Firstly thank you to Shari for enriching an otherwise visually boring post with a beautiful drawing.
Duck essentials. There are a few techniques to master (and they are not hard) when cooking duck that are different to any other meat. The most common response I get from people when talking about cooking duck is ‘I love duck but never cook it at home.’ Usually because they don’t know how. Another obstacle is availability but that is, thankfully, changing with more and more butchers stocking duck. If you are in Adelaide, the Central Market has four shops selling duck, outside the Market Feast! fine foods stock duck. Many other butchers have, at the very least, frozen whole ducks.
Lesson 1. Rendering
To render (in food language) is to melt the fat from under the skin of the duck using a low heat. Rendering removes most of the fat, crisps up the skin to make it edible and moistens the meat as some of the fat will go into the meat. You render when you want to cook duck breasts or when preparing duck legs for a braise. The bonus in rendering duck is duck fat! Or as I like to call it, ‘nectar of the duck.’ More about duck nectar later.
Duck breast. Score the skin of the duck with a sharp knife without slicing into the meat. This prevents the breast curling when cooking and allows easy escape for the fat. Heat a pan to a low heat and put the duck in, skin side down. Leave without turning for 8-10 minutes. The pan will fill with duck fat. Tip the fat out (and save) then turn the duck over. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium to high heat then push the pan off the heat and rest the duck still in the pan for another 5 minutes. Done.
Duck legs. I trim the fat from the inside of the leg and chop off the knuckle. Then repeat as above rendering the fat from the skin for 8-10 minutes in a low to medium hot pan, tipping out the fat as it accumulates. The legs are not usually scored like the breasts. Season the meat side of the duck and turn over for a few minutes to brown. They are now ready for any stew or braise.