The duck kill…

“It’s people like you…” Is always a bad start to a conversation. Just saying…

This week we killed some of our ducks. Some people call it dispatching but let’s face it, I am not here to sugar coat my monologue for your over sensitive eyes. We were killing the ducks.

When ever this event (and trust me, it is an event) occurs at our place it reminds me of my Gran plucking chooks on the verandah after dad had “dispatched” them with an axe and a wood block down near the clothesline. We would watch in in amazement as the Tom and Jerry-esque show would unfold before our eyes. The chicken would flap around with blood spurting from the now naked neck which once held it’s head. “Oohs” came from the crowd as the chicken would do a flip and then fly down the yard, no pilot at the helm, and dad in tow.

This was a time that this was still widely accepted as a way to an honest meal in the country.

Today we had the help of our dear friend Sammy the Gelfling, who you may remember from the early days of this blog and a little segment called “What’s Sammy having for dinner tonight?” Or, as I’m quite sure there were only a couple of followers (possibly Jen’s sister and a lonely goat named Ryan), you may not have the memories to call upon, thus making my query somewhat superfluous and just downright silly. Anyway Sammy and Jennee were chief pluckers, I was head dispatcher (pun intended) and stomach removalist, and Dave (our friend who came over mid kill) was in charge of looking awkwardly towards the sky and hanging out around the corner.

Once again I will not lie to you, it’s quite a 1600’s sort of experience but a worthy one just to have that knowledge of where you meat comes from and what kind of life it’s led.

The marylands would be roasted in the camp oven (which could be done quite happily in a baking dish in your oven) and the breasts are being gently smoked (on the crown to keep the moisture in there) under banana leaves away from any direct heat. This can be achieved in your home smoke house but will probably only require 10 minutes or so. Because mine are getting done with very low heat I’m thinking they should be right for an hour or two. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them and I’ll let you know.

The ducks were happy as larry roaming in the orchard
I’m not going to lie. This is a messy job
The marylands were destined for the pot and the breasts would get smoked on the grill
The banana leaves help keep the smoke in
Good looking legs
…and beautiful breasts

Duck marylands roasted with potatoes (for 4)

4 duck marylands

4 potatoes, chopped into 5cm chunks

salt and pepper

  • How obscurely simple does this look? This is simpler still than the half brother you have kept under the back stairs for the entirity of his life, feeding him only dirty old prawn heads and chicken bones, his only entertainment Womans Weekly magazines from the early ‘80’s…
  • Season the duck legs all over with salt and pepper. Bake in a heavy based oven dish at 160C for 1½ hours, basting regularily with rendered fat and juices
  • Add the potatoes and back into the oven for another 30 minutes. Now check the duck by gently pressing on the thigh… it should start to moan, err, I mean yield a little. If not it can all go back into the oven for another 15 minutes and then check again etc, etc, etc.
  • Once the duck is tender its good to go. Check the potatoes and if they aren’t quite done remove the duck from the pan and put the potatoes back in at 180C for another 5-10 minutes. Should be cracking now

Smoked duck breast (for 4)

4 duck breasts

salt and pepper

a source of smoke (a low fire with some nice hard wood or hickory chips is good. A raging inferno in a youth hostel is not so good)

  • This is a bit hard to put a time on because it’s all about the heat and smoke that you have to deal with. I kept my duck breasts on the crown (both breasts left on the top half of the carcass) to keep the moisture in and make sure I still had a med-rare end product, covered them in banana leaves and smoked them on the edge of the grill for 1½ -2 hours. The heat does fluctuate quite a bit on the open fire so you’ll have to keep eye on them if you’re going to try this. And at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work try again. Fire and smoke are hard things to grasp (mostly because they’re hot and whispy) but it doea get easier the more you try. And if you do manage to fluke a primo product first try, well then you just look like a bloody champ!

May the force be with you…


cooking duck

duck is one of my all time favorites. especially one of the beautiful muscovy’s that come from my backyard. i truly think there is nothing more satisfying then watching the baby birds hatch out, slowly grow to roasting size (while roaming around my backyard eating whatever they wish), and then killing, cleaning and plucking them ready for the pan. oh, and the killers’ privilege of hearts, livers and bacon on grilled sourdough with only a tumbler of red wine and the company of my 6 year old son who is also a big fan.

anyhoo, duck! we will do legs and breasts separately as this causes the most problems with roasting a whole duck ie. people will always complain that the legs were beautiful but the breast was dry and overcooked. or, the breast was cooked but the legs were still chewy and tough.

start with a 180g breast, and keep it simple until you have got the technique sorted. preheat oven to 180C. bring the duck out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes so it can get close to room temp. season on the skin side with plenty of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (i use white peppercorns but that’s up to you) and place into an oven proof frying pan over a med heat. keep an eye on it now and after 2-3 minutes it should be starting to turn golden brown, texture like sun… no. wait. i think i may have been straying from the point there. then straight into the oven for 6 minutes. when your oven timer goes off, and if you haven’t got one i suggest you grab one from your nearest cooking store cos they are heaps handy if you like to cook, take the duck out of the oven and turn over so that beautiful crisp skin is now facing upwards. tear a sprig of thyme into the pan and leave it to rest for 3 minutes. now carve it up with a sharp knife… please tell me you have a sharp knife. eat it in your face with a simple rocket and hazelnut salad dressed with the pan juices mixed with a Tbls of red wine vinegar.

great werk. i am really surprised you did so well!

now legs. same scenario to start with. preheat oven, season legs, now into an oven dish and into the oven for 20ish minutes until starting to brown. now reduce heat to 160C for 1.5 hours (it could take longer if it’s being stubborn) or until the meat will easily come away from the bone. it’s really nice if you roast some veges in the pan, too. duck fat veges are really good. and chuck a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary in there.

drink some wine now. you really deserve it.