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Duck Brains and Other Nasties

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I have been reading people like Alain Ducasse lately, and I notice that he likes to use duck brains, tongues, and lungs as well as liver, heart, gizzard, and kidney. I was wondering if people had advice about this. Ducks aren't so cheap, so why waste bits?

 

I was thinking, specifically, about trying to turn all the bits I can get -- except the liver, which has other uses in my kitchen -- to make a sausage stuffing. My thought was to mince the blanched and peeled tongue, plus all the other stuff (I can't get lungs), with a little cognac, pate seasonings, meat scrapings from the carcass, and maybe a bit of unrendered fat, then cure in the fridge with a pinch of pink salt -- measured by weight, carefully -- for a couple of days. Stuff the neck skin with this, seal tightly and poach gently to 165, then the next day, when it's cool, quickly sear the outside, bake at low heat to warm through, and then slice.

 

My problem is I don't know the properties of duck brains or tongue, and I've never used the rest of it -- except the fat, of course -- except in stock. Does anyone think this sounds like a really bad idea, or is it a worthy (if time-consuming) experiment? Anyone done anything like this? What do duck brains taste like -- and are they mostly fat, as I suspect, in which case anyone got ideas for how much if any additional fat to add to my sausage mix?

 

Once the head is emptied, can I just use it in stock? Normally I find it adds a bitter taste, but maybe that's the brain?

 

I was also thinking of using the webs somehow, which I know is done in Chinese cooking, but I don't know how to do it at all.

 

Any advice?

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post #2 of 16

You could do the whole feet in the Chinese manner for chicken feet.  Got no idea if the duck brainsor tongue are bitter - try one just sauted in butter and see.

 

The neck "sausage" sounds simlar to what is done with goose necks at Christmas (I forget what its called) .

 

I found this recipe: http://italianfood.about.com/od/italianpoultry/r/blr0763.htm which may help.  The one time I saw it on Hugh Fernley-Whittingstal's program, ne turned the neck inside out to get a smoother look to the sausage.

 

This is not a very informative link, but shows that it is done out there, but very awkard to use

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks, that helps. I've found a few other recipes for neck sausages -- chicken, duck, goose -- and they use a very wide range of ingredients, so it looks like experiment-time. I like the idea of using bread wrung out in stock to provide flavorful bulk.

 

I just wish I had some idea what the brains are supposed to be like, and whether there's anything I need to know before I dive into splitting a head and removing brains.

 

You wouldn't happen to know how chicken feet are treated before cooking, would you? They're covered with a hard skin -- I assume you scorch this with an open flame and then peel the feet. As to cooking, I'm guessing these things are essentially braised, right?

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

So here's what I've learned thus far, since I know you're all waiting with bated breath:

 

Bird tongues and brains are held to have a flavor very similar to their livers, which is why they can make stock bitter -- same reason many of us don't put livers in stock. Tongues must be soaked for a few hours in cold water, blanched a few minutes, then peeled when cool. There is a hard, sharp cartilage near the back of the tongue which can then be removed with a knife. The brains are basically a lot like sweetbreads in terms of nutritional and other content: huge amounts of fat and cholesterol, some protein. Texture is fairly mushy. These little bird brains do not need to be soaked or treated, as do calf brains, for example; apparently the soaking has to do with both size and blood flavor. Cooked, the brains will have a relatively soft, gelatinous texture, where the tongues will be fairly firm. Because bird tongues are infinitesimal compared to beef tongues and the like, there is no need for the hours and hours of cooking to soften them.

 

Feet may be peeled if you just want the gelatin from the bone, in which case torch the outside until blistering and strip off the skin with a towel. If you prefer, and there's actually something vaguely worth eating there, wash them very thoroughly in several changes of water. Then pour boiling water directly over them and let them sit for 48 hours in the liquid. Rinse again. At this point you can peel everything off the actual bone, and what you've got is sort of like tough skin with a lower fat content. Alternatively, you can leave the bones in and stew/braise the feet in a seasoned mixture for a long time, until falling off the bones, at which point you serve them in the much-thickened and very gelatinous liquid. To eat, pick up by the ankle and strip the softish bits off with your teeth.

