How to Roast a Duck

Roast duck

Yes, that’s a duck’s beak.

1. Procure a duck.

8403790201_72db80a5fe_nWe’d been talking about how great it would be to get a whole duck and roast it. Our friend Jeff has recently taken up duck hunting, but hasn’t had much luck so far.

We heard that there might be a duck purveyor at the Mueller Farmer’s Market, so we went there one Sunday morning. We grabbed some coffee and cash and spent a good hour browsing the stalls; they have so much good stuff!

After fearing we’d have to settle for an eight dollar jar of duck fat, we finally noticed that the Countryside Farm stand was selling duck in addition to chicken, eggs, and charcuterie. Sebastien Bonneu sells whole ducks (complete with their heads, as above), breasts, and legs.

We pondered the options for about ten seconds before putting our money down on a whole duck. It was $42.00 and weighed nearly seven pounds. Keep in mind as you read on that duck fat usually runs about a dollar an ounce, and duck broth goes for about three dollars per ounce!

2. Roast the duck.

If your duck is frozen, let it thaw out overnight (or up to 24 hours, depending on its size) in a refrigerator, in its original wrapping.

When it’s fully thawed, preheat your oven to 325°.

If necessary, gut the duck.

After much hand-wringing and YouTube-video-watching, we finally stuck a hand in our duck and realized that it had been gutted, its guts stored neatly in plastic bags inside the cavity. We took those out and set them aside for later (duck pâté, anyone?).

Rinse the duck and pat dry with paper towels.

Slice off any excess fat (with special attention to the duck’s hind quarters). Set aside for later.

Grease a large roasting pan (we used olive oil).

Place the duck in the roasting pan, breast up.

Stuff the duck with the spices or other foodstuffs of your choice. We used lemon, orange, roughly chopped garlic, and sprigs of homegrown rosemary and thyme, tied with twine. Do not overstuff your bird, like a Thanksgiving turkey. You want air to get in and around the seasonings for even cooking.

Truss the duck with twine. Grab both legs, pull tight, crossing one over the other, and tie. This will still leave an opening to the cavity, which is what you want, as previously discussed. You can also tie the wings, if desired; I left the wings and head as they were.

A note about the head: You can remove the head before cooking, if desired. There’s not much use for it, as it has little meat (aside from the brain and tongue), and, if used in a stock, will impart a slightly metallic taste (or so I hear). We decided to leave the head on, Chinese style.

Score the skin diagonally as below—just through the skin, not into the flesh. Then use the tip of your knife to poke a few tiny holes in the skin, like you would a potato! This will allow the bird to release more fat, making for a crispier skin.Trussed duck

Add a light glaze of olive oil to the skin using a medium pastry brush, and roast the duck in the oven for an hour.

e. basting the duckRemove the pan, and turn the duck over so that it’s breast-side-down.

Baste the underside in the juices from the pan, and roast for another hour.

Remove the pan again, turning back over so it’s breast up, as it to serve.

Your duck will now be getting nice and crispy. Remove most of the liquid fat from the pan and set aside.

Glaze the duck. We used a mixture of orange glaze: the juice and zest of one orange and one lemon, 2 tablespoons of raw honey, salt, and pepper. Again, baste in any remaining pan juices.

Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 30-60 minutes, depending on bird size.

After a total cooking time of two and a half hours, check the internal temperature periodically using a meat thermometer. The duck is fully cooked and ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°. This will probably take at least three hours.

Roast duck

3. Render your own duck fat.

While your duck is roasting, you can make your own duck fat!

First, strain the liquid fat from the pan. We strained the fat into a wide mouth Mason jar, using cheesecloth to separate the fat and crispy pieces from the liquid. If your fat is still a little cloudy, feel free to strain it again. Leave the resulting liquid fat uncovered while you render the rest of the fat from the bird.

Take the solid pieces of fat you sliced off the duck earlier and chop them up into smallish pieces. Place these in a pan with a little water—enough to entirely submerge the fat. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid is a nice golden color.

Rendering duck fat

Time will depend on how much fat you have, but it took me about 30 minutes to render the fat from our seven pound duck. Watch the fat boiling, and note the color. It will get darker, and the simmering bubbles will get much smaller as the water escapes the pan. Be careful not to burn it—this stuff is premium.  Our bird resulted in about a cup and a half of rendered fat!

Duck fatFollow the same process from earlier, straining the fat through cheesecloth, allowing it to cool for at least a half hour, then seal and place in the refrigerator.

