WHY DUCK IS FALL AND WINTER CULINARY PERFECTION
BY CHEF DAVID BURKE
When I was working in the southwest of France, duck was common on the menu. Here, it’s rarely cooked at home, and not often seen at restaurants, but I make it a point to include duck from the Hudson River Valley on our menu at Drifthouse. At once delicious and versatile, it’s also perfect when entertaining at home for an intimate gathering of four to six people special, festive, and with a little prep, easy to cook, with each five pound bird serving approximately three to four.
First step: With a sharp knife, shave the fat and skin off the breast at its thickest part where it’s about ¼ inch thick (right by the wing pits by the back of the breast), leaving about 1/8 inch of fat. Think of it as you would steak a butcher trims…same idea; you want to leave a little fat, as this helps baste the duck, making the meat moist and flavorful. You can also use bits of leftover fat and skin for cracklings to serve alongside, or render it to use later. (In my kitchens we don’t waste anything!).
Now, marinate the duck overnight in a large food safe plastic bag, such as a one or two gallon Ziploc. For marinade, use two cups of soy sauce, one cup of water, and one half cup of honey. For a little spice, add peppercorns and Tabasco (double the amount of marinade for two birds). You want the duck to be covered by the marinade. Refrigerate and periodically rotate duck while it’s in the bag. The next day remove marinade, but save it to use for chicken wings. (You can keep it up to a week in the refrigerator.)
Place the duck, uncovered, in a bowl on a top shelf of the refrigerator for two to three days. (The salty soy sauce acts a preservative.) This will dehydrate the meat slightly and make for a beautiful, lacquered result. Then place it on a rack in a roasting pan and roast at 350°F until an instant read thermometer indicates 165°F (takes about an hour), then turn the oven up to 400°F and roast for 20 minutes more.
Cranberry sauce is a perfect accompaniment. Get a recipe off the web, but substitute orange marmalade for sugar and add a little vinegar and water. For a side, I serve cornbread pudding. Cube four large corn muffins to make four cups and place in greased oven ready dish large enough to accommodate the cornbread in a single layer. Mix a pint of half & half with four eggs and one cup of shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese, diced jalapeno peppers, salt and pepper, and one half cup of frozen corn kernels if you like. Pour over cornbread cubes. Bake at 350°F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Or, just stop by Drifthouse for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s!