 

Chicken, goose, and duck necks should be turned inside-out, and the various obvious fibers stripped away. Then rinse very well inside and out. Turn right-side out (though a few prefer to stuff them inside-out). To stuff, tie the thin end -- where the head was -- with twine, then stuff with fingers or a pastry bag. If dealing with a big goose neck, you can roll the thing back on itself, sort of like a rolled condom if you'll pardon the analogy, and unroll as you stuff. (Don't overthink that, okay?) Do not stuff tightly: they can burst rather more easily than the various usual skins for sausages. Tie the other end, let cure a little, and prick any very obvious air bubbles if necessary before cooking. To cook such sausages, poaching is usual, but you can sear-and-roast if you prefer. So long as the interior hits 160F (allowing a rise to a safe 165-170F), you'll be fine on salmonella and so on.

 

If anyone knows of an error in any of what I've just said, PLEASE say so!!!!

 

My plan is to make a sausage by mincing all the offal (including) tongue and random excess meat bits, not including the brain, together with 1/4 the weight in brain and firm-ish fat, plus appropriate quantities of salt, pink salt, sugar, garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. I'll bind this with dry sherry or white wine -- I'm thinking very Spain here, in case you missed that. Stuff, cure, cook.

 

Wish me luck, and... before I actually finish this process, if you run into any reasons I should not be doing what I'm doing, PLEASE TELL ME SO.

post #5 of 16

Have found, but not tried, this recipe for chicken's feet.  Sounds messy to eat but hye, they were always going to be.  Here 'tis:

http://panlasangpinoy.com/2009/03/14/spicy-chicken-feet/

 

With the brains, I wonder if you would have the same problem as when doing lamb's brains from start, i.e. with having to pick out the bits of bone that splinter when you cut open the head.  Could be a very arduos task.  But good luck - you'll soon know if it works.

 

Keep us posted :)

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #6 of 16

Man!  This all sounds like a great recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for cat food. 

 

Mike

travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #7 of 16

I have no idea what any of that tastes like. But I'd sure like to live in a place where I can buy a duck with all its parts attached.

 

Anymore we're luck to even get that bag of giblets, let along feet and heads.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Chinese markets is where I get duck and chicken largely intact. They're extremely fresh as well. Unfortunately, the markets can sell some of the giblets -- especially livers, of course -- for quite a bit, so those aren't included. I never quite know what I'll find inside a duck or chicken, to be honest. But the heads are unsplit, and the feet are the feet.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Tried it with chicken. Delicious, if I do say so myself. I'll post a recipe as soon as I have one coherent for posting.

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post #10 of 16

KYH - you need to move to France or China - can't get the whole kit and kaboodle here either.  But you could try your local "Chinatown" area.

 

Chris - looks great.  Will be interested in the recipe as a follow up.  What did you do for the jus?

 

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC Sunshine View Post

KYH - you need to move to France or China - can't get the whole kit and kaboodle here either.  But you could try your local "Chinatown" area.


Yup, Chinatown here in L.A. has live poultry, you can have them kill it for you or you can take it with you live. There's even a sign that says something like "We can not be held responsible for live poultry once it lives the shop".

 

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

Next time around, I'll use a duck, which will have a longer neck too. I found that it tastes like the best things in liver, essentially. My sausage farce did not break, but you must be very careful to keep it all cold: if it does break, you're going to have something really nasty on your hands. This is a lot of work, but it's delicious and if you buy a whole chicken or duck, you're paying for all this stuff anyway. Some chef out there could make this spectacular, but it'd never pay for itself in a restaurant context. For the dedicated home cook, this is pretty wonderful all by itself. Delicious!
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I began with two very fresh chickens from my local Chinese market. They come with head and feet on, and one never quite knows what giblets will be included. So I had worked out, in advance, a recipe that works by weight, and I resolved to follow it no matter what as a test. I’m sure if I did it 10 times, with the variations in giblets, there would be real differences, and that I would also refine the recipe. Nevertheless, I think in this electronic age the appropriate thing is to post a functional recipe immediately rather than re-testing it, Julia Child-style, for years (submitting it to operational proof, Paul Child used to say). What I made was delicious, and I’m sure your version will be too.

Cut your chicken so that the neck has maximal skin on it. Remove the head high up. Peel the neck skin off by turning it inside-out, and peel off anything that doesn’t look promising (e.g. the windpipe, bloody bits, white thready stuff, etc.). Rinse the neck skin well in lukewarm water, inside and out, and let soak in cold water.

With a heavy, sharp knife, split the head, going from the back of the head toward the tip of the bottom jaw. When you get about 75% of the way through, pry the head open. Pull out the tongue, which has a hard, pointy bit on the back, and remove that bit. If there’s anything else really hard on it, pull that off too. Scoop out the brain with a small teaspoon. The rest of the head should be saved for stock. I tried to ignore the eyeballs.

With a small, sharp knife, strip the neck of as much meat as you can stand to deal with. In any given section of neck, there is a definite “right” direction and a “wrong” direction, depending on how the bones lie. If it’s right, it’ll be mildly irritating but successful to slice the meat off horizontally, parallel to the lie of the spine; if it’s wrong, you’ll keep catching corners of bone and it’ll be almost impossible to remove more than a couple of millimeters of meat. This direction shifts depending on what side of the neck you’re on, so be patient. When you get the hang of it, it’s not especially difficult to strip most of the meat right off.

Pull any giblets out of the carcass and separate. The liver should be set to one side. The gizzard must be sliced around the outside of its meridian, then peeled open and all the interior stuff removed. The big fat pads by the base and neck openings should be stripped off the meat and set in a bowl reserved for fat and skin, but sniff them first – if they smell liver-y, chuck them.

Cut your chicken the way you prefer. Then scrape the carcass very carefully. Separate all fat into the fat bowl, and any bits of meat into another. At this point you will have rather more meat and offal than you would have expected.

Weigh the meat. I found I got about 260g, including the liver, per chicken. I debated reserving the liver for something else, as I’d planned, but decided to include it this time.

For every 1kg offal, meat, and liver (if using):

    250g fat: add the brain, then firm fat, then skin to make up the weight
    18g salt
    110g ice-cold white wine (or water, or stock — very dry sherry would be ideal)
    9g sugar
    11g finely-minced garlic
    6g paprika (preferably Spanish smoked)
    2g cayenne

Separate hard meats from soft: the gizzard and tongue are hard, liver and such are soft, and you can sort of decide for yourself, based on feel, about everything else. Put all ingredients in the fridge for at least an hour or so — they must be as cold as possible.

When everything is very cold, chop the hard meats fine with a knife, then put in the processor and pulse a few times. While this happens, chop the fat and skin fairly well but fast — they must remain cold (if you’re slow with a knife, cut the fat mid-way through the cooling period and return to the fridge). Add the fat and everything else except the liver and wine to the processor and pulse until definitely chopped well. Scrape down well. Add the liver and wine and process, continuously, until the mixture combines in a sticky mass. Immediately stop processing and put the processor bowl into the fridge to chill again, for at least about 15 minutes.

Scoop up a teaspoon or so and sauté it, then adjust seasonings if need be.

Drain and re-rinse the neck, then pat dry and turn right-side-out. Tie up the narrow end (where the head was) with kitchen twine. With your fingers or a pastry tube, stuff the neck until it is almost entirely full. Use a toothpick and a stitching motion to seal up the wide end, then tie securely just behind the toothpick.

(Note: you may well end up with excess material, particularly if you use the liver. Roll the rest in wax paper or heavy plastic, forming a tight sausage, then re-roll thoroughly in foil. This freeform sausage can be poached as directed below. If you have some other proper sausage-skin, of course, you should certainly use it.)