Now you have delicious duck fat, which can be used for any high temperature frying for which you’d use bacon fat or schmaltz (like my Schmaltz Roasted Potatoes with Crunchy Sage). It should keep for a few months in the fridge, or up to a year in the freezer (however, you’ll eat it way before you get to that point!).

4. Carve the duck.

When you’ve determined that the duck is done—golden brown and crispy on the outside, 165° and juicy on the inside—, remove it from the oven and turn off the heat.

Duck carvingAllow the duck to sit for about ten minutes.

Carve the duck as you would chicken or turkey. Everyone wants the succulent breast pieces first, and I don’t blame them!

If using a sauce, drizzle it over your duck (I whipped up a quick, thin sauce using additional orange juice and honey, plus a little tamari), and serve immediately.

Shred any leftover meat and save for later. We ate duck salad, duck with collards, and duck scrambles for a couple of days before freezing the remainder.

Fresh roasted duck breast

Freshly roasted duck breast, with crispy skin.  Delicious.

5. Make duck broth.

Duck carcassUsing a large butcher knife, chop up all the bones and any meat leftover from your duck carcass. Chop into medium to small pieces, to release as much flavor as possible.

Place all of this in a large stock pot, along with any vegetables or vegetable scraps (I used a mirepoix put together specifically for this purpose, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden the very same morning I picked up the duck).

Add a sprig of herbs (I again used homegrown, fresh thyme and rosemary, tied with twine).

Cover with water and bring just to a boil, then immediatey reduce heat to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, for three to four hours.

Skim off any soapy residue as it rises to the top.

Duck broth

After three to four hours (your kitchen will smell amazing by this point), you’re ready to strain. Start by removing all the large pieces of bone and veg with a large slotted spoon. Set aside.

Once all the large pieces have been removed, it’s time to strain. I put a large plastic strainer in an even larger plastic mixing bowl, then lined the strainer with cheesecloth. I then poured the broth through the strainer. If you have a proper sieve, even better! Use that, pouring the strained broth into another bowl. As with the fat, strain multiple times if necessary. If the cloth becomes clogged with duck debris, rinse it and reuse.

Straining duck broth

If you want an even more concentrated broth, pour this first broth into a new pot and simmer down to desired strength.

Note: I did not add salt or pepper to this broth, so that the result would be neutral and useful for a variety of purposes. Salt can be added to taste in cooking.

Duck brothPour the broth into a sealed container (or containers, as at left—we ended up with more than ten cups of broth!). It will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or you can freeze it (as I did); it should last for at least six months, maybe up to a year.

Finally, use the boiled-down bits of carcass as a fertilizer for your garden!

And that is how you make the most of a duck. I’d say it’s well worth the $42.00 and time, wouldn’t you?

Butternut Squash and Stout Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Stout

This past Friday night, Eric and I were lucky enough to be at Billy’s on Burnet for the Austin Beerworks Sputnik Cacao Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout (whew!) cask tapping, along with our friends Kris and Julie. This stuff was excellent. Smooth, rich, dark, and a tad chocolatey. We regularly buy cans of Austin Beerworks’ wonderful Black Thunder and Peacemaker to drink poolside, so we relished the opportunity to try one of their winter brews, fresh from the cask.

That experience, plus the presence of a giant butternut squash and a few potatoes, inspired this filling, flavorful soup. We’re still getting tons of sage from our allotment garden, and I never tire of frying it in some butter or bacon fat and enjoying it on pasta or as a soup topping. Sage pairs beautifully with this soup, and complements the crunchy bacon perfectly. In fact, I’m having the leftovers for lunch, and I can’t wait!

1 large butternut squash, deseeded, peeled, and roughly cubed
3-4 medium waxy potatoes, washed and/or peeled, and roughly cubed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
~1 quart chicken (or vegetable) broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pint stout (try Austin Beerworks Sputnik, if you can get it!)
~1/2 cup heavy cream
~1/3 cup bacon, pre-cooked and crumbled
handful fresh sage leaves

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about five minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Add garlic and stir for another minute or two, then add squash and potatoes. Sauté for another five minutes or so, stirring frequently, then pour in chick broth (enough so that the vegetables are covered), and increase heat to high.

2. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for at least thirty minutes, or until the squash are cooked through, soft, and easy breakable. Add more broth, or water, if the soup is too thick.

3. Once the vegetables are soft, pour the soup into a blender or large food processor and mix to desired texture. For this type of soup, I like to blend about 3/4 of the mixture, leaving the rest in the pot, so that the finished dish contains some nice chunky bits of potato and squash. If you want a smooth soup, just blend all of it; you may need to do it in two batches. After blending, return the soup to the pot, over low heat.

