Prior to this dish, we've never prepared duck at home. Or at least, I don't recall working with duck at all.
For this blog -- oh, the things we do for this blog! -- we wanted to explore the world of duck and come up with interesting and hopefully delicious duck applications to enjoy.
Seared duck breast is one of the first things that came to mind. I've seen many shows on TV how they sear duck breasts and it seemed like it was very, very doable.
And so, onward march, to hunt ducks.
We want some great-looking, meaty duck breasts, like those seen on TV.
The problem was, when I see these duck breasts, they can run up to $9.99, $15.99, $19.99, or even $24.99 per pound. Eh, twenty-something bucks for a couple of duck breasts? Seems a little bit too much to be spending on merely the breasts. A whole duck perhaps for that amount and I will consider.
I know sometimes our super-duper-convenient Chinese supermarket sells these so-called frozen "utility" ducks for very, very cheap.
In fact, these ducks were so cheap that some time ago (probably six months ago) a Chinese woman was even surprised.
I was standing in front of the meat counter, thinking of what meat I should get when I heard this woman mutter to herself.
"1.09 per pound for this duck? How come so cheap?"
She started inspecting the duck, although of course she couldn't see anything of the duck because it was enclosed in an opaque plastic film. I suppose she was feeling the duck up, checking to see if all the parts were there.
I read the sign that explained the classification "utility" for the consumer. The sign assures us that these ducks have passed all inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and are marked as "utility" because they have some part of them missing, like the wingette or the leg or some other part beside.
The woman finally chose a duck she liked and proceeded to talk to the clerk behind the meat counter.
"Hi. Could you cut this duck up into parts?"
The meat clerk looked at her and said, "No."
"Please, I want this duck, but I just need it cut up. You can just divide it into quarters."
"No, I can't. We don't cut frozen items."
"Please, okay? Just cut it in half. I'm going to buy it already."
"No, I can't cut it up for you. We don't do that. Once we cut it, we can't sell that duck anymore."
"Oh no. I really want it and I'm getting it for sure. Just cut it in half for me."
"No, I can't do it."
"I guarantee you that I will get the duck."
"No, sorry, I already told you I can't do that."
At this point, I had already chosen and left the section. I never knew if the woman's persistence paid off and she did get her duck cut up into sections.
Lesson learned: the frozen utility ducks are cheap but you can't ever get the meat department to cut it into parts for you.
No matter, I thought. We wanted a whole duck to experiment with, so I got one for a measly $4.83. For a whole duck! It sold for $1.09 a pound.
We were excited at the possibilities and we had all sorts of things planned for the duck. We can sear its breasts and confit its legs.
A whole new world of duck goodness awaits and for so little a price!
A funny thing about this utility duck: it was not bred to be busty! Good thing for MACRO photography, like the photo above! ;D
Yes, this utility duck had no breasts. They wouldn't even fill an A cup. Looky here: they were only about 4x as thick as the dull end of the knife blade.
These ducks are probably the breed that make Chinese roasted barbecued ducks, so they're not overly busty. These specific utility ducks are probably ducks that did not make the cut, perhaps not gaining the requisite weight to be serving ducks.
For those interested in eating locally, ducks are bred in the Lower Mainland and most of them are consumed locally as well.
Our dish was dead simple. First, a pomegranate-chipotle glaze. That simply called for reducing pomegranate juice with chopped chipotles, then seasoning the glaze to taste.
I had planned to render the fat off the breasts on the stovetop and finishing the cooking in the oven. I had planned to keep the breast medium-rare. However, since they were so small, I just did all the cooking on the stovetop. I also had to keep the duck cooking past medium-rare to render off as much fat as possible.
How I cooked them: I scored the fat on the duck breasts, then, starting with a cold pan, placed the breasts skin-side down. I turned the heat to low and waited for the fat to trickle out. When I rendered off as much fat as I could, I turned the breast over and started glazing the skin side.
Let me show you again how small these breasts were. That there is one duck breast beside a half a lime. A regular-sized lime.
Whereas one duck breast would be a good size for an entree, this was definitely appetizer-sized. I sliced the breast and served with the Guava-Jalapeño Salad and more pomegranate-chipotle glaze. Ta da!
The breasts were about medium-well, but still succulent. This whole dish was delish! (It rhymes!)
Not bad for a $5 bird!
We have so much more in store for this little ducky.
$5 Utility Duck Series
All the following made from one duck!
Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Chipotle Glaze and Guava-Jalapeño Salad
Roast Duck Legs with Cabbage-Portobello Pappardelle
Duck Fat Potatoes
Duck Tortellini in Brodo
Other [eatingclub] vancouver Duck dishes:
Duck Shepherd's Pie, or "Duck Coop Pie"
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Duck Stock Risotto with Portobello & Chard, with Hazelnut Gremolata
Shredded Duck and Rice Noodle Soup
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa