Eat Drink Local Profile #37: Duck

The scene at a Long Island duck farm.


The Ingredient:

Long Island duck, our fourth of the 11 Ingredients of the Day.

Why It’s Important:

In the 1800s — yes, we’re going way back — Pekin duck eggs were brought over from China by a traveling American businessman who mistakenly thought they’d hatch miniature geese, which would sell high on the novelty circuit, or so the story goes. But the fact is, ducks were highly marketable on their own. As our sister mag Edible East End reported in Fall 2006, Long Islander Henry Corwin used his family’s very fertile land in Suffolk County — owned since the 1600s — to breed ducks in the early 1900s. Many duck farmers took advantage of the optimal conditions in the area — including Jurgielewicz farm in Moriches and Massey farm in Eastport, among those still in operation — but none were larger than Corwin’s Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue. There 4 percent of the U.S. market for “Long Island duck” (aka Pekin duck) is still being raised, with grandson Doug now at the wheel.

The duck market peaked in the 1940s, when local growers hit up Cornell University for research into proper duck nutrition and management, and a cooperative was formed in Eastport. It was called The Duck Research Laboratory, later renamed the International Duck Research Cooperative as duck farming spread to the Midwest and Canada. These days duck is all over menus, even if only for its fat (confit) or livers (foie gras). (And most of that comes straight from Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a mere two hours from Manhattan in Ferndale.)

Why We Love It:

Besides being a very local protein, duck is also one of the most luscious. Deeply flavorful, with a layer of fat and a skin that crisps up like no other poultry. Julia Child might have you debone and stuff your duck, at The Breslin you might just skim the fat for their duck-fat potatoes, but the duck’s naturally fatty skins are pretty hard to disappoint. Take this one recipe here, for example, from Edible East End‘s Fall 2006 feature on Long Island duck: a recipe for Asian Lacquered Duck courtesy Salamander’s in Greenport.

Asian Lacquered Duck
From Salamander’s in Greenport, L.I.

1 41/2 lb. duckling
2 gl. water
6 star anise
1 T. coriander seed
1 T. black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
6 slices ginger
orange zest
3 C. of honey
2 C. salt

Boil the seasonings in the water for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Remove the excess skin and fat from duck and prick the skin with a fork on the sides and bottom. Submerge the duck (or more than one duck) completely. Brine for 2-4 days in the refrigerator.

Seasoning paste (for each duck):
2 cloves garlic
1 T. grated ginger
1 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. sesame paste
1 /2 C. honey
4 T. soy sauce
Salt and black pepper

Make a paste with a mortar and pestle or grind in a blender. Dry the duck completely and rub with the paste inside and out. First roast breast-side down for 45 minutes at 375 degrees, then right-side up for 45 minutes at 375 degrees, basting with more seasoning paste for color.

Where To Find It:

This week, courtesy our Eat Drink Local Week restaurant partners, you can find a duck confit dish at Back Forty with port and concord grape sauce and risotto, or at BAMcafe they’re doing duck with herbed spatzle and apple cider gastric. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola will be serving a duck and andouille etoufee with a “dirty rice pilaf” and Henry’s will have a second course of duck breast with smoked wheat berries, hen of the woods mushrooms, butternut squash and dried cherry compote. At Mas, find a smoked duck breast cured with pepper, juniper and coffee or a pan-roasted breast with garlic sausage; Brussels sprouts, barberries and toasted walnut emulsion at the North Fork Table and Inn, paired with a Lenz Merlot/Cabernet Franc from Peconic, Long Island. Or order a duck-ricotta-fig pizza at Radish, a breast with quinoa, swiss chard and tomato chutney at Rye, or a cold-smoked duck panini with local rhubarb chutney, house-smoked tomatoes, arugula and goat cheese at Ted & Honey. Plus The Green Table will have a $30 pixe fix lunch with grilled duck, a local grain salad and apple cider reduction and a $45 prix fixe dinner of grilled duck with local squash ratatouille and red wine demiglace.

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