Cookbooks generally have an introduction that states the underlying purpose of the book:
- “I love to bake and here are my special recipes”
- “These are family recipes that span five generations”
- “You don’t know what you can do with a kiwi”
- “Celebrity chefs have a short lifetime so I need to cash in now”
Duck, Duck, Goose has the most direct, honest, forceful introduction I have ever seen:
“… to free ourselves from the Tyranny of the Chicken and shake our fists at the notion that fat is our enemy.”
This book cannot be denied.
Have you ever tried to cook duck? I remember our first effort. It was the third month of our marriage and we were still in that “who is in charge mode.” We stood there, each waiting for the other to make the first move. I’m the male, I caved first. “Should we call the fire department?” I asked Suzen.
“I don’t think they could get here in time.” She shook her head
We stood our porch and watched heavy, black smoke emerge from our barbecue. There was a split duck inside, spewing fat that had caught fire in a conflagration way beyond our humble capabilities. We ate out that night. And said never again.
Now, we can try again and this time enjoy grilled duck that will be superb. Author Hank Shaw has previously written Hunt, Gather, Cook and is an avid outdoorsman. You can learn more about Hank, his skills, and his recipes at www.honest-food.net. That title hints quite a bit about a very accomplished man.
Hank knows that, unlike chicken, duck and geese have distinct flavors on a species by species basis. Geese themselves are quite distinct from ducks, and, candidly, much less energy efficient: 7 pounds of feed for 1 pound of ultimate goose meet. Ducks are more in the 2-3 pound range.
So, in Duck, Duck, Goose — as the title cleverly suggests — you will find more duck ideas than goose. You might, though, think about making that goose prosciutto.
There are four major sections to the book:
- Whole Birds
In Basics, you learn about the different species, how to buy, and how to break down a whole bird. If you are a hunter, then here you’ll find instructions on how to pluck the feathers and hang the bird — I told you Hank was an outdoorsman. Whether you hunt it or buy it, the section on wine pairing will guide you to a richly satisfying meal.
There is a restaurant renaissance in duck and goose and Hank believes this trend can be brought home. Once hard to find, duck and geese are appearing more and more in your local markets. And not just whole birds. You can find legs and breasts packaged up and ready to apply for your kitchen attention.
In Whole Birds, you begin with recipes for roasting whole duck and geese. For a duck, this means cooking for a time, carving off the breast and then finishing off the rest of the bird. Ducks are beautiful birds, but complex creatures with high fat content that require special technique.
To make life simpler, there is a slow-roasted recipe that spares you this midstream carving step. Plus recipes for smoking and grilling. Yes, Peking Duck is here, complete with pancakes.
The Pieces chapter is replete with ideas for different duck parts coming from all around the world. All around. Duck breasts are offered as Duck Breasts with Black Currant Sauce. There are Asian recipes from Korea, Laos, China, Japan, and Viet Nam. Here you can find soups and fried rice with great national tradition.
Ground duck is offered in recipes for meatballs, chili, and even sliders. The slider recipe is at the end of this review
If you have duck wings, there is French Duck Wing Soup.
And legs are used in Persian Legs with Walnuts and Pomegranate, a Moroccan Tangine, and a Thai Curry.
There’s confit, of course, a complete recipe with lots of ingredients and needing some time. Hank offers an Easy Confit that may fit better into a busy life.
The final chapter, Extras, could only come from someone like Hank. When we were hunters, and when hunting consumed time and energy, every last bit of the bird had to be put to use. That explains the universe of recipes you encounter here: heart, tongue, liver and more are used in pate, sausage, and jerky. Duck fat is lavishly employed in pie dough and pasta. The traditional English Pork Pie becomes Hank’s Duck Pie, described as a “meat bomb.” There are Duck Hot Dogs and Duct Fat Hollandaise.
I’m not quite ready to say that we are under the yoke of a Chicken Tyranny. But, let’s be honest, chicken fundamentally tastes like chicken. There is nothing, as Hank points out, like crispy duck skin. And Duck, Duck, Goose will set you crispfully free.
