Dark Days Week 1: Roast duck, pan-roasted potatoes with leeks, and sautéed kale with garlic

So we grew some ducks starting in August, and since the day we placed the order I have been talking about how I have never cooked duck. Today I started learning to cook duck.

Cast iron party fun time
This engaged most (but not all) of our cast iron pans. Potatoes & leeks in the front; kale with garlic; duck. Also, I need to learn to use my shiny new camera, so I can stop using my tiny, crappy point&shoot. Also, pictures of shiny things (like potatoes in duck fat) are hard.

Went with simplicity today; though duck is not on most folks’ regular rotation, we have several to last us the winter and we figured now is the time to learn about it. We roasted it very simply with just salt and pepper. I used a baster to suck up the duck fat to pan-roast the homegrown Swedish Peanut (we think) potatoes with farmers’ market leeks, and to sauté the homegrown Lacinato and Red Russian kale with homegrown garlic (variety lost to history). All the preparation methods were simple, easy, and comforting. The potatoes turned out to be fantastic, and the kale too, though a bit greasy (I didn’t want it to burn to I put too much fat). The duck was very tasty, though a bit overcooked (my fault).

Homegrown potatoes, duck, kale

Conclusion: Yum.

Homegrown: duck; potatoes; garlic; kale.
Local: leeks (Peresphone Farms, Indianola)
Regional (150-mile): wine (Snoqualmie Vineyards)
Origin unknown: salt, pepper as usual.

Lessons: I overcooked the duck a bit. Live and learn. Also, we might not like duck skin — handy, as is a BIG pain to pluck them. If we can skin them in the future instead of plucking, that would be nice. Don’t put so much fat on the kale (I do this when I’m cooking with olive oil too).

  15 comments for “Dark Days Week 1: Roast duck, pan-roasted potatoes with leeks, and sautéed kale with garlic

  1. November 23, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I’m excited to see all the posts for the Dark Days Challenge. I don’t eat meat, so can’t say much on the duck, but the kale, potatoes, and leeks all sound great. Oh, I bet all 3 veg would also be delicious together too – kale and potatoes are good, potatoes and leeks are good, kale and leeks are good, so why not everything together!

  2. November 23, 2009 at 7:45 am

    You guys are awesome. I’ll leave it at that.

  3. November 23, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Yum, I’ve got duck envy. I still have yet to find anyone local who is raising and selling ducks (largely because of the reason you mentioned, they are such a pain in the a** to pluck). The meal looks wonderful. I can’t believe the both of you may not like duck skin (you can always send it over here) – have you tried searing it really well so it gets super crispy? As goofy as it sounds, Alton Brown has great instructions for cooking duck so that the skin is absolutely dreamy. Basically, score the skin and press skin side down in a preheated cast iron pan (weighted)as part of your cooking process.

  4. November 23, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Mangochild, yes, we eat a lot of potato/kale/leek things in the winter. Potatoes, kale, leeks, … fried egg! Potato, kale, leeks … sausage! Potato, kale, leeks … in a fritatta! etc.

    Did I just recently read that you don’t eat eggs, though? What are you doing for protein?

    Anna, you should play along. It’s fun!

    Maya, yes, thank you for reminding me. I meant to note that we’ll try it again with the skin, and I’ll baste it this time. Julia Child said I didn’t have to, so I didn’t. I’ll also score/prick it more thoroughly. And I should definitely try Alton’s method — I forgot all about it.

  5. November 25, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Serious duck envy. I dream of eating duck…

  6. November 25, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I second the recommendation to crispy the skin. We have cooked duck a la Alton and is is in fact easy, effective, and yummy. Trent has also, in the past, removed the skin and made duck skin cracklins. He cut the skin into strips, tossed in a roasting pan, and cooked at 350 until crispy. It fries in its own fat. They are yummy as garnish on cooked greens.

