My uncle, who lives in upstate New York, raised some ducks and recently had them slaughtered. He gave some frozen ones to my parents, who gave one to me. Dan and I love duck, and I've cooked a breast or two before, but I'd never tackled the whole beast. I went to the Test Kitchen book, and was surprised to find no mention whatsoever of duck. So, I took to the internet and found an Alton Brown recipe called Mighty Duck. So here we go:
The whole bird, defrosted and coming out of its wrapping:
Backbone removed, split down the breast, quartered and put in the fridge to brine (pineapple-orange juice, lots of kosher salt, peppercorns, garlic, thyme).
Quarters getting ready to steam for 45 minutes:
After steaming, they were moved to a pre-heated cast iron skillet in a very hot oven (legs first, then breasts 10 minutes later). They made a very satisfying sizzle when placed in the skillet. Here they are done:
Evacuate the duck to a plate, then toss shredded chard and minced shallots in the hot duck fat with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Plated, with couscous and dried cherries:
Verdict: Sadly, way over cooked. I followed the recipe exactly so I think it is a flaw in the timing there. But, it was still mighty tasty, especially with the crispy skin. If the breast were cooked to a more proper medium this could have been fantastic. I think my favorite part was actually the chard wilted in the fat. Mmmm.
After we ate, we moved to the bonus round: saving the precious liquid in the bottom of the steamer pot. After three batches through the fat separator, I have about a half gallon of duck stock and a few cups of duck fat. Coming soon: some kind of soup, and duck fat hash browns!