The Beauty of Ducks

It is very hard for me to pin point my favorite food or my favorite ingredient but duck has to be pretty high on the list.  The mighty pig and venison are in the running with duck to be my favorite food.  I would have a hard time picking a favorite of those three.  Each one brings a very unique and distinctive flavor and there are things you can do with each that you can't do with the others.  Ducks however are the topic of today, I love everything about ducks.  Farm raised or wild I have eaten my fair share of them all.  I grew up duck hunting and have had the great pleasure of hunting ducks with some of the best.  Eric Passe in Wabasha, MN is a straight up duck killer.  He has probably killed more ducks than bird flu.  Over the years I have killed a lot of ducks with Eric and I have had a great time cooking them and making them into sausages and terrines and anything else I could think of. 

I have enjoyed a good amount of domestic duck as well and really enjoy the fact that wild and domestic ducks, other than sharing a name really have nothing in common when it comes to taste.  The wild ducks are a very lean and more flavorful bird in my opinion, but domestic ducks have a lot to offer as well.  That beautiful fat that is rendered from domestic ducks is a thing of beauty and can change just about any potato from good to spectacular.  Last year a friend of mine Rick Edwards decided to raise ducks on his small farm in Cannon Falls. He chose to raise Swedish Blues and built a small holding yard around his small orchard where the ducks could live the good life and get fat for us. 

Rick sent most of his ducks home with me where I turned them into Prosciutto and boudin and confit and stock and rendered fat.  I am now finally getting to my ducks and will do a very similar preperation of all my birds as well.  Rick took all the ducks to a place in West Concord to be dispatched and plucked and I was not very happy with the end product.  They left alot of pin feathers and did not save us the livers, hearts or gizzards and still charged us an unmentionable amount for each duck.  I think this year we are going to do them ourselves and prevent that problem from happening again.  I like to keep a couple of ducks whole for roasting but with the last three ducks I broke them down into what you see below.  Wings, legs and thighs for confit, breasts for prosciutto and the carcasses and necks for stock and I was able to get about a quart of duck fat out of all of it as well.

I got four quarts of stock out of all the carcasses and can't wait to make some soup and more duck gravy out of that.  It also adds great flavor to risotto which happens to be what I use some of the stock for last night. 

Last night for dinner I made a beautiful roasted duck breast with a roasted butternut squash risotto.  Last night in minnesota we got about a foot of snow and the wind was howling but this dish made everyone at my house warm a full.  The risotto was sweet and perfectly cooked and the duck breast was like a little piece of heaven on a plate.  I used a little chinese five spice and salt and gave then breasts a quick sear before putting it in the oven and the five spice and the squash really complimented each other.  The duck was so tender and succulent that I had to call my buddy Rick and thank him again for raising these ducks.

Roasted Duck breast with Roasted  Butternut Squash Risotto

For the Risotto

1 half of a butternut squash roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for about 35-45 minutes.  When done roasting allow to cool and remove the meat of the squash and mash until all lumps are out.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
4-5 cups duck stock
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, when the onions are soft add the rice and cook until all the rice is coated with oil and appear translucent with a white dot in the middle.  Add the wine and stir until incorporated, add the stock a laddle at a time never letting the rice get dry. just before the rice is done add the roasted butternut squash and stir until completely mixed in add more stock if it appears to thick and add the butter and stir in just before serving.

For the Duck

2 duck breasts
chinese five spice powder

score the duck breasts with asharp knife.  dust the breasts with five spice and salt and sear skin side down in a hot pan, until the skin side in golden brown about 2-3 minutes flip the breasts over and place in a 375 degree oven for ten minutes.  remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.