This is the story of a duck that became a ham but failed to find happiness roasted atop lentils. Chopped into hash and sautéed in two spoons of its own pure white fat, however, the duck found bliss as simple peasant fare.
Following instructions has never been one of Mr. Henry’s signal virtues. He subscribes to the well-worn opinion that “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” an argument applicable to husband or father, young or old. When banging kitchen pots and pans, a real man resents the intrusion of recipes. This applies equally when asking directions from his car.
Mr. Henry decided to do duck, a dish he rarely attempts principally because its stubborn flesh refuses to become tender. Either it emerges undercooked – chewy and bloody – or it emerges overcooked – dry and tough – its rich dark flavor forever lost in murky, carbonized grease.
For help Mr. Henry turned to a platter of figs, his favorite new cookbook.
After cutting away a thick winter’s layer of fat and skin, leaving only a modest covering, he brined duck sections for two days and then boiled them for 45 minutes. The results were neither beautiful nor appetizing.
In the leftover duck stock he cooked lentils which were quite tasty. Then he sautéed a mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, and onion) in duck fat. Mixed into the lentils, the result was scrumptious, precisely fulfilling the requisite Valentine profile of a rich, robust and lusty meal.
Because the duck hams were dry, oh so dry, Mr. Henry put the brined, boiled, and baked fowl out of its overwrought misery. He chopped the flesh into hash, giblets and all. Mixed with lentils and reheated in a skillet (with another tablespoon of duck fat), the mishmash magically transformed into a wintry romance.
The remaining ham stock will be used to make Boston baked beans. The remaining pint of rendered duck fat, Crisco of the gods, snowy promise of singular flavor, will be used to coat duck legs for that ultimate slow-cooked taste delight – confit – or else to make the very best fried potatoes.