Archive for the ‘Duck’ Category

Easter is a time of true celebration. I mean, we are talking about the God of the universe loving us so much that He came down to Earth, suffered and died for our sins, and then to make sure everyone noticed He rose from the grave a few days later. Wow. And the best part, all we have to do is say “I do” to Jesus and we’re golden. What’s not to celebrate??

This year I decided to do something really special for Easter. Duck. As you may recall, I once helped process ducks in exchange for free duck (will work for food) but my roast duck was a bad call due to the age of the birds. (The crock pot duck, however, was fantastic!) This year though I proudly paid for a young duckling from Nature’s Harmony Farm, a good recipe and was ready to go.

All trussed up!

I pulled the roast duck recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple (yes, I’ve been hanging out with the primal crowd lately) and used the Spice Seasoning and the Orange Honey Sauce. After liberally seasoning, I trussed a duck for the first time (well, any fowl actually). For chickens it doesn’t seem to matter much to me but the duck legs were way out there so I decided to tie him up. It’s actually much easier than it looks. Into the oven the bird went and I focused on my other dishes.

Cream of Swiss Chard Soup

I made some mashed potatoes to please my sweetie, threw together a salad with shallots and red wine vinegar, and got some sugar snap peas ready for a quick saute (sauteed them in bacon fat – heck yeah!) I had some swiss chard from my CSA hanging out in the crisper that had gone pretty wilty on me, so I decided to try a cream of swiss chard soup. Since it turned out really well (test subject Bill even ate the leftovers!) I thought I’d post what I did here:

1/2 onion, chopped

1 big bunch swiss chard, stems removed and chopped

3 cups chicken stock

2 T butter

1/2 c half and half or heavy cream (I used half and half only because I was sadly out of cream)

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and chard stems in the butter until soft, then add about 1/2 cup of the stock, cover the pot and simmer until everything is nice and soft. I was busy doing other things, so I probably left mine for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the leaves of the chard and the rest of the stock, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Use a stick blender to puree the soup well, then return to heat and stir in the cream or half and half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It didn’t look so attractive, but turned out quite tasty. It doesn’t require a lot of work so it was a good starter course to let simmer while I was handling other important kitchen tasks, like picking out a nice pinot to accompany the duck. Also, I sprinkled some shredded parmesan on the leftovers and that made it even better.

Roast Easter Duck

Back to the duck. I had a three pound duck so I shaved some cooking time off of the recipe, which uses a 4 pounder. When I was ready to take its temperature, I discovered that my probe thermometer was broken. Great! So I used a grilling fork that has a thermometer built in that someone gave us once. It said it was 10 degrees short of done, so I stuck the bird back in for a while, pulled it and measured again. 3 degrees short. At this point I am convinced the hand-me-down grilling fork had a reason for being given away, because this duck is DONE.

Crispy local veggie salad with red wine vinaigrette

I let the duck rest, finished prepping everything else and set the table. For everything I did (5 dishes) it was two hours from pulling stuff out of the fridge to table service. Not bad for a celebration feast! The duck did end up a tad overdone due to my faulty thermometers so I went online and bought this one yesterday since I pitched the useless probe thermometer immediately.

Seasoned roast duck with orange honey sauce, sauteed local peas, buttery mashed spuds

Everything turned out well, the orange sauce was delicious on the flavorful duck, and I spent a nice meal at the table (wow!) with my sweetie. Reasons to celebrate abound!


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Duck Again

Just a follow up to my duck post a while back. My first attempt at the duck (which I proudly helped process right on the farm) was roasting it in the oven. It tasted great if you were willing to chew it for a couple of hours. Since we were not willing to do that, I tried it this time in the crock pot.

First I sliced up some white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic (all local, either CSA or farmer’s market scores) and covered the bottom of the crock with the slices, then poured on about half a cup of chicken stock (home made, of course!). I put the duck on top and it wouldn’t fit. I cut off as much of the neck as I could, rearranged the veggies and tried again. It barely fit. (Whew!) I cut up some organic carrots (sadly store bought) and stuck them around the open spaces. I topped off the bird with some Italian seasoning and let it go in the crock on low for about eight hours.

duck crockpot1This did the trick! The duck was so tender that it literally fell off the bones. I couldn’t even get it into a dish without it falling to pieces! It was super yummy, flavorful and the veggies complemented it well. It did tend to start drying out when the skin was pulled off of it so we left the skin on as long as possible. Next time I’ll cover it with some aluminum foil right away to help retain moisture.

Test subject Bill loved it. He comments that cold duck leftovers are also delicious when dipped in Worcestershire sauce. Sweeeet!

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Duck Tales

When I was a kid, my older sister had ducks. They liked to swim around in the creek and hang out under the bridge. One afternoon, she and I watched little baby ducks hatch out of their eggs. Whenever hunters came over wanting to hunt pheasant on our property, she would go bonkers afraid that they would shoot her ducks. The beginning of a duck and the end of a duck – I witnessed the anticipation of the first and the fear of the second. But when I think of duck now, the experience I had last Saturday will be what comes to mind.

Entering Nature's Harmony Farm

Entering Nature's Harmony Farm

A few weeks back I got an email from my heroes at Nature’s Harmony Farm offering free ducks. All I saw was “free” and “duck” and I was like woohoo! Yeah, ok! So they said we would have to remove pin feathers (whatever those were) ourselves because they were having a difficult time doing it efficiently on the farm (hence the free part of the deal). I was thinking that I would get a frozen duck with some pain in the tail feathers to figure out how to pick out on my own. Then I learned that in order to obtain said free duck, I would actually be

The poultry processing center.

