Showing posts with label duck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label duck. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2016

Honeymoon Duck Confit

This could be a dish to serve to a book club if you make it ahead and then shred the duck and use it in a salad or pasta. But it’s also something Meg and Seth might eat on their honeymoon in Seeds of Deception, when they visit some rather nice places (before the dead body complicates things).

This recipe takes three days.

Don’t panic—most of that is just waiting.

In June, when I was in Ireland, I stumbled on Fields Market’s prepared food section. I’ve already raved about Fields, and although in general I’m not a big fan of pre-made entrees, a package of Confit of Duck caught my eye. I will eat almost anything that is made from duck, but it’s hard to find in our area, and when you do, it’s usually frozen and/or tough. But at Fields, a package with two (non-frozen) duck thighs/legs was only 5 euros, so I figured, what the heck? 

I bought it. And a couple of days later I went back and bought another package—it was that good. All I needed to do was to preheat the oven and slide the container in (after tossing the completely unnecessary plastic packet of orange sauce), then drain off the excess duck fat halfway through (yes, duck is fatty—deal with it). The duck was flavorful and tender. I loved it--all four times I ate it.

But three thousand miles from Fields, could I replicate it at home? I’d always heard that a confit involved long cooking and a lot of fat. Both true, but not really a problem (okay, don’t eat confit every day of the week if you’re worried about fat—save it for a treat). The recipe is simple. The only difficulty is coming up with a container of duck fat.

Which I had! A treasured container of the precious stuff, that I’d been saving for a special occasion. The occasion had arrived!


(this recipe is adapted from Ireland: The Taste & the Country, Mike Bunn, 2000 edition. But that one made enough for six people, using only duck legs, so I adapted it and modified some of the proportions of the ingredients)

Serves 2


2 leg/thigh portions of duck
1/2 cup duck fat (may substitute pork fat, but not bacon)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns


Day 1:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a deep roasting tray, melt the fat. Add the vegetables, bay leaf and peppercorns.

Add the duck legs. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Cook for 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the fat is not bubbling (i.e., the oven is not too hot).

Day 2:

Cool overnight, then place in the refrigerator for 2 days (covered). Note: the cooked duck will keep in the fat for up to 10 days.

Day 3:

To serve, remove the duck pieces from the fat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the duck pieces skin side down in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. Serve hot.

While you are savoring the flavorful duck, here are some Book Club Questions to consider:

A lot has been happening in the Orchard Mysteries lately. Meg and Seth got married in A Gala Event, and they’re taking a honeymoon in the latest book, Seeds of Deception. But any time major changes take place in our characters’ lives, we writers wonder how our readers will react.

--Cozies are often closely tied to their small town setting. Is it all right to take them out of town now and then? Or do readers miss the regular cast of familiar characters?

--Marriage is a life-changing event. Does having the long-standing protagonists in a series marry (or at least move in together) change the story significantly? For better or for worse?

--Since this is a mystery, there’s a body—but in this case it turns up in Meg’s parents’ back yard. Should Meg and new husband Seth get involved in trying to solve it, in a place that they barely know and where they have no connections? (Imagine poor Seth getting chummy with his new in-laws while trying to solve a murder.)

--Do you enjoy learning more about Meg’s past? Her parents have appeared more than once in earlier books, but the new book takes place in their territory (in New Jersey), and involves elements from their past that even Meg didn’t know about. What kind of balance do you like to see between getting to know the characters better and solving the crime?

--Are Meg and Seth workaholics? They seem to have forgotten to plan a honeymoon, and then plotted one on the spur of the moment. Is that emotionally believable? What does it tell you about their relationship?

Since Meg and Seth have managed to survive a visit to the inlaws complete with a corpse, I'm giving away copies of A Gala Event (when the wedding takes place) and Seeds of Deception (with its rather unusual honeymoon). Leave a comment by Sunday night and I'll pick one winner for the pair.

Seeds of Deception will be released October 4th. Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Roast Duck 300 or 400 degrees?

