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May 09, 2012

Rendering a Duck

Ducks were half price at Ocado last week, so we had roast duck instead of roast chicken. And this one had giblets (quite a lot of my chickens don't these days). I roasted it on a rack, with loads of veg underneath (potatoes, celeriac, fennel, carrots, red onions, butternut squash, red pepper, garlic); I poured off the excess fat several times during the cooking, so I think I have enough fat for about four more lots of roasties. The skin was crispy but not quite crispy enough, and the meat was fantastic. I'd planned on there being leftover vegetables but I turned my back and they'd all been eaten; that's how much duck fat and juice had soaked into them. Oops. Next time ducks are half price, I'll roast in an empty pan and cook the veg separately with just the regular amount of fat.

We had red cabbage with it; the benefit/catch with organic boxes is that you have to cook what you get. Red cabbage keeps for ages, and this time I'd had one sitting at the bottom of the fridge until the next one came along. My children don't like it, but it's one of my favourite things, and the slightly sharp taste really goes well with fatty meat like duck.

Duck isn't like chicken; a good sized duck famously feeds three, though it's enough for 'just the family' for four; you don't actually need that much roast meat. When the kids clamoured for seconds, I pointed them at the carcass, figuring they'd do as good a job as I would of stripping it.

I was wrong. I threw the remaining duck in the stockpot without a second glance, expecting that when it came out I would have no more meat than would enhance the inevitable soup. But there was loads; silly me. Enough for a stir-fry and the topping for a pizza. I used to discard the vegetables from the stockpot, believing the chefs who say that all their power is used up. But then Allegra McEvedy set me straight, in a recipe for ham hock soup where she purees the stock vegetables and adds half of them to the soup and saves the other half for another soup.

I love giblets; I think of them as a sort of magic meaty lucky dip because they're always a bit random. No sign of a gizzard or kidneys this time, but instead at least two livers and what might have been a third liver or alternatively perhaps lungs; it was attached to the heart. The heart and neck went in the stockpot, but I turned the rest into awesome pate. If you've ever stared at a giblets pack wondering what you've been sent, I recommend Chicken Giblets: an illustrated guide.

I'd never made pate before. When you buy duck liver pate from the supermarket, it's often a bit insipid. I realise now that that is because actual duck livers or other duck offal are very thin on the ground (typically 20-30%), the excess being made up by duck fat, skin, random bits of duck, chicken livers, and who knows what all else. I used Delia's recipe, chosen mostly because it didn't involve chopping and frying an onion or shallot and so is very quick. I didn't use as much butter as Delia does so my pate was about 70% duck meat; the balance being butter, cheap cooking brandy, and spices. This made enough to fill one largish ramekin to the brim; it felt about as much as a small supermarket tub. It's amazingly delicious but actually, just the fried duck liver was amazingly delicious and another time I might just fry that up with butter for my lunch and forget about pate making.

Finally, the pate required clarified butter, and one website said 'don't throw away the curds! They're great on popcorn'. I will try and report back.

None of that will feed us tonight; we're having a fish pie. The fish was planned for a much posher fish stew, but a couple of ingredients didn't turn up, and besides, I couldn't be bothered. So. Fish pie; I put the peas right into the pie these days because that way people eat them. In terms of pie wars, this is of course not a pie; the topping is mashed potato and dishes of this kind are sometimes called fisherman's pie by analogy to cottage pie and shepherd's pie. This used up a couple of random pots of stuff; some leftover white sauce because I made too much for something the other day, and a bit of what I thought was mash but I think was actually gnocchi dough. If the mash ends up tasting like dumplings we'll know why.

Posted by Alison Scott at May 9, 2012 12:52 PM


I'm not a fan of high-heat roasting, nor is my chef hbsaund, except for some specific dishes. It leaves your oven a mess (even if you have a self-cleaning oven, it takes a LOT of energy to clean it). It doesn't work at all well with organic birds, which we mostly eat they don't have much fat to begin with and high-heat roasting can really dry them out. I also simply prefer the longer melding of favors that slower roasting brings.But that doesn't mean high-heat doesn't work it does. And a lot of chefs recommend it. What I'm wondering is what happens to whatever you've stuffed them with. Doesn't high-heat roasting pretty much toast a standard bread stuffing? And how can you roast accompanying root veggies on high heat without killing them? Do you add stock? And then is that still roasting?I like the note to American cooks that the remains of a roast chicken can have many afterlives. Don't think too many people make their own chicken stock, which is a shame it's so easy and so good. And unlike most grocery store stocks (even the organic kind), there's no salt (never, never add salt to a stock!) and virtually no fat, just tons of chicken-y flavor.

Posted by: Poliana at June 11, 2012 03:38 AM

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