“Duck fat! Hoo ha ha!…*”
*Like Shark Bait, Hoo Ha ha! from ‘Finding Nemo’.
“crackLINS! crackLINS! crackLINS! crackLINS! Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck. NO GOOSE!” went the chant from my children who -just two hours before- were making wet gaggy noises while watching me break down a duck into breasts, leg and thigh portions and a hearty pile of duck fat and skin trimmings.
Boy did I change their tune. Just look at those cracklins. Can you blame them?
It’s now duck town around here, people. I’ve signed on for Charcutepalooza (the brainchild of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy). At current count, there are about one hundred bloggers participating in this group organized by our illustrious leaders.
Charcutepah-whah you say? It’s a mashup of Charcuterie (The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing Meat and the title of the Michael Ruhlman book of the same name.) and Lollapalooza (an annual music festival involving a great many tattoos and alternative rock acts and questionable behavior.) There will be one project per month (all projects from recipes gleaned from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. Meat is mandatory. Questionable behavior and tattoos* are optional.
*There are tattoo rumors. Just how devoted are we to meat? We’ll see!
It’s common knowledge that I live in. the. middle. of. nowhere. This is by choice. I like living way out here. But I do occasionally miss the easy access to some of the finer things I crave; artisan meats, cheeses, etc… So what’s a gal to do?
- Become independently wealthy and have Armandino Batali open up a satellite store in my barn.
- Learn to make it myself.
With the organization of Charcutepalooza, option 3 seemed the most sensible choice.
This month’s project is Duck Prosciutto. The recipe calls for two duck breast halves (or one whole duck breast, boned and separated.) Our local meat market had whole, all-natural ducks for $3.89/pound ~or~ boneless, skin-on breasts for $12.89/pound. Holy moly. Whole duck it was. After removing and trimming the duck breasts and beginning the process of curing them, I had most of a duck left to turn into food.
The leg and thigh quarters were a no brainer; salt, herbs, garlic and spices and into the fridge to become duck confit (post forthcoming). This left a biggish carcass, a duck neck, a bunch of fat and skin, and some offal. The offal became the teensiest and cutest little old pâté you ever did see. The carcass and neck jumped into a roasting pan to brown up then become stock. And the duck skin and fat… Well, that’s where the magic happened.
Slowly rendering the fat away from the skin and little bits of meat clinging to it left us the ultimate culinary two-fer; golden duck fat and crispy duck cracklins.
Duck fat gives you French fries that are good enough to make you religious. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Duck fat is proof that God loves man and wants him to be happy.” Cracklins are like refined bacon. Are you hungry yet? You ought to be.
Let’s get cracklin.
For a photo-free, printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here!
How to Render Duck Fat and Duck Cracklins
- 1 pound of duck fat and skin trimmings (You should be able to get this from one duck after you have removed the breast, leg and thigh meat. Alternately, you can hit up your friendly local butcher for duck fat and skin trimmings.)
- 1/4 cup fresh water
Cut the skin and fat into pieces that are roughly 1-inch in size. Put in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan with a capacity of at least 3 quarts. A wider bottomed pan is more efficient for this application.
Pour the water over the trimmings and place the pan, partially covered, over the lowest heat possible. As the trimmings and water warm up in the pan, fat will begin rendering (being made liquid) and water will start evaporating. This will sound a bit like a gently sputtering boil.
The white fatty bits will slowly transform into lightly golden brown, crispy goodies. As soon as they reach this stage, use a slotted spoon to remove the cracklins to a paper towel lined plate. The process can take anywhere from an hour to three hours, so I don’t recommend leaving the pan unattended for long. When the cracklins are on the lined plate, sprinkle with salt, to taste, and set aside. These can be eaten as a snack, baked into cornbread, sprinkled over salads or hearty soups like croutons, or used just about anywhere else you would use crisped bacon.
Turn your attention to the duck fat. For the clearest duck fat, line a fine mesh strainer with a piece of cheesecloth. If you’re in a hurry, a stainless-steel fine mesh strainer alone will suffice. Carefully pour the hot liquid fat through the strainer (lined if you so choose) into a jar or other clean, food-safe receptacle with a tight fitting lid. Fit the lid in place and store your liquid gold in the refrigerator for up to a year. It will become semi-solid and opaque in its chilled state, this is to be expected. Use duck fat to roast potatoes, make the ultimate French fries, sear or confit meats, or whatever sinful tasks you devise for it.