I have a love/hate relationship with the movie Julie & Julia. The Julie character annoys the crap out of me. In a fight with her husband she screams at him, “…I have to bone a whole duck!… Can you even conceive of boning a duck?!” She makes it into such a big deal, signalling to home cooks everywhere that no mere mortal is capable of it. But I’m here to tell you that anyone can bone a duck. You aren’t going to win any butchery awards, but the result is just fine for home cooking. I’ve discussed before on earlier posts about butchering a chicken, and a duck is very similar. Check out this video of Jacques Pepin boning a chicken.
A whole duck is a bargain. Duck confit was my goal this time, and I realized I would spend about $40 buying duck legs and duck fat separately. Instead, I purchased a whole duck for about $22, and I will make confit as well as stock, rillettes, and mousse au canard with the liver. This is true cookery.
Then I placed the carcass in the dutch oven and roasted it at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. I was doubtful that the duck would yield enough fat to cover the meat, but I had more than enough. Those birds have a tremendous amount of fat! I strained it, placed it in a container, and let it harden in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I pulled out the duck meat and rendered fat. I rinsed the duck pieces off in the sink and patted them dry. I combined the meat and the fat in my dutch oven and brought it to a simmer on the stove. Then I placed the lid on top and slipped it in the oven to cook for about 8 hours at 200 degrees. Finally I removed it from the oven and let it cool overnight. Before work the next morning, I placed it in the fridge where it remained for 3 weeks while it cured and ripened. Duck confit is an old method of preserving meat, and it is imperative that the fat covers the meat completely or it will go bad.
Three weeks later, it was time to try this food project. I pulled the dutch oven out of the fridge, let the fat soften for a few hours, and fished out the duck pieces. I crisped the skin in a pan but was disappointed that it didn’t look like the beautiful browned legs found in restaurants. Instead, all the meat was falling apart, really pulling away from the bone. But is that really such a bad thing? It was still outstanding. I didn’t ‘get’ the duck obsession until I made confit. It has made wonderful sandwiches, pizzas, and played a starring role in my Charcutepalooza finale dinner.