In a saucepan, cover the sausage with cold water, then bring gently to 180F. Hold at this temperature — don’t let it rise significantly, better low than high for this one! — for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in the liquid. Pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until it’s time to heat for serving.

* Everything here can be done a couple of days in advance.

Heat oven to 300F.

Heat a little oil or rendered chicken fat in a small skillet and sear both sides of the sausage golden. Put the skillet in the oven. Turn at 10 minutes and 20 minutes — it should be a delicious-looking red-gold. Remove after about 20-25 minutes, let rest in the pan a minute or so, then let cool on a warm serving dish for a couple of minutes. (Remember: temperature isn’t crucial here, because it’s entirely pre-cooked, but you’ll want it to be hot.)

I served with Sauce meurette, which is basically reduced and thickened red wine. I used the wrong wine, which is why this sauce doesn’t look so great, but otherwise it was a good choice for this.

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC Sunshine View Post

KYH - you need to move to France or China - can't get the whole kit and kaboodle here either.  But you could try your local "Chinatown" area.

 

Chris - looks great.  Will be interested in the recipe as a follow up.  What did you do for the jus?

 


It's not a jus, it's sauce meurette. Sweat some mirepoix and garlic in butter with a little meat -- I used a little extra chicken scraps. Season lightly on the salt (it'll reduce a lot) and rather heavy on the black pepper, preferably cracked rather than ground. When the mix is browning, in 15-20 minutes, add most of a bottle of wine and a bouquet garni. Bring to a near-boil, then reduce to a simmer, and skim often. When it's reduced about 2/3 or so, add some stock (unnecessary if you've used a really good wine, but quite necessary with the cheap stuff) and reduce again by 2/3. Strain fine. You should have maybe a cup. Return to a simmer, then whisk in beurre manie until it's thickened to your liking.

 

I used mediocre Pinot Noir, a very bad choice but what I had on hand. A half-decent Merlot would be excellent. Basically the milder and "flabbier" the wine the better -- the older the better, too, which is why something like Beaujolais is about as bad a choice as there is. For some reason mine didn't want to thicken as easily as it should have, but that's just me and thickeners -- a running curse. The sauce should be blood-red and should nap. It's a good sauce with a lot of hot charcuterie, among other things, and stands up well to something intense like this sausage, with all that garlic and smoked paprika. Good with potatoes, too, and grilled meats -- very popular in Burgundy, I believe.

post #14 of 16

But you could try your local "Chinatown" area.

 

Oh, my. You guys still don't get it. There is nothing like that anywhere near where I live. The closest city that might have a Chinatown (I say might, cuz I don't really know) is Cincinnati. That's near on 100 miles away---a pretty far piece to buy a duck.

 

Basic shopping is done in Lexington, itself 35 miles away. And to find what I need (that is, of those things that are available) entails shopping in 8-12 different stores spread all over town.

 

The scariest words I ever hear are when a celebrity chef says, "available in any market." I can almost bet that whatever "it" is, it ain't available in my markets.

 

So, the nearest I come to a whole duck is one that comes cleaned, frozen, and wrapped in  shrink-wrap film. The giblets may or may not be included, sort of like a surprise package.

 

Not that I buy much domestic duck. Too used to wild ones, and their superior flavor and lack of excessive fat to have developed a taste for domestic duck. Occasionally we'll splurge on Magret breasts---but those come from D'Artagnan's. 

 

What I do have, however, is a long list of mail-order suppliers. Couldn't do my job as a reviewer without them. Not if I'm going to test recipes, as is required.

 

Fortunately, with the demise of tobacco as a cash crop, more and more of agriculture is turning towards edibles. So I'm starting to see the availability of good, local proteins as well as produce. But it's still not all that common.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well, if you have a wild duck shot on the wing, you now have a recipe for what to do with all the dubious bits and pieces.

post #16 of 16

KYHeirloomer, 

I am desperate to find wholesalers of 5 lb bags of duck hearts, livers, gizzards... mostly gizzards and hearts. Could you possibly share a contact with me? As a fledgling food writer, I would be most grateful!

 

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