Saturday, July 17, 2010

from coop to table

back in october i decided to leave the swingin' bachelorette pad and move out to the sticks to be with the boy who has loved me for as long as i can remember. and back in october i said to myself, "self - if you're gonna go out to live in an old farmhouse on two acres you need to go all out." and so we have.

and this week we really went all out and it was fucking delicious.

meet the ducks.

mike found these lil' guys 3 for $10 at the flea market back in may. the ducks eventually made friends with the chickens and we fed them and loved them and raised them all with the thought of duck fat fried potatoes in the back of our heads.

here they are just a few days ago.

pekin ducks are ready to butcher around 8 weeks old. too much longer and they molt and get their pin feathers and from what i've read it's very difficult to pluck them.

i've been trying to mentally prepare for this event for weeks and weeks. i've read and read and read - books, magazines, blogs. but i knew none of them would prepare me for the actual killing.

and i was right.

when mike made the first cut and the duck squirmed - i cried. alot. i have never hunted and i have never raised animals for food before. i've been fishing but this was different. actually killing the duck was difficult. it made me really think about being a carnivore. and i had told myself earlier that if i couldn't do this - kill the ducks and chickens - then i didn't deserve to eat meat.

but i did it. and after the initial shock it was ok. i love eating duck. and i don't want to stop eating duck. and what better duck to eat than my own?

after the throat slitting we dunked the ducks in hot water to loosen up the feathers.

and then we started to pluck. this was insanely time consuming. and it smelled pretty bad too.

mike handled the eviscerating and the butchering. i want to learn and watched and listened intently so when it's time to say goodbye to the cocks i'll be ready. that's right - i said cocks. we were supposed to have six hens but instead we have two hens. and sometime in august we will be saying au revoir to the cocks.

once they were all cleaned up (and after about 30 minutes per bird with some tweezers) one went into the freezer whole and the other was cut up for some good eats.

i'm going to try my hand at confit with the legs and wings (they are rubbed with salt and herbs in the fridge right now!) so i saved every scrap of fat to render down for that. fat....

and the carcass got bagged up and added to the freezer for some duck stock at a later date.

so for my very first coop to table meal i went with the duck breasts. mmm. i love duck breast. it is such a rich meat. delicious. one of my favorites.

i scored the skin on the breasts and seared them over medium high heat until they were nice and brown.

while the meat was searing i started to saute my green beans. i blanched/shocked these earlier and while they were sauteeing i whipped up mike's favorite butter/lemon/dijon sauce for them.

oh, and well before any of this green beans or duck searing took place i got a potato gratin in the oven.

look at these breasts! luscious!

while the duck rested i started the sauce. i dumped out most of the fat from the pan (don't worry - i saved every drop!) and sauteed a small minced white onion. then i added a lil' chicken stock, some port wine, a lil' honey and some sour cherries. i whisked and whisked while it reduced to a nice glaze.

and here it is - the fruits of our coop!

this. was. awesome.

and i will loudly and proudly toot my own horn on this one.
toot! toot!

mike said i nailed it and it was one of the best meals i have ever made. score!

this whole thing was an incredible experience and i am thrilled that i will be doing it for many, many years to come.

oh, and for good measure - a blueberry cobbler!


Kirsten said...

I LOVE duck- I always order it when it's on the menu at a restaurant. But when I saw those pics, I threw up a little in my mouth.

the erratic epicurean said...

better stop eating it then!

Viper said...

Some how I missed this post. I agree that you better make peace with the gruesome side of eating meat. We're so removed from the process now. Congrats on your successful slaughter. Looks like those guys turned into a tasty meal. Dobson will be sad that he'll never get to chase them around your yard. Cheers!

the erratic epicurean said...

thanks viper. and you are right on about us being too removed from our food. if people actually took the time to consider where their hamburgers, fried chicken, or duck confit was coming from i think the "industry" would be a lot different.

even though the ducks were messy and a pretty big pain in the ass - they were so delicious we'll probably get more next summer. we just need different housing arrangements first.