Duck, duck, goose

I don’t know what got into me. For about a week, I felt like cooking duck. I had recently downloaded a recipe for duck gumbo and I watched and took notes (not enough notes it turned out!) as Kevin Belton cooked duck on tv. So the other evening, duck 2-ways it was.  The gumbo called for legs and thighs and the Belton/New Orleans recipe wanted breasts.  Two birds provided the necessary meat.

Let’s talk about recipes first. Where do you get your recipes?  I have quite a few tried and true from my Mom.  I did not have the luxury of growing up with grandparents nearby, so that was not a source.  My cookbook collection is pretty large; the Joy of Cooking came with me to Peace Corps and the pages are abused from use.  More about my cookbooks another time. Cooking shows on tv, cooking magazines, websites, and Google.  Actually, the first time I made duck, I found the recipe on Google. This is my go-to recipe that comes out amazing everytime – It takes time, so I plan an computer afternoon during the cooking.

Anyway, I was off on an adventure of 2, not one, new recipes.  First step in cooking duck – remove as much excess fat and skin as you possibly can.  Set it aside to fry crisp. This amazing, crunchy snack, made with chicken skin, is called gribenes by Yiddish speaking Jews.  Perhaps it originated in medieval Germany, who knows? After frying these tempting morsels, drain off the duck fat to be used another time.

Duck fat, skin gribenes

First, I prepared my variation of the Kevin Belton recipe.  Before braising the breasts, score the skin (cut criss cross, trying not to cut into the meat); this allows more of the lovely fat to escape. Braise for about 15 minutes per side, then the crispy breasts go into a 450 degree F oven for about another 15 minutes.  Remember, I cut up a whole bird, so I had the bones and all; you can buy boneless breasts at the supermarket. Note: save the duck fat from both braising pan and roasting pan to use later.

Skin, nicely scored and crispy

Neither my husband nor I are fans of sticky sweet orange sauce that comes with the whole duck. I toss the sauce bag.  For this dish, (here I deviated from my notes from Belton) I prepared a blackberry sauce recipe.  Two cups of blackberries mixed with one cup of sugar (the recipe calls for 2, I always cut the sugar when I can), 1 tablespoon of horseradish, and one tablespoon of lime juice in a saucepan until the berries are soft, then mash up the berries with a fork.  Not to sweet with a little bit to it. A really good match for the rich duck. 

Out of the oven, duck breasts

When duck #1 was underway, I tackled the gumbo.  First braise the legs and thighs.  Save the rendered duck fat for use, not later, but in a next step, the roux. In the same braising pan, saute onion and garlic.  Then the roux in a dutch oven.  When I first met my husband, he came over with a round steak.  A new cut to me. It was good with gravy, he told me. Even though I grew up in a home which rarely used gravy I was sure I could make I – not so … it was a mess of lumpy flour in oil.  After all these years I’ve not forgotten this cooking fiasco! Recently, I’ve worked hard to perfect roux. If I can do it, so can you; remember add the flour to the fat slowly and stir, stir, stir – nice and brown and nutty.   

Next add the onion/garlic to the roux, the requisite spices, the duck, and the okra and Andouille sausage and lots of water.  Simmer for 2 hours and voila, duck gumbo. I used a smoked turkey sausage and thought it lost its consistency; my husband is enjoying it. Okra … a key ingredient to gumbo. I grew up with okra; we called it bamya. Mom stewed it with tomato and onion and a generous squeeze of lemon to cut the “slime.” I’ve already written that we enjoy it roasted like other roasted vegetables.

A while ago I ran into a recipe for eggplant dirty rice. It’s now a favorite. A good use of eggplant and an excellent accompaniment for any gumbo.

What about the goose? A friend upon hearing about my cooking, especially duck, came up with the idea that I’m a good cook.  She asked if I would cook a goose if she bought it.  Ok, I’d give it a try.  Such a different, lean bird.  I’d like to give it another try and roast if for less time. It was another adventure in cooking as this was, too.  Next time, I’ll stick to my old tried and true roast duck recipe. 

2016, roast goose

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