Recursive Poultry Potion

I have a new obsession. Braised duck tacos.

The problem with the potion that makes these delicious items possible is that it requires the sacrificing of a duck. No, I don’t mean the one you’re going to eat as tacos. I mean one you probably won’t eat at all, because it may not be very good once cooked. This truly is a recursive potion, and the zero-th iteration is a boot strap and so the results aren’t anywhere near as satisfying as the one through n-th iterations. The best recommendation I can give you is to get this zero-th duck in the Summer, when they aren’t really up to full weight yet, as such a duck won’t yield much meat anyway, but will produce stock, as it will be very bony. You won’t get much, if any, schmaltz from it, but that’ ok, too.

Make sure you have a Dutch oven that is big enough to hold up to about a five pound duck.

For the zero-th duck, fit it into the Dutch oven, breast side down, with the skin scored throughout to allow what fat there is to weep out of the skin. Fill with water until the bird is mostly covered. Cover. Put into an oven set to 210 degrees for at least six hours, until the carcass more or less completely collapses because all the gelatin has melted out of the bones.

Clean what meat you can, strain stock and separate what fat there is. Store the schmaltz separately, but you can store the pulled meat in the stock as if you were making a confit — not that it will last that long.

For every duck after this first one, and now I’d wait until you can get at least a five pounder which is likely to be well into Autumn, score the skin, put in the Dutch oven the same way, but instead of covering with water, cover with the stock and schmaltz from the previous duck. Add some water to make up for whatever stock you’ve used in the meantime for other purposes. Again, pull the meat, strain the stock and separate the schmaltz.

Duck cooked in duck is… well it’s fantastic.

Thin slice a jalapeno or similar pepper and sauté in a small amount of schmaltz. Before it begins to brown, add pulled duck meat and salt. Add just enough stock to keep it from burning and to make a small amount of sauce. Fold into a soft flour tortilla, lay flat in a hot skillet, place a lid to press the semi-circle flat and toast the tortilla on both sides. Top with a mild cheese if you really want to.

You will never think about tacos the same way again.

Saute kale in schmaltz with salt and roasted garlic.

Improve any sauce, gravy or soup with the stock.

Use the schmaltz in place of butter in just about anything.

When you start to grow concerned about your supply, recurse another duck.


Because you’re recursing the cooking process, if you cook with salt, the results will just get saltier and saltier and saltier. So braise without it, and then season what you’re using in other applications as you go.


Quest for the Wholly Chicken (Roasted)

I have this problem roasting chicken:  I have been following recipes that seem to be written by people who don’t like chicken.  I also don’t pay attention as much as I should, but even when I have paid attention the roasted chicken I have made hasn’t been all that great.  I believe I fixed that last night.

I received Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook as a gift — which is just as fun to read as it is to cook with.  As usual for this sort of thing, the recipes have ingredients that I don’t tend to keep around.  This recipe is going to change one item though:  white wine.  As for the other things, I made substitutions that were sufficient enough for the result to be wonderful.  The chicken was flavorful, juicy, and delicious; it represented exactly what I have been trying to do.  It required a little tending, but for the result I got, it was worth it.

  • 4lb whole chicken
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1T rosemary
  • 1T thyme
  • 2t lemon juice
  • 1 “medium” sweet onion — halved, in “the easiest way, in your opinion”
  • 1T bacon fat (the recipe called for the giblets, but this was what I decided to use in their absence)
  • 1/2c white wine — This is wine I didn’t mind drinking.  I finally learned that if I wouldn’t otherwise drink “it” (wine, whisky, vermouth, etc.), then there was no point cooking with it.
  • 1/4c olive oil

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.  Rub all over with salt and pepper.  This is very important.  I was not shy and rubbed it all over.

Splash lemon juice into body cavity.  View this like an adhesive for the thyme and rosemary.  Ideally, the spices should be somewhat spread around, not settled into a heap.  Add half the onion and then truss the legs together.

Rub the bacon fat on the bottom of a roasting pan (the inside, dude… the inside…). I used a cast iron dutch oven for this because it is better for me than any roasting pan I’ve used (it also makes a fair helmet in an emergency…).  Slice the remaining half of onion into 4 pieces and lay flat in bottom of pan.  I’m a “tuck the wings behind the bird” cook, so I did that before I put it in the pan — on top of the onion slices.[[3]]  Pour in the wine, being careful not to rinse off the salt and pepper rub.  Drizzle olive oil over bird. [[1]]

Cook for 30 minutes at 375F, basting every 10 minutes.  Now it’s okay to have some of that rub rinse off, you won’t be able to baste otherwise.  I cooked it in 10 minute increments to ensure the bird spent all 30 minutes in the oven.  Crank the oven to 450F and cook for 25 minutes, covered and left alone.  Remove from oven, leave covered for 15 minutes to rest.  This 40 minutes of being unobserved is the moment of Quantum Cooking.  Maybe the chicken comes out alright, maybe it’s a mess — but that lid can’t be opened until the full 40 minutes is up.

Remove bird from pan, remove onion — and giblets if you happened to have and use those.  Put pan on low heat and scrape around in there (wooden spoon!!!) to loosen up all the flavorful bits.  The original recipe called for another 1/2c of wine, but I used 3/4c of water with about 2T of cornstarch to thicken.  I’m not very good at gravy, so cornstarch is my escape plan.  A roux could be used, but I’m not that good with that either.

And that was it.  I had a nice juicy bird with some outstanding gravy (duh… it had bacon fat in it!!).

Keeping bacon fat is a leftover (har har) from my childhood.  My parents and grandparents always had a container of drippings.  It was what was used before “cooking sprays”.  Sometimes butter was used, but bacon fat is heavier and won’t cook off as quickly as butter will.  Also, depending on the bacon you use, there is phenomenal flavor in bacon fat that is a shame to feed to your Omnivorous Trashcan or worse, The Gurgling Drain of Death.  [[2]]

[[1]] Do yourself a big favor and get an olive oil cruet to your adventuring gear.  Avoid kitchy, decorative crap.  Get one that you can easily tell (a) you will be able to fill without gymnastics, application of quantum physics, or anti-gravity, and (b) that you can actually hold on to if it gets slippery.  It contains oil — it’s going to get slippery at some point.

[[2]] … never put heavy oily sludge down your drain!!! It will seriously mess up septic tanks, and fouls up waste processing in municipal water.  “Other people do it”, but Heroic Cooking Adventurers are better than “other” people.  Besides, every adventurer knows you never throw something away — the DM has provided it for a reason not yet obvious to you (or overlooked that they just handed you an unplanned solution to an Epic Problem).

[[3]] 2011-12-28 — I’ve learned after a few adventures that putting the onion in the pan such that the bird can rest on it is a good thing.  This requires the onion to be cut into 4 slices, roughly the same thickness.  My observation is that the meat absorbs more good flavor from the onion this way and the onion breaks down more and contributes to the juices for gravy.