I'm a big fan of roasting meats. What's easier than sliding a nice piece of meat in the oven and taking out a delicious and elegant main course? Roasting almost always results in something as delicious as it is lovely to look at. The only real downsides are roasting at the wrong temperature for a particular cut or roasting too long. Everyone remembers the turkey in Christmas Vacation, right?

One day when company was coming and I was juggling a number of things, I planned to roast a duck for dinner. I knew my company particularly liked duck. It was ready for the oven when the phone call came. "I'm not coming today." Given that this particular person lives quite a few hours from me and should have arrived in about an hour, this was somewhat disheartening. Sigh.

So, I shoved that duck, roasting pan and all, into the refrigerator and rushed off to take care of some other pressing matter. As these things usually go, my company called the next day to say he was on his way.

I opened the refrigerator and stared at the duck with more than a little dismay. In my haste, I hadn't bothered to wrap it. Now it was a dried out pathetic looking thing. It was ruined. When I was through kicking myself, I debated making something else for dinner. But as I thought about it, I considered the fact that Peking duck is hung to dry. Maybe all wasn't lost. I went ahead and roasted it. Best duck ever!

No kidding. And that was how I learned to leave a bird uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to get lovely, crispy skin. It works just the same way for turkey. Happily, it doesn't take a lot of extra effort.

If your roasting pan is large and will crowd your refrigerator, just put together a rack and a shallow bowl or pan. The idea is to expose it to air all the way around the bird. I stuck a little rack on a glass baking dish, which saved a lot of room in the fridge.

Just like turkey, you can season it with any kinds of herbs and spices that appeal to you. Wash the duck, rub on salt, pepper, and any spices and herbs. With duck, you want to take one extra step because it has a lot of fat. To release the fat, prick little holes into the skin, but not so deep that you cut the meat. I should mention here that you can tie the legs together if you like. I don't usually bother.

Years ago, there was a cookbook that recommended roasting everything at 500 degrees. Then there was a time when the recommendation was to start meat at a high temperature but turn it down after a half hour or so. The theory being that the high heat sealed in the juices. I find that roasting generally works best for me at 400. 450 gets a little too high and can easily burn the surface, especially if there's anything sugary on it. 375 isn't quite high enough. So, in the past, I just popped my duck in the oven at 400.

Why then do I see so many recipes for duck that say to roast them at 300? That's the degree for cooking low and slow. I dismissed one recommendation for roasting a duck for four and a half hours. Maybe that person has bigger ducks? So today I experimented. Instead of my usual 400 degrees, I followed the technique of a fancy chef who roasts at 300 for one hour and then turns up the heat to 425 to crisp the skin.

And the results are mixed! While my 400 degree oven gives a much browner, crisper skin, the 300 and 425 method undoubtedly yields better breast meat. It's not as dry as my method. So I guess you get your choice. Crisp skin or tender breast meat?

Basic Roast Duck
feeds 2-3

1 duck
salt and pepper
spices and herbs of your choice

1. The day before, wash duck and remove giblets. Pat dry. Salt and pepper inside and out. Prick the skin so fat will be released when it cooks. Do not cut into the meat. Lay on a rack and refrigerate overnight uncovered.

2. Preheat oven to 300. Roast duck for 1 hour. Turn heat up to 425 and roast for another 25 minutes. The USDA recommends cooking to a temperature of 165.

No room in the fridge? Use a small rack and a baking dish.

Salt and pepper and prick all over with a fork.

It will look a little bit dry after one night in the refrigerator.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Duck Confit

101 cat beds in the house, and Sunny prefers a cardboard box.

If you're a fan of cooking shows, by now you have heard the term duck confit (sounds like duck confee or duck cofee). I was always impressed when fancy chefs said they had made duck confit, and I imagined some torturously difficult dish. Turns out it's an old method of cooking that preserves the meat. The duck was salted rather heavily, then cooked low and slow to release the fat. The meat was stored beneath the rendered fat for up to one month. Pretty handy in the old days. The recipes today vary a little bit from the old method. The good news is that you can make a version of this delicious dish at home very easily!

