Friday, August 10, 2012

duck braciole with favas and pecorino

I nearly missed the window on this dish.

I thought I had done all the fava-related dishes last spring, but as I was flipping through, I saw this and realized I had missed one. So I planned to make this dish when I started seeing favas in the farmers markets a few months ago.

Then I forgot.

Then there was a recipe I was supposed to test for work that called for fresh favas, so I figured if i could find them, I'd knock this dish out with that one. I had already picked up the duck legs from a farmers market, and had them sitting in the freezer.

So, what we have here is a lesson in shopping out of season.

After looking around long enough, I found favas at an Asian market in Virginia. I bought four pounds, which, after shelling and peeling, netted me 2 cups (the process and travails of which can be read here). Most of the beans were bigger than I would want them to be, and a lot of the pods seemed a bit woody. The dish calls for the favas to basically be raw, cooked only long enough to get the individual beans peeled. So I was a little nervous.

The duck, on the other hand, was beautiful. Got it from Pecan Meadows Farms at the 14th & U farmers market. The dish calls for the leg quarters to be deboned. I once deboned a pig's foot, and that took about an hour. The first duck leg took about 10 minutes, but that was with stopping to wash my hands and take photos about three times during the process, chronicled here:

The whole leg.

The meat pulled back from the thigh bone.

The meat pulled most of the way off the drumstick.

The boneless meat beside the meatless bone. Ta-da.
For the other three legs, I took no photos, and had them all done in about 10 minutes altogether. So there's a lesson about taking pictures while you're deboning fatty animal parts. (Also, there's way more meat in a duck leg than a pig foot, but that's another story.

The flimsy duck leg gets stuffed with bread crumbs spiked with citrus zest, herbs and olive oil. Then tied to maintain their shape, and roasted.

Tied to maintain their shape.

Tied to maintain their shape.

I couldn't find my twine. Why I couldn't find my twine, I have no idea. My kitchen is tiny. There is nowhere to hide. I know I have twine. But I couldn't find it. (Update: I have since found it. It was right where I left it.)

"Eh, I'll just roll them up and put the seam side down. It'll be fine," I thought to myself.

As the legs were roasting, I could see they were not maintaining their shape (maybe they needed to be tied?), the meat and skin contracting so that what once looked like a duck leg now sort of looked like a baseball with a little nubbin on the end.

Oh well.

The other thing I noticed was that the legs had given off so much fat in the roasting process that they were nearly submerged in a jacuzzi of their own bubbling oil. They weren't roasting, so much as they were frying in duck fat.

Let me restate that last sentence to properly convey my reaction to the events:

They weren't roasting, so much as they were frying! In duck fat!

So in the end, my dish looked almost nothing like the photo in the book. And I don't care, because it was delicious. The duck skin was as crispy as I've ever made duck skin. And the stuffing, which was now sort of a crust after the leg basically turned itself inside out in the cooking process, possibly because it hadn't been tied to maintain its shape, was crunchy and citrusy.

The favas, as I suspected, were not very good, through no fault of the recipe. But that was a minor point next to the success of the duck.

Up next: Cover your eyes, it might be time for the warm testa.


Scott Simmons said...

Everything is better in duck fat. Just ask the French about their pommes frittes.

jim webster said...

oh, that duck fat got strained and stored in the fridge, living to fry another day.