4. Add stout, stir, and cook for a further five minutes or so. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, warm bacon over medium heat. Add sage, stir in the resultant bacon grease, and cook until the herbs are slightly crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Add cream to soup and stir thoroughly. Allow the soup to continue to cook until very warm throughout. If your soup starts to bubble or boil, reduce heat.

6. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with crumbled bacon and crispy sage. Serve immediately, preferably with additional stout!

soup

Eric enjoyed his bowl with some leftover homemade bread.

soup3

*Reds or Yukonn golds are good. I left the skins on for this batch, for additional heft, texture, and nutritional value. Feel free to peel them if you prefer.

Stella’s Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Believe it or not, I’m not cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year, even though I’ll be at home the whole holiday weekend!

Last year it was just me and Eric, and our menu was a mixture of homemade and Wheatsville.  This year, we’re hosting my mom, who’s down from Paris, Texas, for the first time in exactly four years (she hates the drive, and I don’t blame her!).  I was originally planning to make my great grandmother Tollie’s cornbread dressing, and my mom even made a phone call to our Aunt Barbara to refresh her memory regarding the recipe, which neither she nor I have made since I came home from the UK for Christmas in 2003 (I think!).

But as the list of ingredients got longer and longer, and I considered the fact that I don’t have a dishwasher, and worried about the allergy attack I was suffering last weekend turning into a full blown illness, I decided the dressing with have to wait till Christmas.  I’ll make it in early December and post in time for your Christmas menu planning.  And when I finally post the recipe, you’re in for a treat!

Meanwhile, if you’re still searching for some fairly unfussy but crowd-satisfying dishes for your holiday table, check out some of my Thanksgiving recipe ideas, below.

We’re buying a garlic chive cheese ball from Wheatsville, but if you want to approximate that addictive, nostalgic flavor with a simpler recipe that keeps well, try Debbie’s Delicious Cheese Spread, one of my favorite family treats.

If you’re like us, and have more pumpkins than you know what to do with, try Stella’s Pumpkin Soup.

Okay, okay.  I lied.  I will actually be making my Southern Sweet Potatoes tomorrow morning while my mom drives down.

This morning on KUT, John Aielli was on a rant about how he hates sweet potatoes, and is tired of people trying to “fool” him into liking them, by making them into things like sweet potato chips (?).  After playing a few Calexico songs, he changed his tune and raved for a full ten minutes about Bettie Winn Reeves Harris’ sweet potato pie recipe.  If you make it, I’d like to hear what you think about it.  Apparently, this is the only way John Aielli can eat sweet potatoes.  Oh, dear.

For an even easier sweet potato solution, try my Perfect Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

If you’re like John Aielli and still hate ‘em, try my Pesto-Tossed New Potatoes instead.

And you know you want some Macaroni and Cheese.  This one’s special.

Another of my favorite recipes on this site, that happens to be pretty Thanksgiving-y, is this one for Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash.  This one is a little more involved, but the result is so filling and flavorful that it makes a great alternative main for a vegetarian holiday celebration.  Something about the combination of nuts and sage approximates sausage, and I just can’t get enough of it.

A similar dish for meat eaters is my Bacon-Stuffed Acorn Squash.  I suggest pairing this with some Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Another great main dish for vegetarians: Autumn Vegetable Fritters with Homemade Applesauce.  Or, save these for your Chanukkah party.

Another really easy, budget-friendly recipe that’s sure to please are these Roasted Parsnips and Carrots. Parsnips are a wonderful tuber to which I was first introduced at a typical English Sunday roast dinner. If your local market has them, try them like this first to see if you like their flavor. I love them.

For the opposite end of the diet spectrum, this sweet and low-carb alternative to pumpkin pie is sure to please any primal eaters: Paleo Pumpkin Pudding.

Finally, this is a picture I took this morning, of Eric’s Pumpkin Roll.  We sampled it for breakfast, but there’s enough left to see us through the weekend.  Though he says it’s “more of a pumpkin lasagna,” this sweet dish is both pretty and pretty filling!  He used homegrown pumpkins from our allotment garden again, so it tastes that much better.

Save Sagra!

Friends,

This afternoon, the Judges’ Hill / Arts District community received terrible news: Sagra Trattoria and Bar will be closing on November 18th, due to the failure of their landlord, Granite Properties of Texas, to renew their lease after five successful years.

Here’s what Sagra owner and chef Gabriel Pellegrini said today on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

See the restaurant’s full statement here.