Why not begin with Duck Sliders?
Hank experimented and found that the combination of duck and bacon makes a delectable mini-burger. Sharp-flavored accompaniments are wise here: pickles, pickled onions, ketchup, mustard. And provolone or Monterey Jack can be added to amplify the experience.
This recipe calls for grinding up the duck and bacon. If you still have not bought your own meat grinder, then smile at your butcher and ask for a favor. If they sell duck breasts, they are high-scale and should be ready for these requests.
Yield: 10 sliders
- 1 pound skinless duck breasts, coarsely chopped
- 4 ounces bacon, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, optional
- Duck fat or bacon fat, if cooking on the stove top
- Slider buns
- Cheese slice of choice for serving
- Pickles, pickled onions, ketchup, mustard of your choice
Put the duck and bacon in a bowl and sprinkle with the chile powder. Put the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes or so.
Fit your meat grinder with the fine die, and pass the duck mixture through the grinder. With your hands, shape the mixture into 10 small patties [look at the size of the buns and match the size].
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill, or heat a little duck fat in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Grill or fry the patties, turning once, for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until they are at least medium-rare. The timing will depend on the thickness of the patties.
Toast the buns, if you like, then add your burgers and fixin’s — cheese, pickles, pickled onions, ketchup, mustard — and serve at once.
Needless to say, this is beer food.
Recently I posted a recipe for Oreo Truffles. A friend put one near my mouth and announced, “Eat it.” He did not say I would like it, because he knows me and my mild chocolate addition.
For that treat, you pulverize Oreo cookies, mix with cream cheese, form into balls, dip into melted chocolate, refrigerate, wait — and you do have to wait, folks — and then indulge.
Sometimes things just happen by chance. Suzen had finished off the last Oreo Truffle — at least I admit my addiction — and I was off to scout new cookbooks. And there, on the shelf, is this very modestly sized book titled Cake Balls: Amazingly Delicious Bite-Size Treats by Robin Ankey and Charlotte Lyon of the Cake Ball Company.
Here’s the idea. Make a cake. Make icing. Don’t ice the cake. Crumble it. Add in the icing and mix with your fingers — licking your fingers here would be a violation of the health code but I’m going to let you proceed on your own honor. More or less.
Back to that cake crumb and icing mix. You now have this sticky mixture that is dough-like and yet moist. Use a cookie scoop or your hands to form bite-sized balls. Roll them into perfect spheres. Freeze them for 2 hours. Dip in melted chocolate and decorate, if you desire, with more chocolate, nut, sprinkles, … The potential here is endless.
Cake Balls comes with full instructions and their personal recipes for cakes and icings:
- Basic chocolate, vanilla, and yellow cakes
- Basic chocolate, vanilla, and cream cheese icings
Use those foundations, and you get, what else, a basic cake ball. But you can go so much further with the decorations:
- Toffee bits or chopped up Snickers bars
- Chopped Andes mints or ground up candy canes
- Ground up cookies [gingerbread, chocolate wafers, …]
- Cut up dried cherries or other fruit such as dried apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon
- Pistachio, walnut or pecan halves, placed on top and glued in place with a thick dollop of ganache
- Milk chocolate and coconut for a German Chocolate feel
- White chocolate and silver sprinkles for a wedding cake effect
- Stripes of dark chocolate anointed with cinnamon
Cake Balls presents with excellent, beautifully styled photos that will both inspire you and serve as a roadmap.
You can do this. Your kids can do it. You can make the cake balls in advance, freeze them, and then let a herd of kids dip and decorate. It’s a perfect kids’ party idea. Just do it outdoors on a wooden table that you can hose down.
No, Suzen has not seen this book yet. I’m saving it as a surprise. I just don’t know quite what to say to her to begin our cake ball adventure. Perhaps:
“Wanna get your hands dirty?”
“About those Oreo Truffles, the ones you finished off without me? Since you owe me…”
I need a script writer.