Since the holidays are rapidly approaching are here, it’s time for me to share some of my favorite cookbooks that came out in the later half of 2013. The first book in this series is Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild, a deeply informative guide to expanding our protein horizons beyond the henhouse. If you’ve ever thought of cooking duck at home, this book will help you understand all there is to know about the other birds in the kitchen.
As someone who grew up on the standard American diet, the idea of eating a duck or goose was something so far from my plane of existence that it never actually occurred to me to try them until I was halfway through my twenties. My experience with ducks did not extend beyond the occasional observation of the head-on fowl hanging in the windows of our local Chinese roasteries, and as far as I was concerned, geese belonged in the pages of Victorian storybooks, where Dickensian families enjoyed their roast goose at a Christmas table flanked with candles, sugarplums, and figgy pudding.
I’d venture to say that a lot of Americans are unfamiliar with the idea of eating ducks and geese, but for a long time they were standard fare in the English-speaking world. Plentiful creatures that are relatively easy to hunt, waterfowl are a tasty and hearty, good sources of wild fat and protein. Then, with proliferation of cheap-and-easy chicken ranching in our culture, they fell from favor as our winged proteins of choice. Which is pretty unfortunate, because ducks and geese are not only delicious — they’re easy to prepare.
Duck, Duck, Goose contains a wealth of information that will satisfy not only the home cook, but also the curious would-be hunter. In addition to detailed photo tutorials showing how to dress and prepare waterfowl, Hank outlines the finer points of over 20 kinds of birds, explaining the differences between wild and domestic breeds. Readers will learn how each kind of bird tastes, feels, and cooks up, ultimately giving you the tools to make an educated decision on what type of duck or goose you’d like to eat.
While Hank is a hunter at his core, this book is certainly not weighted to cater only to the shotgun-inclined–meaning that anyone with access to a good butcher is heartily represented here; so if you’re not interested in all the hoopla about different kinds of ducks, no worries. Feel free to dig right into the food. The recipes in Duck, Duck, Goose are diverse yet straightforward, so that even beginning home cooks will have an easy time working their way through Hank’s instructions with little trouble. Advanced cooks will enjoy some of his more complex dishes, though the vast majority are easy enough for anyone to prepare.
To give you an idea of the recipe style, here are a few of my favorites dishes so far:
- Duck Breast with Black Currant Sauce
- Confit of Duck with Pasta and Lemon
- Baked Beans with Goose “Ham Hocks”
- Tea-Smoked Duck
- Fresh Duck Egg Pasta
- Details on how to roast ducks and geese whole
- Grill-Roasted Whole Duck (recipe below – click to skip right to the dish)
Besides the standard ducky rigamarole (confit, seared breast, roasted whole), Hank offers an abundance of advice for preparing ducks and geese from bill to tail, adhering to his mantra of using “everything but the quack,” wasting no part of the bird. The final chapter is dedicated to this idea, with sections reserved for using the giblets, gizzard, and even the tongues. Got a pound of duck fat sitting in your freezer? Want to learn how to make duck prosciutto? What do you do with extra skin? Hank’s got you covered.
The trove of written information in Duck, Duck, Goose is only half of its value. This book is a wealth of visual detail as well, with Holly Heyser providing a much-needed photographic element to Hank’s tutorials. (Ever tried to take apart a bird with only words to guide you? It’s a real bummer.) Holly’s photos of both field and table provide context for the book, bringing with them warmth and candor that would be difficult to explain otherwise–a placid afternoons in a winter marshland, the unwinding of a hearty dinner after a long day in the cold.
Overall, Duck, Duck, Goose would be a fabulous gift to anyone that loves cooking adventurously, or for that cousin who’s always wanted to hunt but never really found the inspiration to move past her Cabela’s catalog. Even if the actual cooking isn’t your thing, this is a lovely guide to a fascinating way of eating that few folks are exposed to, and any resource that expands the culinary horizons of the reader is a winner in my book.
Scroll down or click through for a fabulous recipe: Grill-Roasted Whole Duck. Stay tuned for an interview with Hank.