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.
Suzen and I have a roadside diner that is, well, upscale. Very upscale. The best thing on the menu is duck carnitas tacos. I’ve searched for a recipe for us to make at home, and we’ll be testing this weekend.
Tacos can be so much more than ground meat. Yes, that lovely picture of the pretty duck is merely the starting point. This dish concept is fancy, satisfying, and lovely to enjoy. Suzen and I have sampled it for brunch, which is the perfect time to pair with a salad and bottle of bubbly. But this can easily be a main course for dinner.
A platter of these would be a fine addition to a Sunday football party. It would be just ducky.
Dark Carnitas Tacos
Yield: 12 tacos
- 4 ½ pounds duck legs [abut 4 large legs or 6 smaller legs]
- 2 medium white onions, sliced
- 1 medium garlic head, halved horizontally
- 1 [5-inch] stick Mexican cinnamon, broken into a few pieces
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 medium orange, quartered
- 2 tablespoons reserved duck fat or canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof pot, combine the duck legs, onions, garlic, cinnamon, and salt. Squeeze the orange quarters over the duck and add the spent oranges to the pot. Toss gently with your hands, arranging the duck legs skin side up.
Cover and cook the duck, shuffling the positions of the duck legs once, until the meat comes easily off the bone with a twist of a fork, about 2 ½ hours.
Remove the duck from the liquid fat in the pot, let it cool slightly, and pull the meat into large chunks, discarding the skin and bones. You should have about 3 cups of meat. Strain the duck fat through a sieve. Heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat in a large pan over medium heat. Work in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan. Cook the duck, stirring occasionally, until the meat is golden brown and slightly crisp in spots, about 3 minutes.
Season to taste with salt.
Serve in warm corn tortillas with finely chopped white onion, chopped cilantro, and the salsa of your choice. The author recommends a jalapeno and pineapple salsa
Source: Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez