Friday, May 7, 2010

Duck Hash

I had been wondering when I'd ever get around to making duck with orange (p140), the one duck recipe in the Edmonds book. The only ducks I'd seen for sale were a) huge and b) expensive. I couldn't think when I'd have a reason to buy one.

I happened to say this much to Sue, a colleague who, fortunately for me, is married to a proper Kiwi bloke of the hunter/fisherman variety. Since duck shooting season has just opened, Sue prevailed upon Tony to provide me with a duck to complete this recipe.

On Monday morning, Sue arrived with the news that Tony had indeed come through with the goods: he'd set aside two for me, as wild ducks are quite small and don't have a lot of meat on them. By Wednesday, Sue had actually remembered to bring in the ducks. Tony had kindly gutted and plucked them for me, so on Wednesday night I got home and set about making my duck with orange.

I decided to cook only one of the ducks, unsure of whether I could eat both before they went off. So one bird went in the freezer, the other into the oven.

But first I wanted to clean it up a bit. Used to store-bought chickens in shiny bags, I wasn't sure how many feathers I could get away with leaving on. Tony had plucked it pretty clean, but there were still a few feathers scattered here and there. I decided to err on the safe side and get rid of them. Some of the feathers proved difficult to grasp, so I utilised a pair of eyebrow tweezers, giggling madly at the stupidity of it all.

Eventually, the duck was feather-free to my satisfaction. I later discovered that I needn't have bothered, since I just ended up chucking away the skin. Oh well: learning curve. I brushed it with butter and got it in the oven.

I now had to get my orange sauce underway. Orange peel, sliced into thin strips, and orange juice went into a saucepan with some sugar and chicken stock. Oops.. well, I thought it was chicken stock in the fridge, but actually it was beef. Oh well: in it went. When all that had reduced enough, I added the cornflour mixed with sherry. The sauce thickened and was ready to use.

At this time, the duck had been in the oven for 20 minutes. The recipe is for a 2kg duck - clearly the bought kind - and dictates that the duck should be cooked on a rack for 40 minutes, then put straight into the dish and cooked for another 30 with the sauce poured over. My duck was a mere 750g, so I figured if I halved the cooking times, that should be more than enough. After 20 minutes, then, it was time to remove the rack, drain the juices, and pour the sauce over the duck.

Back in the oven for 15 minutes. I was supposed to baste it frequently, so I set the alarms at 5-minute intervals. After 15 minutes, it still didn't seem cooked, so I put it back in for a little longer.

10 minutes later, the skewer I poked into the breast still let out dark pink juices. I put it back in for another 10. After that was up, I started to think "maybe the juices are supposed to have that pink colour" and decided to carve into the bird to see what it looked like. Meanwhile, I moved my dish of veges to the top rack and upped the temperature to 220, because my potatoes were nowhere near cooked.

I started carving off a leg - and as soon as I looked at it I knew it needed further cooking. So I turned the oven down again, put the duck in below the veges, and went to do a little Googling on what a cooked duck should look like. I knew that duck is a darker meat than chicken, and I had an idea from various cooking shows that cooked duck should be a bit pink, but all I found on Google were various food-safety websites lumping duck in with chicken in the 'make sure it is thoroughly cooked so the juices run clear' category.

And so the evening wore on. Every time I looked at it, the duck still needed more cooking. The orange sauce congealed to almost nothing, despite the water I added to keep it liquid. In desperation, I finally turned the oven up to 220 again, thinking at least that the veges would get cooked. By this time I was checking the oven only occasionally in between loading photos onto that night's blog entry.

I posted my blog, and returned to the kitchen - just in time. Smoke was rising from the oven door. I pulled the curtain across the entrance to the kitchen, hoping to keep the smoke away from the smoke alarm in the lounge. I opened the oven with one hand and the door with my other, and brought out a roasting dish full of sizzling, spitting duck fat. The benches were covered with various utensils, so while I fluttered around, trying to make a space to put down the oven dish, the fat splattered all over the bench/stovetop/walls.. just all over the kitchen really.

I figured the duck must be cooked by now. The vegetables were certainly done. I started carving the duck - an absolute mission, since there's not much meat on it really. Eventually I had enough carved for a meal, so I added the veges, and sat down to eat. The duck still (astonishingly) looked worryingly pink, and one taste convinced me I really shouldn't be eating it like that. It can't be good when your poultry tastes like rare beef. Since the veges had got cold while I was wrestling with carving the duck, I bunged the whole plate in the microwave - one minute of which did more towards cooking the duck than an hour in the oven.

So I had a plate of hot, cooked food. It was 8pm and I'd been at it since before 5. I was starving, so I didn't really care that the duck was chewy from the microwaving. I'd managed to both undercook it and overcook it at the same time.

Once I'd demolished my dinner, it was time to clean up all the dishes and splatters in the kitchen, a delightful task which fortunately didn't take as long as I expected. I managed to carve the rest of the meat off the carcass, and put it in the fridge for the next day.

Since I'd gone on Facebook and described my duck-cooking experience as "making a hash of it", I decided to make that statement literally true. Some of you might dispute my terminology, but if I fry up leftover meat with potatoes and other bits and pieces, I refer to it as a 'hash'. So last night I chopped up my leftover duck and roast vege, and fried it up with some bacon and chunks of apple. And it was very tasty. The duck was cooked through, and not tough like it was when I used the microwave.

So in short, I won't be making duck with orange again. It really wasn't worth the effort. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but I'm not prepared to try again. Of course, that doesn't mean that duck isn't worth trying. I've still got another duck in the freezer, but I think that one's going in the crockpot.


  1. Yum! I LOVE duck!! Hey, at least you didn't get raw duck juices in your carefully-set-aside deserts while cooking dinner for ten :) haha...

  2. Um.. did you tell us about that at the time or did you just serve the desserts..??

  3. Haha... actually I told you all about it, AND threw out the desserts. However, I had made WAY too many desserts, and you had brought one with you as well... so in the end, even without those contaminated ones, we still had WAY too much food! It was a really fun Christmas dinner though.

  4. Ahhh! I have so much catching up to do on your blog! I guess I know what I'll be doing tonight!!

  5. Oh yes.. I remember all the desserts! I think there was more stuff we forgot to serve as well. We went a bit overboard I guess, but it was good fun - except for "scary Bryn" in the kitchen..


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