I am more than a little ambivalent about the current media passion for frugality. The newspaper and broadcast news are eager to tell us how to save our pennies, and suggest that we deal with financial insecurity and loss by cooking real food at home, patronizing local growers, and entertaining ourselves, families and friends with nice meals, instead of stopping for fast food on the way home. And these are good, enriching, responsible and fun things to do, regardless of Wall Street antics, and whether we are flush, or suddenly terrified to find ourselves unemployed.
But in the articles full of "saving tips", and all those recession-chic fashion stories, is there, maybe, an underlying aroma of cheesy, opportunistic, cheery cluelessness in the face of some very real misery and confusion? It makes me queasy, and fills me with prissy disapproval. Said prissy disapproval probably has its origins in personal unease about my own attitude and behavior in these matters.
For I cannot deny a huge, and long-standing weaknesses both for the "Hints From Heloise" style of time and money-saving household tips, and contrariwise- for ridiculously high-end cookware and the like... I am intensely interested in getting the most out of my generally ample access to fresh, mostly local food, but am also inclined to spend extravagantly for treats-even when I can't really afford to do so. And I do all of these things, in my own mind at least, in part on (often contradictory) principle(s).*
This pompous meandering is by way of an apology for yet another set of posts on getting the most out of one frozen Long Island duck. The thing is, it really is economical and delicious, but I do see that it is also a lot of bother, and pretty silly, in a way. It is only a good plan if you think it might be fun, and an entertainment in itself. Otherwise, it is an appalling pain in the ass, and you'd be much better served, with much less fuss, by a giant, re-heatable pot of stew. Certainly this is not a project that I would always feel up to.
But when I'm in the mood,I get a huge kick out of the process, as well as the food, and I'm hoping you might, too. So here you go.
Prep: Once defrosted, the duck is not hard to cut up. First, the two thigh/drumstick sections are removed and set aside for this first dinner for two. Two breast sections , with their skin are sliced off, and frozen togetherin a plastic bag. all the fat and remaining skin is removed, chopped up and rendered to some lovely creamy fat and a small pile of cracklings. The fat keeps nicely on the fridge or freezer for months. The liver is sauteed or broiled, salted and peppered, and eaten on some nice toasted breas- for lunch.
Then, the neck and remaining carcass are cooked up into a nice broth (more on this in a later post), which is strained, degreased and frozen. The remaining cooked meat on the bones is shredded and frozen, too...because there is going to be a duck soup...with duck wontons, and the shredded bits will be topping the soup. Also, there is going to be a really nice duck breast salad thing.
In any event, this is a delicious way to prepare duck legs, and actually is adaptable for other poultry parts..I've used it with a big, boneless stuffed turkey thigh, for example, changing, of course, amounts and times. It's lovely because the duck is tender and moist, the carrots super-flavorful, the sauce full-bodied, and the skin gorgeously crisp. It is from Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating", a book full of odd, and astonishingly delicious recipes. As is so often the case with me, the camera, and poultry or meat, the picture does not do it justice.
Here is the original recipe. I make it for 2, and cut it down accordingly.
Duck fat or butter
6 duck's legs (available without the rest of the duck from most butchers)
I white onion, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and kept whole
14 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped into
Bundle of parsley and 4 sprigs of rosemary (you have to be very careful with rosemary, since delicious as it is, it can take over)
2 bay leaves
I chilli, kept whole
About 1.5 litres chicken stock
Sea salt and pepper
Get a frying pan hot, add a spoonful of duck fat or butter, wait until it is sizzling, and then brown the duck's legs on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan cook the onion, leeks, and garlic. Mix in the carrots and cook for 3 more minutes, then decant all the vegetables into a deep oven dish.
Nestle in the herb bundle, bay leaves, and chilli (this just emits a slight warmth to the dish, unlike a more pungent chopped chilli). Press the duck's legs into the carrot bed, skin side upwards, season the dish, and pour chicken stock over until the duck's legs are showing like alligators in a swamp.
Place into a medium to hot oven for 11/2 hours, keeping an eye on it so it does not burn - if it threatens to, cover the dish with foil. Check the legs with a knife; you want them thoroughly giving.
When cooked the carrots will have drawn up the duck fat, the stock reduced to a rich juice, and the duck skin should be brown and crispy. Serve with bread to mop up the juices and follow with a green salad.
Before I risk driving you mad with the rest of the duck story, I want to tell you about a really good sandwich. Soon.