Cooking Wild Game
When you live on a ranch there is ample opportunity to get wild game. Either your mate hunts or you know people that do. I don’t hunt and neither does my partner. Sidebar: By the way some bloggers have cute names for their mates like “Marlboro Man” or “Woodrow” but unfortunately I think I have to call my partner “Pa Kettle”. This is the subject of another blog. Today we’re talking about wild game. You'll just have to be patient about
In the city you have to go to specialty markets and pay through the nose for wild game. On a ranch the game practically shows up on your doorstep and always free of charge. Ranch people don’t like to waste good meat and besides, ranch people are very, very generous.
So far this season we have been treated to an 11 pound leg of boar, venison, Dungeness crab and salmon. Recently we were treated to duck roasted in an outdoor wood oven. Yum! Then, on the tails of that, we were offered two uncooked, cleaned ducks. I jumped at the chance because I’ve always wanted to try making Duck Confit which I love almost as much as Pa. Duck Confit is a very simple preparation that was originally esteemed as a preservation method. Keeping duck in rendered fat results in moist and flavorful meat that I, personally, think is out of this world. Once prepared in such a way you can use it in a variety of dishes. Here ya go. My version of Duck Confit with respect, gratitude and accolades to Epicurious from which I got the original 4 star recipe. By the way, leave it to the French, they have a pronounciation for everything. Confit is pronounced "cone-fee" not "con-fit".
3 tablespoons salt (I use kosher salt)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced (If I have no shallots I use whatever onion I have on hand but because shallots are mild I use a bit less)
6 sprigs of thyme (my kitchen garden died a while back so I use dried. Imagine how 6 sprigs would look dried and use that much)
Coarse ground black pepper
4 ducks, cleaned but with skin on (if the ducks are whole like mine were I get the cleaver and chop them in half laterally not longitudinally. You can also cut them in parts. It’s up to you.)
About 4 cups of duck fat (here’s where we get creative. If your ducks are fatty and corn fed you’re in luck but if they’re rice fed ducks like we have here in California you will find that they are lean. In that case I use good quality olive oil. You can use bacon grease, too. I have it on good report that It's All Good)
1. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt in the bottom of a glass dish large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots (or onions) and thyme on the bottom of the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the salt mixture, then sprinkle the top of the duck with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots (of onions) and thyme. Grind a little pepper over it. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.
2. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. If you’re using duck fat or bacon grease, melt it in a small saucepan. Brush or rinse the salt and seasonings off the duck. Arrange the duck pieces in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or ovenproof pan. A lidless small dutch oven works great for this. Pour the melted fat or olive oil over the duck making sure the duck is covered with fat. (Yes, it’s a lot of fat! This is what makes it good! Anyway, you aren’t going to be eating all this fat. But you can use it for other things later) Place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit slowly at a very slow simmer – just an occasional bubble – until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone. It might take 2-4 hours depending on the duck and your oven. Remove the confit from the oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks. Now all you need to do is dream up any recipe you can think of for using the duck.
Next blog – some ideas for using Duck Confit.