Pressed Duck ▶
Duck legs and breasts are cooked using different methods, the legs braising for about two hours in wine, and the breasts quickly sauteed in butter. Blood pressed from the carcasses enriches the braising liquid, turning it into a sauce for the breasts. The legs and breasts may be served together, or as two separate courses.
- Wild Ducks - 4, small
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Carrots - 1⁄2 cup, chopped, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- Celery Stalks - 1⁄2 cup chopped, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- Onions - 6 tablespoons, chopped, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- Leeks - 2 tablespoons, chopped, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- Garlic - 1-1⁄2tablespoons, minced
- Clarified Butter - 6 tablespoons (approximately), for sauteing (see Basics)
- Shallots - 3 tablespoons, chopped
- Brandy - 3 tablespoons
- Red Wine - 1-1⁄2cups
- Water - 2-1⁄2cups
Pull all the loose fat out of the duck’s cavity, wipe the duck dry, and rub all over the outside and inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. In a small mixing bowl combine the diced carrots, celery, onions, and leeks, and stuff the cavities of the ducks with half of this mixture. Add a teaspoon of the minced garlic to each of the duck cavities.
In a cast-iron skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter over high heat until very hot but not smoking. One at a time, sear the whole ducks on all sides, turning to evenly brown. Add more clarified butter to the pan as needed. Remove the ducks to a clean cutting board. Cut through the ball joints of the thighs to remove the leg and thigh in one piece. Cut the breasts in half between the breastbone, and remove the breast halves from the backbone. Reserve the duck pieces and carcasses at room temperature.
Meanwhile, in the pan used to cook the ducks heat 1 tablespoon of clarified butter and saute the rest of the diced vegetables and minced garlic over medium-high heat. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high, add the red wine and enough water to cover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the duck leg quarters only. (The duck breast meat will cook later.) Reduce the heat so that the liquid is just at a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the legs and thighs are tender and the meat is nearly falling off the bone. This will take about 2 hours. If needed, add more water during the cooking time. When the leg quarters are cooked, remove from the liquid to a clean platter. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a cool saucepan and let cool to room temperature.
While the legs are cooking, remove the mirepoix from the cavities of the duck carcasses, and cut the carcasses in half. Chop up one carcass and press it slowly and evenly in the duck press. Chop the next carcass, place it in the duck press on top of the first carcass, and press. Repeat with the remaining carcasses until about 1⁄2 cup of duck blood has been extracted.
Add a small amount of the room temperature braising liquid from the duck legs to the extracted duck blood. Pour this mixture into the remaining braising liquid, and rewarm very slowly over very low heat, stirring constantly. Make sure the liquid does not come to a simmer and does not exceed 140 F, or the blood will congeal.
To finish cooking the duck breasts, heat 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter in a skillet until very hot but not smoking. Sauté the duck breasts a minute or two on each side, or only until the meat is lightly springy when pressed. Remove the duck breasts to a cutting board, and thinly slice. Arrange the duck breast meat on the serving plates and spoon the sauce over the meat. You may also place a duck leg quarter on each plate, or do as the chef prefers—serve the duck legs as a second course with some wild rice.