Duck Broth - A Small Practice in Slow Food and Damn Fine Tastiness

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I recently met up with Hank, wild game cook extraordinaire, for dinner and trade. I had a bunch of hard to get spices on hand that simply weren't getting much use and he had an abundance of ducks. In need of thai long peppercorns in order to work his way through a cookbook (one of those impossible ones like TFL or Alinea's, but knowing Hank he can pull it off) he gave me a spoonie duck. 

Now this is a real treat for any cook. You see, federal law prohibits the sale of wild game fowl. You can hunt as many as your want for your own consumption, but you cannot make a profit from it. As such, if you aren't a hunter, you need friends who hunt. Luckily, I do, as a hunting rifle in my hands would probably end up with Cheney-like results. 

The bird was squirted with lemon juice, seared, stuffed with lemon and thyme, and then blasted in the oven. Served with quinoa, pickled kumquats, brussels sprouts and some wine it was a perfect sunday meal for one - a great chance to spoil myself (and on a budget, go me!).

The following day I decided to break the duck carcass down. To throw away those bones and bits of meat would be a crime and violation of the little duck's life. So into a pot his mauled little corpse went along with some bok choi, some thai peppercorn, a few cloves of garlic, and a smidgen of shallot. 

The result? Beautiful, gamey, smooth, bright tasting duck broth. It is something to taste and behold in and of itself. To hell with veggie stock and chicken stock. I'm about ready to be done with beef stock almost. Duck broth is where it's at folks. 

Before I planned to simply make soup with it, instead it was enjoyed on its own. Served in a large bowl with a side of soba noodles which eagerly soaked up some of the broth when dipped, the husky, earthy flavors of the buckwheat noodles were eager to compliment the gamey duck broth.

If anything I found a small lesson in this. Allow me to wax poetics and prose for a moment, but these two meals are the essence of slow food. Not only that, I call it a return to basics. A return to old food. In the 1920's when tinning and canning became widespread, 30 years before the superhighway, the dawn of refrigeration transport, a few decades before the fast food restaurant chain. This is how people ate for thousands of years. Any animal wasn't just nibbled at and tossed. Each and every piece was sacred and given thanks for. Nothing wasted, nothing taken for granted. 

I feel very Michael Pollan-esque right now.


  1. Sounds like a lovely meal. Did you have enough broth to freeze and save for future uses?

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  3. Like the simple preparation of the duck Garrett and lemon is my favorite flavor of all. Hubby has quite a few ducks in the freezer from this season and I always find them a bit too dark/rich for me...kind of like liver (shudder)...but lemon may be what I need to try!
    thanks -

  4. Nice.

    I read Hank's blog as well. Looks like he had a great season. Lucky you.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the Northern Shoveller! I gave you one from the rice fields, which I trust wasn't too fishy -- they can get that way in certain places.

    I am fascinated by your choice of bok choy in the broth -- conscious choice? I've never put anything cabbage-y in my stocks. But I hear you on the duck broth thing: I have made at least 5 gallons this year, and I use it for everything...

    Oh, and your choice of buckwheat noodles was spot-on. Duck is too earthy to be combined with fine white flour, IMHO.

    MelissaD: If you do not cook your duck past medium, it will not taste like liver. If it loses its pinkness, you're done for! Try high heat (450-ish) with less time (10-15 min) when you cook the next one.


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