Duck can be a difficult bird to master. There’s the thick layer of fat that keeps it warm in the water and tastes wonderful when used appropriately in cooking. But, let’s face it, it scares off many a cook. Since I normally cook a whole bird, I treat it simply. The meat gets used a couple different dishes so glazing it with orange or something specific like that doesn’t always work for leftover meals. My advice would be for you to think about a couple of dishes you might want to make from one bird and then decide what flavors to add when you cook it.
For this bird, I wanted to make Duck Soup, Duck Vegetable Pot Pie and try out Mushrooms Stuffed with Duck & Root Vegetables.
I simply scored the fatty breast side of the bird so the fat would render as the bird roasted in a very large Le Creuset Dutch oven. To avoid some initial sticking of the fat, I lightly oiled the inside of the pot with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Initially I browned the breast side on the top of the stove on medium heat. Then I lifted the bird and place it on a rack in the pot about a half-inch from the bottom of the pan so the bird would not be sitting in the fat as it rendered, breast side up, lid on at 300F. One point to note, most recipes don’t call for using a heavy cast iron Dutch oven like the Le Creuset that I like to use most often. This type of pot cooks hotter once it’s heated up then roasting in a traditional roasting pan. I have been successful in reducing the heat by as much as 50F and still easily maintaining the 300 temperature. Basting the bird every 20 minutes or so with the fat that is rendering is useful as well to keep the bird moist. And flipping the bird each hour from breast side up to breast side down works well. You are looking for an internal temperature of 165F.
After the bird has cooled, pull the meat from the bones. If you have a lot of fatty skin that hasn’t rendered well, cut it up and place it back in the pot without the rack and cook it on low on the top of the stove for another thirty minutes or so until you have a fair amount of fat left (you can leave the lid on). You can refrigerate and freeze this fat to use later. Roasting potatoes or chicken in the fat is wonderful. It’s not terribly healthy, so it’s a special treat, maybe reserved for a special holiday celebration. I actually double roast the pre-roasted potatoes in the fat once I pull them from the freezer just to crisp them up a bit.
Next place the bones right in that same Dutch oven and add filtered water to about 3/4 of the way up the pot. This was easily a half-gallon of water for my Dutch oven. Add a tablespoon of Italian Herb blend; about 4-5 3″ long pieces of fresh thyme and 2 pieces of 4″ long rosemary; one onion cut up; about a cup of carrots, cut up; a turnip cup up; 1 clove of garlic; 3-4 whole cloves; a couple of bay leaves, 2 stalks of celery or 1/2 cup of dried celery leaves, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring this to a simmer and cook about and hour or two. Whatever fits your schedule.
Pull any additional meat off of the bones that is now free from the cooking process and set aside with the other meat. Strain your stock, refrigerate and freeze it in 16 or 32 oz containers so it cools quickly. Skim the fat off when it’s cool enough to rise to the top. I discard this fat. It doesn’t have the same clear color or flavor of the rendered skin fat since it’s been cooked with vegetables and herbs.
Now we can begin to make soup. Yes, it seems like a lot of trouble, but you’ll have a lot of meat and if used wisely, you will get at least three large meals out of this bird. For this recipe, I used carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms that were harvested earlier in the year and frozen after being lightly sauteed. The soup pulls together a little quicker this way.
Vegetable Duck Soup with Greens & Brown Rice
- 6 cups duck broth
- 2-4 cups filtered water
- 1 1/2 cups chopped duck meat
- 8 oz chopped onions
- 8 oz chopped celery
- 16 oz chopped carrots
- 8 oz sautéed sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried French thyme)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-4 cups shredded baby chard (or other mild winter / spring green) (stems removed)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice / wild black rice / or quinoa (or blend of all three)
- If you haven’t previously cooked the mushrooms, you can use the same pot you plan to cook your soup in to saute the shiitake mushrooms. Use a mixture of butter and olive oil with salt & pepper. This will take about 10 minutes. Set the mushrooms aside.
- If you aren’t using previously prepared/cooked vegetables, you’ll need to saute the onions, celery, and carrots first in a little olive oil. Use the same pot you used for the mushrooms and it will free up any leftover pieces. Use some butter for additional flavor. Add a little salt and pepper during the saute process to caramelize them a bit.
- Next add the broth, water (add water to adjust for how much liquid you like in your soup), herbs, spices, bay leaf, duck meat, 1 teaspoon salt (Himalayan or Chardonnay Oak Barrel Smoked work well) and 1/4 teaspoon Pepper (Four Corners Pepper Blend works well) to the onions, celery and carrots. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. The longer you cook the more tender the meat and vegetables will get.
- Add whatever blend of cooked rice (our brown rice comes from Edible Earthscapes in Chatham County, NC) or quinoa that you prefer along with as many shredded greens as you would prefer, and the mushrooms.
- Cook for an additional 5 minutes to wilt the greens, cook the peas, and warm the rice/quinoa.
- Serve with crackers and goat cheese or warm cheese bread.
Duck Soup with Roasted Carrots, Shiitake Mushrooms & Udon Noodles on 2/7/14
Follow the basic directions for the soup above, adjusting the water for the volume of noodles you prefer.
- Cut the carrots in long strips instead of pieces and roast with olive oil and herbs until they are deep brown in some spots. They will be easier to pick up with chop sticks along with the noodles this way. They can be frozen this way and just pulled out of the freezer when you want to use them in the soup.
- Reduce the celery and onions by half.
- Eliminate or change the greens to baby Bok Choy or some variation of mild baby Asian green or delicate cabbage like Savoy, julienne cut. Do not let the green compete too much with the mushrooms and duck.
- Prepare whole-wheat udon noodles separately instead of rice.
- Substitute half of the Shiitake mushrooms with Oyster or other more mild mushroom for variation in texture and flavor.