You know me, I had to make a change. Most recipes call for 6-8 duck legs. Yeah, well, I'm imagining that housewives in France 100 years ago probably didn't slaughter 3-4 ducks just so they could make the confit. And I'm thinking hunters didn't bring home 8-legged ducks. Where I live, ducks are sold frozen, and I wasn't about to buy 3 or 4 just for the legs, so I used the whole duck -- as I imagine French housewives once did. If you happen to find a duck already cut into pieces or your duck won't fit into your Dutch oven, I would think this would work every bit as well with a cut-up duck.

Since we're not actually going to use this method to conserve the duck, we don't have to over salt it or let it sit in salt for days before it's cooked. But, we do need a Dutch oven. One of the very lovely things about this dish is that it requires so little attention. It cooks for 4 1/2 to 5 hours and only requires attention twice after the initial preparation. This is the perfect dish for writers -- pop it in the oven and write for two hours!

I will say that a roast duck makes a prettier presentation, but it's hard to beat the flavor of the duck confit. Most recipes for duck confit have some kind of sauce. Aha, it dawns on me that this could be the reason for the sauces. I should have cut a portion, topped it with the sauce, and photographed it. Frankly, we were such piggies that we dug right in! We forgot all about the sauce and the camera. Sauce is not necessary. This sauce is kind of a no brainer, and tasted fabulous, even without duck.

I bought the duck at my farmer's market from a local farmer. It weighed 2.75 pounds, so was on the small side. It's usually my rule of thumb that one duck feeds two people, three if they are light eaters and there are lots of great side dishes. Ducks don't have a lot of meat compared to chickens, but oh my -- is the meat good! The long slow cooking process produces meat so tender that the duck will nearly fall apart.

Keep the rendered fat from the duck to use in other recipes. I cooked potatoes, then, when the duck was removed from the Dutch oven, I sliced the potatoes and fried them in a few tablespoons of the duck fat. The fat is also good with vegetables like green beans. I think some people even scramble eggs in it for the delicious flavor.

Whole Duck Confit

1 duck
4 cloves of garlic or 1 1/2 elephant garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
ground pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 250.

Place the duck into a Dutch oven. Cut the garlic into thin slices and rub all over the duck, allowing the excess bits to fall into the bottom of the Dutch oven. Rub the Kosher salt on the duck. Pepper to taste. Prick the skin of the duck all over to release the fat as it cooks.

Turn the duck breast side down and nestle into the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the thyme around the duck and add 1/2 cup of water. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and cook for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, flip the duck over, breast side up. Cook another 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile start sauce and side dishes.

Remove the Dutch oven from the oven

 and turn the heat up to 400. Place the duck, breast side up, on a baking sheet or roasting pan and roast at 400 for 30 - 35 minutes or until the skin has crisped up.

Save the fat in the bottom of the Dutch oven. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.


After refrigerating, the fat will separate and rise to the top.

Blueberry Cognac Reduction

8 ounces of blueberries (frozen are fine)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cognac
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt to taste (I salted toward the end because the amount of salt in broth differs widely.)

Bring all ingredients to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer (without a cover!) about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should reduce in volume by about 1/2.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dog Food Duck

by Sheila Connolly

This recipe was inspired by a can of dog food.  Really.

Lila and Dexter

I have two cats, four-year-old siblings. They have been eating canned Friskies since they arrived at our house, as well as dry food.  As cats are wont to do, recently they decided they didn't like Friskies, so we started trying other brands.

Obviously it had been a few years since we looked at pet food, having been accustomed to grabbing the same cans from the same place on the shelf at the market every week.  Things have changed, but I'm not sure it's for the better.  What struck me most was that manufacturers have started putting vegetables in their cat food.  Uh, aren't cats carnivores?  Before you start yelling at me, I know that cats need certain elements in their diet that meat alone will not provide.  But I don't think the cats need peas, carrots, spinach, "garden greens," barley, wild rice, etc.  Can you say "cheap" and "filler"?

Surprise:  the elegant descriptions and pretty pictures on the cans are aimed straight at the pet owners.  But there's the twist:  the descriptions sound darned good. Yes, they made me hungry, never mind the cats. And I must admit, I was particularly drawn to one kind of dog food (okay, the other side of the aisle):  duck with sweet potatoes.

