Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dark Duck Days of Winter Challenge

Despite my dearth of Dark Days local  food postings, we have indeed been feasting on primarily local foods this winter. The majority of our meals feature food grown on our farm, and since the New Year a surprising percentage of them have involved duck.  It is surprising to me, at least, because until now I had never eaten duck.

The ducks were also raised on our farm. Last summer when we picked up our turkey poults from the feed store, there was a kiddie-pool full of  ducklings that somebody had ordered but failed to collect, so they needed homes.  Ducklings are irresistibly cute, so on impulse I bought two. They were Pekin ducks, a meat breed, and they grew astoundingly fast.  After Christmas, when we harvested the surplus roosters,  Sara and Cadence persuaded me to also harvest the ducks.  It was the prime time if we were ever going to do it: according to our research, late fall to early winter is optimum because ducks have a lot of fat on their bodies then and after they are more than a year old they become tough.  It was not an easy decision, but we did it.

Sara loves duck meat, so she was put in charge of preparing our first duck.  We take our chickens to a great poultry processor and  feel it is definitely worth it to pay them to do it, but because ducks are much more labor-intensive to clean than chickens, it turns out they cost a lot more.  Instead of $3.50 per bird, processing the ducks cost $15 each, and there was still considerable work required by us to get out every feather. After completing the detail work, Sara rubbed the bird with olive oil so the herbs would stick, smothered it in rosemary and sprinkled salt and pepper inside and out. She roasted it at 450 F for a couple hours, turning it over after an hour. In the photo above it is still in the oven, not done yet, and you can see how much duck fat is already in the pan. Apparently duck fat is highly prized for cooking - I have some duck-fat cooking adventures ahead.
To accompany the duck Sara  made mashed potatoes (using our garden potatoes from the root cellar),
baked delicata squash (also from our garden)
and steamed brussels sprouts drizzled with the duck drippings.  (We don't know where the brussels sprouts were grown but we had them on hand and couldn't resist including them.)

The next night, Sara made a fantastic duck-vegetable saute over pasta with the leftovers and we made stock from the carcass. That was my first duck ever and it was incredibly delicious.

Duck #2
On Sunday, we invited our neighbors Betsy and Don for dinner in appreciation for all they do. I decided to try Sara's technique for preparing the second duck. I made it exactly the same way, except for squeezing the juice of an orange (not local) over the duck and placing the rinds inside the  cavity during roasting.

This duck was served with a colorful salad of fresh greens, carrots, radishes and pansies from the high tunnel (yes, it's still producing!!) served with honey-mustard dressing (made with our honey and scallions, organic mayo, mustard and balsamic vinegar), a loaf of Rog's freshly-baked sourdough bread, and a heart-shaped chocolate cheesecake garnished with fresh strawberries.  The eggs for the cheesecake were provided by our chickens, and the Organic Valley cream cheese was from regional dairy farmers but the chocolate and strawberries were very un-local. It was a tasty meal (if I do say so myself) with wonderful friends, and was made with plenty of heart and soul, if not 100% SOLE.

1 comment:

Jocelyn said...

Both meals sound fantastic.

My brother's asked me to process ducks for him, but I'm on the fence. They are such funny little people, I have such a hard time with it. I've told him no until I get braver. The same with geese for me. They drive me crazy, and I threaten them with it, but I can't do it because of their big (sometimes annoying) personalities. That's my bugaboo, though.

If you process your own, I understand that waxing the feathers works wonders. The hunters around here who process their own say it works for them.