Duck is a flavorful poultry that few American home cooks appreciate. Try these tips and recipe ideas to add duck to your kitchen repertoire.
How to choose the best duck: If you purchase a fresh duck, check that the skin is clean, odor-free, feather-free, and off-white (not yellow). Frozen ducks should be plump-breasted and wrapped in airtight packages. If you buy the duck in a supermarket, check the “sell by” date.
How to store duck: As with other poultry, keep duck in its original wrapping but overwrap it with aluminum foil to catch any leakage. Store fresh duck in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Wrap and store any giblets separately.
Because duck is widely available frozen, there is no sense in freezing fresh duck. Store-bought frozen duck should be placed in the freezer in its original wrapping. Date the package and use it within three months. Some frozen birds carry an expiration date.
To defrost a frozen whole duck, place it on a dish in the refrigerator. A 5-pound bird will thaw in 24 to 36 hours. Alternatively, you can submerge the duck in a pot or sink full of water. Be sure the water is cold, as warm water thaws the bird too quickly and can cause bacteria to flourish. Change the water every 30 minutes. Thawing takes about three hours.
How to prepare duck
Before cooking a fresh or thawed whole duck, check for any feathers and remove them. Also remove any visible fat, especially from the cavity. Pat the bird dry, then prick the skin all over without piercing the flesh. For roasting, leave the bird whole. Remove the skin before eating. If broiling or grilling, choose skinless duck breasts.
4 duck recipe ideas
1. Use thick slices of duck breast as you would a boneless beef steak. Duck meat is very much like beef and can stand up to strong seasonings.
2. Though the tradition is to roast a whole duck, there is no reason not to use duck pieces. Use them, skinned, in any recipe that calls for skinless dark-meat chicken.
3. Smoked duck, which can be found in specialty food markets, makes a delicious addition to salads, stews, and pasta sauces. Just be sure to remove the skin first.
4. Roast a whole duck, but remove skin before serving. Although you can stuff a whole bird, virtually any stuffing will absorb a great deal of fat as the bird cooks. Prepare and serve stuffing on the side. You can add extra flavor to the duck by putting onion halves, some pieces of celery, and lemon or orange quarters into the chest cavity.
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