In The Kitchen Ecosystem (Clarkson Potter, 2014), Eugenia Bone explains the paradox of great meals: the more you cook, the less you actually have to do to produce delicious food. By starting with the freshest ingredients you can find and preserving and harnessing leftover components to use in future dishes, all you have to do is choose a main ingredient and you can rustle up a meal. The following recipe is from "Duck."
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One summer day I helped my friend Marilee Gilman slaughter and process about 24 fat ducks. Marilee and her husband, Charlie, have a beautiful farm in Hotchkiss, Colorado, where they have grown or raised just about everything, from pigs to cutter bees. I love visiting the farm, so when Marilee told me she had this huge chore to do, I volunteered. I thought it would be fun.
Charlie did the killing and ran the birds through the picking machine. Then Marilee and I cleaned them: those tricky gallbladders! Look! A baby zucchini in the gullet! We set aside the gizzards, which were so tough to clean I have to say I kind of abandoned that job, and the livers, then more picking off all the little broken bits of feathers with our fingertips and fingernails and pliers and paring knives. My back hurt, my feet were sore. Marilee and I didn’t even talk; we were so focused on getting the damn job done. Washing, chilling, and then the butchering.
Off went the thighs and legs, zip went a little paring knife around the wishbone and easy off went the breast. I cut the fat off the carcass and put it in a separate container and then chucked the carcass in a bag. One after another, whap! Like a robot: thighs, wishbone, and breasts, fat, into the carcass bag. Whap! I started to float out of my body—I was still butchering and yet I could imagine cutting my thumb off. But I didn’t and lived to help Marilee brown and then boil up the carcasses for stock, render the fat, then confit ten or so legs, freeze the breasts, confit the gizzards, and make up a batch of chicken liver pâté with Cognac. It was the most exhausting afternoon I’d spent in years, but oh, the high of productivity!
• 8 tablespoons rendered duck fat (recipe follows), melted
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 4 large eggs
• 2 cups buttermilk
For the Buttermilk Cornbread:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Place 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and place the skillet in the oven to heat while you prepare the batter.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
4. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons melted duck fat.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
6. Remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the insides of the pan. Pour in the batter.
7. Return the skillet to the oven. Be careful! This is when I always forget to put on an oven mitt.
8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden.
For the Rendered Duck Fat:
Yield: About 1 pint
1. Cut off the fat and skin from a 5- to 6-pound duck (but leave some of the fat and skin on the legs, thighs, and breasts for cooking).
2. Chop it and place in a small heavy pot over low heat.
3. Cook the skin and fat until the fat is rendered and is clear, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
4. Have ready a sieve lined with cheesecloth placed over a bowl. Strain the fat through the cheesecloth.
5. Have ready 1 sterilized pint jar, band, and lid. You do not need to use a new lid because you will not process this jar.
6. Pour the fat into the jar.
7. Wipe the rim, place on the lid, and screw on the band. The fat holds in the refrigerator for 3 months (at least).
More Recipes from The Kitchen Ecosystem:
Reprinted from The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals. Copyright © 2014 by Eugenia Bone. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Ben Fink. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House, LLC. Buy this book from our store: The Kitchen Ecosystem.