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Dave Meli from the Healthy Butcher in Toronto gives us his overview of choosing and cooking duck.
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This is Muscovy duck. There are a variety of different ducks out there. I’m not a duck expert in terms of breeds. Mike can definitely get you in contact with our farmer. Farmer’s amazing and he produces probably some of the nicest duck I’ve ever worked with. They’re hormone-free, antibiotic-free. These birds are wonderful. Now roasting duck is quite popular. And you would trust it very similar to the way that you will trust a chicken. You would fold the wings back and then tie your legs together. It is very common that, first of all that ducks would be marinated because their legs are so much tougher. It is also very common that the breasts would be braced as well as the legs. Although the breasts do not need to be braced, it’s one way to just cooking the entire bird evenly. That is why a very classical hold duck dish would be something like duck l'orange which would require an entire duck to be braced as opposed to being roasted. I would consider duck a red meat. I don’t have the same cross contamination issues with duck as I do with chicken. Therefore I treat duck as a red meat. Now obviously I would cut duck on a separate cutting board than I would on any other meat, just as I would cut beef on a different cutting board than I would pork, or as I would cut beef on a separate cutting board as I would lamb, just to keep, I like to cut things on different boards. But on a cross contamination issue, the acid levels and the iron levels within the duck flesh are high enough to kill salmonella. So therefore do not treat it as I would on white flesh poultry. And as I open up this bird, you’re going to see the difference between duck and chicken. So I’m going to split the legs from the breast the same way as I would with the chicken. I’m going to find, I’m going to separate my legs from the breast. I’m going to open up through that cavity and get my knife right in between and cut down. And then you’re going to push back to break the spine bone and then I’m going to cut around. That will remove my legs. A very classical dish for duck, because of the large amounts of fat that you get it from it, and I’m going to trim up some of this fat, a very classical dish to cook with duck legs would be duck confit or Canal du confit. This is basically a slow bracing of duck legs in duck fat. In my opinion, one of the best equipment that we, there equipment that most people have in their house to confit with is a crock pot. But when you confit the duck legs, it acts as a preservative. The method was built as a preservative. So before you would even begin confiting, what you would do is you would take your legs, after they’ve been separated from the H bones or from the hip bone, and what I’m doing is I’m just making a cut here and I’m snapping them out. You would take these legs and you would season them with salt and pepper, maybe a little bit of bay leaves, a little bit of Juniper berries. Nowadays, people seem to be using a little bit of nitrates to prevent things like butcholism, but the classical way would be with salt and sugar, and you would cure them overnight. And you would start the confiting process the following day. And what you could do is you could keep those confit duck legs, suspend it in their own fat, all winter long, so when the birds have already migrated overseas, you have duck confit all year round.