5@5 - Five ways to eat more duck
March 8th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Hank Shaw is the blogger behind Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and the author of "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast."

"I think daily about new ways to cook and eat anything that walks, flies, swims, crawls, skitters, jumps – or grows," Shaw writes.

"Honest food is what I’m seeking. Nothing packaged, nothing in a box, nothing wrapped in plastic. I eat meat, and I’m not keen on factory farms, so I either hunt it myself or buy it from real people who raise animals humanely."

For Shaw, one food that fits his "honest food" bill is duck.

Five times the quack, five times the yum.

Five Ways to Eat More Duck: Hank Shaw

hank shaw

1. Check your freezer section.
"Most supermarkets carry whole frozen ducks all year long. Yes, they will cost something around $25, but a whole duck contains more delights within it than just the breast meat. Breaking down a duck is no harder than a chicken (they’re built the same) and once you have a parted-out duck, you have at least three meals for two: Duck breasts one evening, slow-cooked duck legs another, duck broth with noodles on the third night.

If you are adventurous, you can eke out a fourth meal by using some leftover duck broth and slowly simmer the giblets to make a German specialty called ganseklein, a goose or duck giblet stew served with dried fruit and spices."

2. Buy duck fat.
"While not available in every supermarket, tubs of rendered duck or goose fat are readily available at high-end markets in urban areas or online through purveyors such as D’Artagnan. Why? Because this is what angels use to keep their wings from squeaking. Duck fat is manna.

Creamy, white as a glacier and ever-so-slightly ducky, it makes everything it touches taste better. I’d call it 'duck butter,' but that would be doing duck fat a disservice: The stuff is actually lower in saturated fat than butter. A lot lower.

We render our own from wild ducks, and cook with it all year long. One serving of duck fat-fried potatoes will break most vegetarians. And while you know it’s duck fat, the flavor is not so intense that it will preclude using it in foods you don’t want to taste ducky. I’ve even used it in pastry dough.

One caveat: Because duck and goose fat is so low in saturated fat, it will melt in a warm room. This means if you want to use it in pastry, you will need to take extra precautions to keep everything ice cold."

3. Buy just legs or breasts.
"Pretty much every Whole Foods in America carries frozen duck legs and duck breasts separately. Other high-end markets do, too, and rumor has it that even Stop & Shop in Massachusetts carries frozen parted-out ducks. This can make life a lot easier if you are intimidated by butchering your own whole duck, or by roasting a whole bird yourself.

There is nothing quite like searing off a couple duck breasts with a simple pan sauce after a long day at work. You can literally make a fancy-pants, gourmet dinner in 20 minutes: sauce, crusty bread, salad, done. And buying just the legs makes it easier to make your own confit, or to expand your winter braising repertoire. In summer, duck legs are ideal barbecued slow and low."

4. Order it in restaurants.
"Duck is at the cutting edge of culinary artistry right now. And not just in the culinary capitals of New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Go to a decent restaurant in any medium-to-large city in America; I’ll bet you a beer there’s a duck dish or two on the menu.

Duck is fascinating to chefs because, like pork, it is fatty and it has lots of interesting differences to it, depending on breed, species and even part of the animal. Chefs love to play with that.

Take Chef Nobuo Fukuda of Nobuo at Teeter House, a high-end Japanese restaurant in Phoenix: He offers a seared duck salad Japanese-style and foie gras cured in miso and sake, seared hard and served with pears. Chef Michael Smith in Kansas City gets even funkier. Smith offers both fried duck gizzards and duck tongue tacos at his restaurant, Extra Virgin. I could go on, but I’m getting hungry."

5. Hunt it yourself.
"Admittedly this is not for everyone, but more than 1 million Americans head to the marshes every autumn in search of ducks to bring home for dinner. Depending on where you live, someone skilled at the duck call and handy with a shotgun can come home with a kaleidoscope of species of duck and goose, each offering something special at the table.

And every duck hunter I know will take a fat wild pintail or mallard or canvasback over any domestic duck any day in any week. Imagine the flavor of duck turned up to eleven. That’s how good these birds taste.

I’ve hunted pretty much everything you can hunt in North America, and a fat wild duck ranks up there with anything else the wild world has to offer. But guess what? You can’t buy them, at any price. To enjoy this slice of culinary nirvana, you must hunt it yourself – or know a hunter who owes you a favor."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Duck • Hunting • Ingredients • Meat • Think

soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. Hwmallard

    5 Ways to Eat More Duck
    1. Buy duck
    2. Buy part of a duck
    3. Buy part of a duck
    4. Buy duck, but in a restaurant
    5. Hunt duck

    March 12, 2012 at 5:02 am |
  2. N

    I gave up duck hunting after watching them swim in the sewage ponds and eating the grain out of the cattle manure on the ranch. UGH! I'll take upland game birds thank you, don't need the ecoli. Elk, Deer, rabbit, Salmon, Stealhead, Halibut and Wahoo all beat duck for me!

    March 11, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Good list. Ever had duck jerky?

      July 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • Aleck, Smart

        Last time Donald did crack.

        July 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Took me a minute....

          July 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  3. Bob Brown

    In the words of Buffy T. Vampireslayer, "There's a duck!?!"

    March 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  4. rtbrno65

    If you duck, then you're chicken.

    March 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
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