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Duck, duck

When I was a kid–I don’t know exactly when; maybe when I was 10 or 11 years old–my mother made duck. A whole roasted duck. It was, by far, one of the most miserable what’s-for-dinner? memories in my childhood life.

It may have been for my mother, as well, and if my younger siblings remember that evening’s dinner, it may rank as one of their worst, too.

The duck was overcooked and dry, yet oily, and the skin was tough. Too tough to even chew. Plus, well, it was duck. I mean, who eats duck? But my mom (and by way of her social graces, my dad) was/were in an international dining club where people would gather monthly and make traditional meals from the selected country for the month, which, I’ll add, was quite a big deal in a pre-Whole Foods, pre-Amazon, pre-grocery-store-variety world in the mid-1970s. It was exotic.

My mom was willing to experiment, to try and to expand her horizons and, because we lived in an era and time when children were actually expected to eat what was put on their dinner plates rather than demand (and expect) a tailored-to-their-likings meal as has become the norm is so many families, we traveled along with her culinary experiments, like it or not.

The duck was, as stated earlier, the worst. Worse than all the cruciferous vegetables we had to eat, all the squash and all the kale she tried to sneak into meals .. though that summer when she grew kohlrabi; oy, that was a pretty rough one.

As you might imagine, even the thought of eating anything duck raised ancient triggers of no-bueno in my mind. I did my best to wipe out of my mind that duck was even a food option.

baby steps

But life goes on and people evolve. For many of us, so does our culinary (or at least gastronomic) reach. Which is how I found myself, some decades past, trying the duck confit at some fancy-to-me restaurant; that was delicious. Along the way, I had also some foie gras; also delicious, though the force-feeding of ducks to fatten their livers soured me to make the pâte a regular choice when the option presented itself.

Then there came the awareness of this thing called duck-fat fries; très délicieux! I’ve had those a number of times.

I bought some fresh duck eggs from a farmer’s market stand a few years back but didn’t favor them, though I understand those who bake say they are far superior to chicken eggs in many a recipe. Then the wonders of internet recipes and the ease of using Amazon had me buying some duck fat for cooking recently; also, quite nice.

But never did I want to, plan to, or even have thoughts about cooking duck. Until I saw …

duck bacon

Yep. D’Artagnan Bacon, Uncured Smoked Duck was on sale at Whole Foods in the bacon section and my Curiosity Meter was on high. At least at the time of purchase. The package sat some time in my fridge, waiting for the day.

Well, today was the day–the day when I would open the package and cook me up some “duck bacon.”

It was pretty good. Of course nothing holds a candle to real bacon (and really good real bacon at that), so it’s an unfair comparison to hold it up to bacon; but it was pretty good. I’d get it again. It did leave my house smelling rather like “duck bacon,” but that’s okay, too. I even poured off some of the excess fat to use later that day for sautéing some vegetables this evening.

Just like I do when cooking bacon in a frying pan, after pouring the excess fat out to save for later, I used what was left in the pan, threw in some chopped onion, some shiitake mushrooms and some savoy cabbage and fried it all up. I added some Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu (truly one of the best soy sauces you can get, imo; if you know of a better one, LMK). That was breakfast today and quite a step forward from that unpleasant first introduction some four decades-ish past.

What about you? Had duck? Cooked it? Like it? Tried duck bacon? Curious minds want to know.


1 Comment

  • Post Author
    Jessie Newburn
    Posted March 27, 2023 at 4:44 am

    Been a tryna to be more expansive with my cooking and protein choices. Last week my place smelled of duck breast (and was none too pleasant), and today it’s anchovies. Gotta say I’d take the anchovy smell over the duck breast, any day. I felt my clothes smelled of duck for several hours after cooking it.

    I do like duck fat for cooking. Just wondering if maybe purchased duck fat is rendered and something is done so it doesn’t smell so much. Dunno.

    Duck fat bacon, that said, is pretty good and not too stinky (per my definition).

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