  7. November 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    We have ducks for eggs, but they’re too small for butchering. If I were to raise ducks for the meat, I’d have to not befriend them..I can’t imagine butchering my cute little egg-laying girls! Actually, I’ve been thinking to try raising up a turkey next year (but I’d probably have the neighbor lady butcher it).
    I have to chime in about kale and eggs and leeks…mmmm! One of my favorite lunches is toast with kale and a fried egg on it.

  8. November 25, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Beth, we have laying ducks too — 5 Khaki Campbells, who are SUCH champs about laying. We went with the Muscovy breed for the meat ducks. The smallest of them was bigger than the Khakis. They are definitely a meat breed.

    We did 6 turkeys this year, and I have to say I don’t think we’ll do that few meat critters again. We got to know them too well despite our best intentions not to. We miss them. I definitely don’t think I could do just one!

    Please explain about the open-face kale sandwich — do you cook the kale? It sounds tasty and fast!

    Maya, Sustainable Eats, anyone else in the Seattle area — if you really want duck (it’s not cheap!) let me know and we can notify you when we know when the next batch will be ready.

  9. November 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Mmmmm, I love duck, but have never cooked it. I definitely want to know when your next batch are ready; I have some cherries in the freezer that would make the perfect sauce.

  10. November 26, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hi – please do notify me. I’ve no idea what going rate for duck is but it’s yummy, especially smoked with plum chutney. I love duck!

  11. November 26, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    About the kale sandwich: cook a nice amount of kale in whatever way works for you. Currently I like to chop it up pretty well, heat a tad of olive oil in the pan, add a dash of sweet smoked paprika, toss in the kale for a few minutes, splash in some stock (yum) or water, cover and cook until done. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll add a bit of shallot or leek or garlic in the beginning. While the kale is cooking, I toast some nice bread. Pile the cooked kale on the bread, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, eat. A soft fried or poached duck egg on top is divine. Soft goat cheese on the toast is good. I bet bacon would send it over the top..etc!

    It’s interesting what you say about the turkeys; I’ve heard that they can be difficult characters to have around the farm yard, but wasn’t totally believing that…sounds like yours were personable enough to make friends with.

  12. Andycrofts
    January 27, 2010 at 8:54 am

    That meal looks really excellent. I live in Finland (altho’ I’m a Brit) and I try to give my Finnish girl some different – unusual – food as often as I can. She’s never had duck before, nor, to my knowledge Kale, so it’s one to try. Being unemployed, and duck breasts are about the most expensive meat here, I need to get it right first time.. You wouldn’t post a recepe, would you?
    Next meal for us would be either “Lutefisk” or “Surströmming”
    Neither I recommend, except as a challenge, like those Japanese ‘endurance’ shows. (Google’s your friend here….see the Surströmming video. It’s enough to make a cat speak…)

  13. February 1, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Hi Andy! I’m surprised, somehow, that duck isn’t on the menu in Finland. They do well in soggy climates and pretty cold-hardy too.

    I don’t really have a recipe for duck breast, as we roasted the whole bird, and it was only our first time so we didn’t do the best job ever. But it sounds like Alton Brown’s recipe is a winner for whole roasted duck. It uses chard but you could use kale if you give it a bit more time to cook (chard, which you may know as silverbeet in the UK, I think, is more tender than kale).

    Anyway I think with duck, you can err on the side of undercooking it — pink duck breast is OK. Overcooked gets dry easily and is less yummy. Don’t forget it carries over after you remove it from the heat.

    re: kale, the only thing is to not overcook it unless you like crispy greens. It works well braised or sautéed with garlic. Just make sure to remove the stems (they are usually tough) and keep an eye on it.

    I lived for several years in a town founded mostly by Scandinavian immigrants — there is a Scandinavian festival every spring, with lefse and lutefisk (I’ve never had it) and that tasty rice pudding thing with the lingonberry sauce. I think I’d be more inclined to eat this surströmming thing than lutefisk, though, somehow.

  14. Andycrofts
    February 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Do NOT even think of surströmming unless you’ve had your olfactory organ removed (Think Mike Tyson can do it for free ;-)

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