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Great Kosher Duck

by Rob Eshman

October 4, 2011 | 12:06 pm

Duck Dinner

Over Rosh Hashanah I used meat that I bought through Kol Foods Los Angeles buying club.

The Washington, D.C.-based company sells beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and duck that is raised on open pasture and killed according to the highest standards of humane slaughter and kashrut supervision.  The LA buying club, organized by Got Kosher co-owner Evelyn Baron,  enables people to make their purchase online and save on the high shipping costs, which can be more than the food itself.

You order online, using the drop down menu to specify your buying club (They exist in Boston, New York, Chicago and other cities). You pay a flat rate of around $50 for shipping (which you can share with a friend or neighbor). The pick up location in LA is Temple Beth Am on La Cienega.  Because the pick up locations have limited storage space, you must get your delivery on the appointed day, between specific hours.  Hey, if you want easy, buy a Slim Jim.


Last Passover I bought a turkey and some ribeye steaks.  They were excellent.  This Rosh Hashana I bought beef brisket and whole ducks.

According to the warm and fuzzy web site description, my ducks were raised on a Pennsylania pasture by a sensitive Amish farmer named Aaron.

The grass-fed beef comes from George Lake’s Appalachian Trail Beef.  It’s not clear from the web site where exactly on the Appalachian Trail Mr. Lake raises his cows. But judging by the photos, I do know my cow and ducks lived on much nicer spreads than mine.

Both had superb flavor.  But the duck was exceptional—far better than any commercially available kosher duck I’ve had.  The huge magret was deep red and mineral-rich.  The meat was tender and the two or more cups of rendered fat will flavor my roast potatoes all winter.  From the brisket I made my neighbor Holly Wiland’s Brisket with Fennel, Preserved Lemon and Olives.  It is so flavorful and light, you’ think eating that much beef were good for you.

The duck I turned into Crispy Roast Duck with Pomegranate-Fig Gastrique.  A gastrique is a sauce that balances sweet, usually in the form of sugar, with sour, usually in the form of vinegar.  Duck is rich. It needs a bit of sour to counteract the fattiness.  I used chopped fresh figs in the sauce for additional sweetness, and the first pomegranates off my tree for sharpness.  Coastal pomegranates never get too sweet, they say.  They’re right.

A 3 ½ pound kosher duck without shipping will run you close to $40.  It will require a certain amount of hassle. But what you get is great tasting food from an animal that lived a pleasant animal life.  It may be cheaper, but there is nothing kosher about factory farming, absolutely nothing.

[RECIPE]

Crispy Roast Duck with Pomegranate-Fig Gastrique.

Serves 8

Duck is not chicken. You have to work to get the fat out.  This recipe is the fastest roast duck I know.  There’s no overnight preparation or pre-boiling.  But you do have to sear the duck, which requires good ventilation. If you have questions about this or any recipe, email-me.

2 ducks, about 3 1/2 -4 pounds each

salt

pepper

oil

8 ounces raw sugar

8 ounces red wine vinegar

1 quart chicken stock

½ cup Boukha (Tunisian fig brandy) (optional)

1 pint (about 30) very ripe fresh figs, chop 20 and quarter 10.

1 fresh pomegranate, or 1 cup pomegranate seeds, or ½ cup fresh, pure, real farmers market pomegranate juice (What I mean is, not POM, and not the bottled Persian stuff)

1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash ducks well. Trim off fat (see way below) and use a paring knife to pull out errant feathers.  Rinse again and dry well. Using a sharp knife, score skin in a diamond pattern all over without cutting into flesh. Using a sharp fork, prick ducks all over.  Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper and set aside.

Make sauce:  Place sugar in a heavy quart saucepan and heat over low to medium heat without stirring until sugar melts and caramelizes.  Do not let it burn.  Remove from heat and add the vinegar (keep your face away—it may splatter), then the stock, the optional liquor, and the chopped figs and the crushed seeds of a pomegranate.

Simmer until the sauce is thickened and flavorful—about 30 minutes.  Strain through a chinois or sieve.

Return the strainer sauce to the pan and simmer.  Add the quartered figs. Taste and adjust for tartness by adding some squeezed-in lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Keep warm.

Finish the Duck: Heat a large cast iron or heavy skillet over a high flame.  Film with oil. Brown each duck on all sides, draining the copious amounts of fat that drains off through the cuts you made.

Place the well-browned ducks on a roasting rack in a large pan, and roast breast side down for 45 minutes.  Turn, baste with sauce, and roast 20 minutes.  Turn, baste with sauce, and roast 10 minutes.

Test with a meat thermometer.  The ducks should reach about 185 degrees.  If not, continue roasting and basting until well browned and cooked.

Remove from oven.  Let stand a bit, then carve.  Spoon some sauce on the plate, top with a portion of duck, surround with a bit more sauce and fig quarters.  Pass extra sauce.  And Wet Naps.

Coda: The duck fat.  Cook trimmed fat in a small saucepan and save. Drain off all excess fat when searing duck and save it in the fridge in a covered container. Next time you roast potatoes, use a few spoonfuls along with a bit of olive oil.  You can also use it to brown chicken in.  It sounds wrong, but the chickens don’t seem to mind.

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