The poultry processing center.

on the farm helping process the ducks. (Process = live duck to dead, gutted, bald duck ready for duck a l’orange.)

Shoot first, ask questions later. Don’t read the whole email. History repeats itself.

At first I was like ummmm….but I said I wanted free duck so I was willing to own up to my obligation. So I made the trek up to Elberton, GA to practice some real old ways kung fu…duck processing.

Peacocks: either administering last rites, or telling the ducks about how hosed they are.

Peacocks: either administering last rites, or telling the ducks about how hosed they are.

Most of the ducks were caught and in cages (yes, these are real free range ducks) when I arrived. I helped clean up the processing area and met the other helpers as they arrived. There were a small number of us plus Liz and Tim, the farm owners. Primed and ready, we all watched solemnly as Tim began the process. He put the duck head first into an upside down cone, then sliced the major artery and allowed the duck to bleed out. Because humane treatment is important to them (and all of us helpers) Tim made the effort to ensure it was done properly and that

Scalder (front) and de-feathering spinner (back)

Scalder (front) and de-feathering spinner (back). Killing cone in the back with a few ducks in it.

minimal suffering was involved.

Apparently we were a little too solemn because I think we made Tim self concious. “You all are looking at me like I’m the bad guy,” he said with a small grin. But it wasn’t that. At least for me, I needed to see it happen. I needed to have that much participation in the end of life moment. If we are going to eat animals, we should not divorce ourselves from the process or lie to ourselves about what happens.

Ducks going into the scalder. Killing cone in back with a few ducks in it.

Ducks going into the scalder.

In factory farm processing, the animals live a horrendous life in cramped quarters, wallowing around in their own feces and being jacked up with Lord only knows what chemicals/antibiotics/hormones, then meet their end by someone who has no regard for their lives. Not so on Nature’s Harmony Farm, where the animals are allowed to be themselves, doing what it is God meant them to do. Swim. Peck. Quack with other ducks. And when the time comes, the last thing they see is someone who respects them and honors the value

Plucking the rest of the feathers.

Plucking the rest of the feathers.

of their lives. The cycle of life will end one way or the other, and if I was a bird I know which one I would choose.

Once the ducks are off the cone, they go into a scald which loosens the feathers. After that, they go for a spin in a plucking machine which removes most of the feathers. From the spinner to the table, the ducks loose their feet and heads. At least one volunteer was willing to help with that part (not me – I didn’t get a waiver from Bill to use a knife. He knows

Eggs removed from a female duck during evisceration. Liz told us that ducks are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Here these eggs are in various stages of maturity. Intersting in a Discovery Channel kind of way.

Eggs removed from a female duck during evisceration. Liz told us that ducks are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Here these eggs are in various stages of maturity. Intersting in a Discovery Channel kind of way.

how I am.)

After the extremities are removed, we got to work removing the pin feathers and any other feathers left on the duck. Tim and Liz said these were going much better than the ones they’d done before, but it was still a pain. Little tiny feathers remained that stuck to our fingers or stuck back to the duck. Some were easier than others, but we persevered and had plenty of time to get to know our fellow processers.

After the de-feathering was completed, it was time for the really fun part: evisceration. Liz showed us how to open

Me working on a gizzard.

Me working on a gizzard.

up the duck and carefully remove all the guts. I didn’t do the actual evisceration part, but I did separate the liver, heart and gizzards from a lot of duck guts. I also learned how to clean and cut up the gizzard. I was afraid at first (especially because it involved the knife, don’t tell Bill) but I got the hang of it.

We processed thirty ducks and helped clean up the processing shed over about four hours. I packed up my cooler with five ducks, a small bag of the organs to give it a try, and some of the feet for stock making.

After it was all said and done, I did not feel grossed out, wrong or mean. I felt like I’d done honest work (will work for duck?) and did a reasonably good job of it. And there was no doubt where my ducks came from or how they had lived. I had a local, organic, sustainable and ethical cooler full of duck that I had helped process myself.

Roasted Duck!

Roasted Duck!

I was anxious to cook a fresh duck, so one stayed out and the other four went into the freezer along with the feet and offal. Using a recipe loosely based on this one, I went about roasting my duck. I was told low and slow was the way to go…but apparently I didn’t do it low enough. After 40 minutes at 325 degrees my temperature probe (which I had probably misplaced) was telling me the thigh was done. I thought it was telling me lies so I turned down the temperature and left it in the oven for about a total of one hour forty-five minutes.

I think that was a mistake.

Not low enough, not slow enough, I’m thinking was my kung faux pas. The duck came out looking fantastic, but it was tough and the skin (which tasted fabulous) was not crispy, but kind of rubbery. The flavor of the meat was great, but you had to want it. Chewing was a bit of a challenge.

Test subject Bill agreed that it tasted great, but suggested a soup for the leftovers. So I stripped the bird as best I could and cut the pieces up into small chunks. I threw together a soup of duck bits, home made chicken stock, some potatoes and onions from the farmers market, a can of kidney beans and seasonings. It actually turned out pretty good and cutting up the duck meat into small manageable chunks made it much easier to eat.

I felt better about the whole thing after the soup success. And I have four more ducks to perfect my process. I will not be discouraged!

Having participated in the process was a valuable experience and I am so glad I did it. It truely does bring you closer to the food that is nourishing your body. It isn’t artificially sanitized the way buying chicken breast on toilet paper wrapped in saran wrap is, or a bag of apples that came from who knows where that has touched who knows what. You know the truth when you do it yourself. It’s honest, it’s real and it’s yours.

I was told that the true meaning of kung fu is time and effort, a studious, dedicated person. I thank Tim and Liz for the time and effort and for teaching me this duck kung fu.

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