No, I did not bring home a can and sample it, but I thought that it sounded like a great pairing.  I like duck, and since my market stocks frozen duck parts (the back end is about half the price of the front end), I try to keep some in the freezer for quick but elegant meals.  So I went looking for a recipe—and found that there aren't many for duck and sweet potatoes.  I found all of two, both from the UK.  What I present here is a conflation of those, but it's quick, easy and tasty. 


The Duck:


2 duck legs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (or at least stripped from the stems)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat an oven-proof cast iron frying pan and sear the duck legs, skin side down, over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until the fat starts to run. 

Turn the duck pieces over and sear the other side, then remove from the pan.  Pour off and save the fat, if any.  (I happened to have some cipollini onions on hand, so I browned them a bit before the next step.) Add the soy sauce and honey and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits.  Return the duck pieces  (and the onions, if you have them) to the pan and sprinkle with pepper and coat with the soy sauce-honey mix.  Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 20-30 minutes.

When the duck is cooked, remove it from the pan and keep warm.  Put the pan on the stovetop and add the red wine, once again scraping the pan.  Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half (and all the alcohol has boiled off--you can tell by smelling the steam rising).  Add the thyme and stir.

The Sweet Potatoes:


1 large sweet potato, peeled and coarsely grated
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Duck fat (either from the cooking above, or additional)

Place the grated sweet potato in a bowl and mix well with the fresh thyme, then season with salt and pepper.

In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the duck fat, then add the grated potato mixture and press down to flatten.  Fry for 5-7 minutes on each side, until the potato is cooked and the outside is crisp. (If this sounds like too much work, just mash the potatoes, but don't forget the thyme. No need to add butter--the sauce will provide richness.)

When you are ready to serve, place the duck pieces and potatoes on a plate and pour the sauce over them. And to think it all started with dog food.

Friday, May 4, 2012


by Sheila Connolly

I originally created this recipe for One Bad Apple.  It was my homage to one of my favorite restaurants in Amherst, where I've eaten many times. The restaurant is authentically French, which explains the slightly hifalutin ingredients. Duck? Peppercorns?

I'll admit it's not always easy to find a duck to cook. Usually they're frozen, and often when you defrost them you find they're more fat than meat.  Sometimes I think about asking a neighbor to go out and shoot one for me, but then I'd have to deal with cleaning out the innards and getting rid of the feathers and feet and head and stuff…no, I guess I'll stick with the commercial ducks.

Luckily our local market has been stocking frozen duck parts for a while now.  The front quarters are expensive, but the back quarters (thigh and leg) I think are meatier and more flavorful.  And since there are only two of us living at home now, it's easier to make only two pieces and not have to worry about using up leftover duck (which can be kind of greasy).

So here's the simplified version of my recipe:

Duck with Apples and Green Peppercorns

Two duck quarters, thawed
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium tart apple
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 Tblsp preserved green peppercorns
½ cup cider (fresh or hard)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cider vinegar

With a sharp knife, score the skin and fat of the duck pieces without cutting into the flesh.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then place the duck pieces skin side down to sear.  Do not move them for 4-5 minutes.

Ready for the oven

Remove the pieces from the pan and place them on a rack over a roasting pan (cover the pan, not the rack, with foil, if you don't want to deal with all the duck fat that will be rendered).  Place in a preheated 300 degree oven and roast for about 45 minutes.  It really may take this long; test with an instant-read thermometer, which should register 165 degrees, and the blood should run clear when you pierce the thigh.

While the duck pieces are in the oven, make the sauce. Core but do not peel the apple (I used a Cortland, which is a good all-purpose apple) and slice thinly (about 1/8 of an inch:  the peel keeps the slices from disintegrating when you cook them).  In the pan you used to sauté the duck pieces (with the olive oil and duck fat), place the apples and peppercorns and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden (about 5 minutes).  Add the shallots and rosemary and continue cooking, stirring, until the shallots are soft (another 2 minutes).  Add the cider and increase the heat until the sauce is simmering, then simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the honey and cider vinegar and simmer for another minute.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if you think it needs it.

Serve the duck pieces and spoon the apples and sauce over them.  I accompanied the duck with new fingerling potatoes.