This is ridiculous, and sad news for not only the hardworking and talented staff of Sagra or for those of us who are neighborhood regulars, but also for the entire Austin foodie community.  Sagra has been a leader in Austin’s farm-to-table and local food movementThey have their own greenhouse, supplying a large proportion of their vegetables and herbs, and an in-house horticulturist.  And their food is among the freshest and best in Austin; they have a casual yet elegant dining room, a cozy and romantic bar, and two patios (one in the front, on San Antonio street, and one in the back).

As residents of the neighborhood (I’ve lived on the next block over for six and a half years), my partner and I are regulars at Sagra, both for weeknight happy hours and for special occasions (in fact, I’ve spent two of my own birthdays there, as well as that of my best friend).  Contrary to what their landlord seems to think, Sagra’s presence in the Judges’ Hill neighborhood is warmly welcome, including their wonderful, European-style sidewalk patio.  There are not even any residential units near Sagra—in fact, the view from their front door is of a multi-story UT parking garage.  Far from being a nuisance, the Sagra patios provide a beautiful oasis in the middle of a heavily used pedestrian and cyclist route between campus and downtown.  As residents, we had hoped that Sagra’s success would lure more, similar outdoor establishments to our little corner of town.

I have written to Sagra’s landlord, Granite Properties of Texas, who are already listing the property for lease, to share my opinion as a Judges’ Hill resident and Sagra regular.

Please join me in contacting them and asking them to renew Sagra’s lease.

Company Principal
Bill Roland, CPM, CCIM
(512) 469-0925
billr@graniteproperties.com

Commercial Property Management
Kim McGregor
(512) 469-0925
kimm@graniteproperties.com

Commercial/Residential Management
Lisa Bowers
(512) 469-0925
lisab@graniteproperties.com

SAVE SAGRA!

Join the Save Sagra Facebook page.

Sagra – Gabriel Pellegrini, Chef & Owner from Christian Remde on Vimeo.

This Week’s Eats: 10/12/12

I made these delicious turkey tacos this week! Y’all should try them! I simply substituted ground turkey ($2.81 per pound at Wheatsville!) for the beef in my dad’s taco recipe, and topped them with shredded pepper jack cheese, salsa roja, homegrown jalapeños, and sour cream!  I fried these El Milagro tortillas blancas in a small pan with a little butter until just crispy, but still foldable, but you could use flour tortillas, or make tostadas.

In addition to the Creamy Jalapeño Rice I posted yesterday, I also made some baked chicken and sautéed squash. For the chicken, I used four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, which I rubbed with bacon fat, olive oil, salt, pepper, and heaps and heaps of homegrown thyme (picture). It smelled so good in the oven! For the squash, I simply sautéed roughly chopped summer squash and half a red bell pepper in butter with a little salt and pepper until bright colored and cooked through. This was a hearty meal. But let’s take a closer look at that squash.

Doesn’t that look amazing?

And here’s what I did with the leftover rice! I fried up some bacon, then deglazed the pan and reserved about a half teaspoon of bacon grease to sautée, along with a tablespoon of butter, the roughly chopped cremini mushrooms. I also threw in a little splash of dark rum for good measure, and the taste (and smell) was divine!

Another typical breakfast chez Stella! Bacon (YES I EAT A LOT OF BACON BECAUSE BACON), chicken and maple breakfast sausage (both from Applegate Farms, via Wheatsville), and my Perfect Scrambled Eggs.

Eric turned the debate on last night. So this happened.

It’s actually Slieve Foy 8 Year Old Irish Single Malt Whiskey, from Northern Ireland. It smells like ripe bananas and tastes like heaven.

Well, we started with a taco, so let’s end with a taco! This was a quick lunch—my usual at Burrito Factory: the taco al pastor on corn tortillas, with salsa verde and sour cream.  Perfection!

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be in Atlanta, Georgia, where I’m visiting my amazing and talented friend Morgan for a few days.

I’ve never been; but I read Gone with the Wind when I was ten and decided to do a Rhett/Scarlett scene in the elementary school talent show. I was half Rhett and half Scarlett, and turned to and fro to carry on a conversation with myself: a modified version of the stable scene.

I became obsessed with the film. I’ve seen it many, many times (I lost count around 100, when I was 17). So I’m excited to finally visit the Margaret Mitchell House on Peachtree Street. I re-read the book when I was in college, and I was shocked by the both the realism and the racism. I have decidedly mixed feelings about it now, and am very curious to see how I feel about Mitchell’s canonization in Atlanta. I’ll probably write about it when I get back.

I also plan to go to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Atlanta History Center, and the Breman Museum. It’s also Texas-OU, but I don’t even know if I’m going to watch it, which will be a first!

Check back next week for a run-down of my food adventures in Atlanta!

And if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!