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February 17, 2009

A hash of things

Filed under: Cookbooks,French Food,Holidays — Mr. Henry @ 4:45 pm


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.

What to cook for Valentine’s Day? What would be rich, robust, and lusty? Chocolate soufflé is well established, perhaps too well established.lentilsduck.jpg

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.baked-beans.jpg

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.



  1. Crisco of the gods is right.

    I’ve only made duck at home once – it makes me a little nervous, so I just order it a lot when I’m out.

    I did recently hear, though, that d’Artagnan duck fat is available at Wegmans stores. I live about 20 minutes from a Wegmans…and duck fat is a pretty good motivator to go there.

    Comment by kit pollard — February 18, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  2. Duck fat is indisputably “of the gods”, a food that white plastic motor oil called Crisco only wishes it could be. The gods are crying because the comparison’s been made.

    I’ve been finding lots of duck, conveniently available (and I’m about 20 minutes from a Wegman’s too…I should check that out) It’s becoming less scary to cook at home.

    Comment by chachaheels — February 19, 2009 @ 6:32 am

  3. I live in Chinatown, where duck is quite often $1.30 lb and that’s Canadian, so it’s quite a bit cheaper than most other poultry. It’s also quite a bit better than the duck Mr. Henry is buying, it seems, for it always seems to turn out well and I am notoriously careless about cooking anything more complex than ramen.

    I chop up far too many vegetables in huge chunks, throw them in the bottom of a stainless steel mixing bowl, and stick the bird on top. If I want to get fancy with duck I’ll dribble blood orange juice over it (the red grapefruit experiment, a product of desperation, didn’t work out too badly). Then I look up (because I never remember) the temperature chicken cooks at, and cook it at that for a really, really long time. Sometimes I put tinfoil on top, sometimes I don’t have any tinfoil and put a smaller bowl, upside down on top. It drives my gourmet friends insane, because it always seems to turn out okay.

    And yeah, duck fat is the shizznit!

    Comment by raincoaster — February 26, 2009 @ 4:11 am

  4. I don’t particularly like duck cooked whole because what is right for the rear is not right for the front. There is no bad way to enjoy duck fat, however.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — March 2, 2009 @ 3:06 am

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