hours for the feet to give up all of their gelatinous goodness.

After the stock was strained and chilled, Bob scraped off the fat layer and set it aside to make his confit. His lengthly cooking process was rewarded with the most savory quivering mass:

The breast marinated for a day in soy sauce, rice wine, hot chili oil, fresh ginger, and cilantro. To turn the stock into soup, Bob started by searing the duck breast in the soon-to-be soup pot.

Marinated Duck Breast Searing

Per the Tropp recipe, the meat was seared but still very rare. Bob removed the breast to rest, and added the stock. The only other ingredients to go into the soup pot were the breast drippings (after the meat was sliced and added to the soupbowls) and Sichuan Pepper-Salt, a condiment made by whirling Kosher Salt and Sichuan Peppercorn in the spice grinder together.

And Then, It Rested

As the meat rested, Bob prepared two Asian soup bowls, again guided by the recipe.

Raw vegetables came first - peas, carrots, nappa cabbage, basil and scallions (this photo was only the peas and carrots).

Having rested, the seared breast meat was thinly sliced, and placed atop the vegetables.

Next - hot noodles are added. Normally, I would have stopped at an Asian grocery and bought proper soup noodles - but since we are still swimming in cooked noodle leftovers from our catering efforts in Cincinnati last week, we decided to use those. The steaming broth is then ladled over the entire bowl:

As the recipe predicted, the addition of boiling stock to the bowl finished cooking the duck pieces as well as the vegetables. The duck breast meat was exquisitely tender, tasting just a little gamey - but caressed in the amazing stock and vegetables, and seasoned liberally with finishing salt and fresh-ground pepper - it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life. No kidding.

I can't wait to see how the confit comes out, and the prosciutto. And then, there is that goose! Bob wants to roast it, even though it has no skin. We're toying with several ideas - covering it with bacon or caul fat if we can get it. It is resting comfortably in the freezer for now.

Breychak's Blue Egg Farm has given us fabulous playthings yet again! Now, if only the laying hens would get back to work. Oh well - everyone needs some time to just play with their food, I suppose.

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