A Duck Race Recipe

A Duck Race
I've never cooked duck before. I like it when I eat it but, for whatever reason, never tried cooking it. That is, until Leslie's husband had some frozen ducks available on the same day I bought a new bottle of Five-Spice powder. That, dear readers, is a classic case of barbecue kismet in action. I had two ducks. And what does any reasonable person do when presented with two nearly identical objects at the same time? That's right - you race them. One duck I set up on the rotisserie on the Summerset gas barbecue. The other was destined for the Broil King Keg on a beer-can roaster.

Gentleman, start your engines.

Rinse and pat dry your birds. I rubbed one with curry powder (with some added salt – see tip above).

The other bird got the five-spice powder and a bit of Scandia honey.

Remember, when you're using a rotisserie rod, tighten the thumb screws with more than just your thumbs. You don't want anything coming loose during the cooking process.

With a sharp knife make small incisions through the skin and the layer of fat (but not into the meat). This will help some of the fat drain out of the bird while cooking.

And they're off. On the far track, we've got curried duck on a gas barbecue using a state of the art, infrared rotisserie burner. On the near side, we've got a five-spice duck on a Broil King keg. Powered by all-natural hardwood charcoal. Both machines were kept at about 350 degrees.

As with any race, an impartial referee is essential.

A tie: both birds reached 170 degrees at just about the same time.

Aprodigious amount of fat drained from the birds in both barbecues – a drip pan is a necessity.

The results? Meh – I wasn't thrilled. The meat tasted fine but, despite my efforts, there was a layer of fat between the skin and meat that took a lot of effort to remove. (I now understand completely how these critters float so well. NO idea how they manage to fly.) On the plus side, I retained the duck fat and roasted some potatoes in it the following day. They were duckin' fantastic – I've resolved to keep a jar of duck fat within arm's reach at all times from now on.

Post race roundup: I was whining about this problematic layer of duck fat to Marnie and Thierry (well known Calgary gourmands and Saluki breeders). Thierry, a chef, grew up in France and knows his way around a duck. He had this advice for me next time I try this: "One thing that can help in the process is to brine the birds first, then to cook them on low heat for a longer time. I personally would split the bird open from the back and in the process, after removing the backbone, I would cut off the excess fat around the butt. Rinse them first, remove any guts and blood, and dry them. Make a simple brine and soak the duck in it for 3 hours (if whole) and 1-1/2 hour if split open. Cook them on a preheated BBQ at 290F for about 2 1/2 hour or until centre reach 155F max. Turn off the BBQ and let them rest for another 20 minutes before carving. You will still have the fat melting so you may want to have a drip tray. However, the slow cooking process will prevent the heavy dripping and will keep the meat juicy."

Cuisine and Chateau 
These two know their stuff. Check out their culinary tours to France at www.cuisineandchateau.com

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