One of the aspects of Asian culinary tradition (and the culinary traditions of many other cultures) that I admire is their resolution to make use of every last part of an animal. I originally planned to roast this duck whole, but I figured it would be more fun to break the duck down into its basic units and create recipes for each of those components. With just a $10 duck and some basic pantry ingredients, I came up with almost $100 worth of restaurant entrées (that estimate is priced for your typical Yelp-hyped restaurant in San Francisco).
I don’t have a suitable workflow for taking action photos with both hands in an uncooked animal, so I’ll defer the instructions on how to butcher a duck to an excellent video on Stella Culinary. The only thing I did differently was to joint the entire wing off for an entirely boneless breast cut. It’s definitely worth your while to work with whole birds, if not for the primal satisfaction of butchering an animal then for the significant reduction in cost (for some reason, the price for a package of two pre-cut breasts at Whole Foods is more than an entire duck!).
Pictured above is what I ended up with – from the top left corner going clockwise are two breasts, two legs, two wings, miscellaneous skin scraps, a small pile of giblets in the lower right corner, and the back and neck of the duck. One breast was used to make a decadent fried rice, while the other was smoked in a wok with oolong tea leaves, uncooked rice, and spices. The two legs were cooked sous vide to make a confit with rendered fat from the skin scraps, and the giblets were mashed into a pâté for use in a bánh mì sandwich. I made all of this over the course of a few days, but if these dishes were adapted into a tasting menu, then the green tea ochazuke with duck stock would either serve as an appetizer or a palate-cleansing closer.
Here’s a round up of the recipe collection in the form of a photo gallery. Scroll down further for instructions on how to render out duck fat from skin scraps (and get delicious cracklings in the process) and how to make a simple Chinese poultry stock from the unused duck parts.
homemade duck stock
- Wings, back, and neck of a duck
- 3-4″ strip of ginger, roughly cut into 2-3 pieces and smashed with the blunt edge of the knife
- 1 medium onion or 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup Shaoxing cooking wine, other rice wine, or dry sherry (optional)
In a stockpot or large, heavy-bottomed pot, place wings, back and neck of the duck and cover with cool water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and parboil for 5 minutes. Using metal tongs, take the duck parts out of the pot and rinse them under cold water to remove any residual scum.
Take out a new stockpot or drain and wash the pot used for the parboil. Return the duck parts to the pot with the ginger and onion, and add enough cool water to cover the all of the duck parts. Optionally, add ½ cup Shaoxing cooking wine, dry sherry, or other rice wine to the mixture. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and cook, partially uncovered, for 4 – 5 hours.
Remove and discard the duck parts, ginger, and onion. Strain the stock into a new container and either freeze or refrigerate the stock for up to 5 – 7 days. The yield from one carcass will be about 2 – 3 cups, depending on how much water evaporated during the simmering.
rendered duck fat + skin cracklings
- Skin scraps from a whole duck
- ¼ cup of water
Toss in all of the skin scraps into a small pot with approximately ¼ cup of water. Bring the water to a boil and immediately lower the heat to a medium flame.
Cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour. At this point, the water should be evaporated, fat mostly rendered out, and the skin turned into crispy cracklings that can be eaten as a snack with salt and pepper.
Remove the skin cracklings with a spatula or slotted spoon, and store the rendered duck fat in a separate container. The duck fat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.