Carnitas make case for roasting, reusing duck

The Whole Dish podcast: Moist, savory duck a foolproof alternative to turkey, chicken

In case shoppers didn’t get their fill of Thanksgiving turkey, birds of another feather were arrayed this past week at Medford’s Food 4 Less. Duck, goose, game hens and their ilk all were available at very attractive post-holiday prices.

Likely because I overcooked our Thanksgiving bird, I still was craving moist, succulent poultry. And duck offers the crispiest skin and the byproduct of clearly rendered fat that can be repurposed in all kinds of ways, not to mention intensely flavored stock from the carcass. For $3 per pound, a smallish duck seemed like a good investment in wintertime menus, including the poutine with duck gravy that my husband and I discussed as the possible bill of fare for our Christmas party.

There’s also this take on tacos that could recast bits of leftover roasted duck or make a case for roasting the bird’s legs separately and reserving the breast for another meal, such as this recipe that I posted last November.

Using a similar method to preparing pork carnitas, duck carnitas do dirty a few pans and leave behind a braising liquid that needs to be discarded. The slightly offbeat but supremely delicious results are worth the effort, assures Chicago Tribune food writer Leah Eskin. Once the duck is roasted, the dish comes together in 15 minutes.

Tribune News Service photo

Duck Carnitas Tacos

2 duck legs (about 1 pound each)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups milk

2 garlic cloves, peeled and kept whole

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange, cut into eighths

4 radishes, sliced into rounds

1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into rings

1 cup coarsely chopped, fresh cilantro

4 (or 8 if you prefer a double layer) small, soft corn tortillas

Salsa (optional)

Heat oven to 325 F. Settle the duck legs in a Dutch oven with a snug fit. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Pour in the milk. Toss in the garlic cloves, cinnamon stick (make sure it isn’t floating) and orange wedges. Cover and slide into preheated oven. Roast until duck is very tender, for 2 hours. Uncover and roast until skin turns beautifully crisp, for about 40 minutes.

Pull out duck legs. When cool, discard contents of pan. Pull off crisp duck skin. Break up meat into bite-size chunks (this should be easy work). Discard bones and any lumps of fat.

Set a medium skillet over medium heat. Lay in pieces of duck skin, crisp side up, and sizzle for 1 to 2 minutes, to crisp undersides and render any clinging fat. Shift skins to a cutting board and slice to slivers (like bacon, only better). Slide meat chunks into pan and brown for 1 to 2 minutes. Heap duck on a platter and scatter on shards of skin.

Add the radishes, onion and cilantro to platter. Heat the tortillas (wrap in a clean, damp kitchen cloth and microwave for 2 minutes) to serve alongside, with the salsa. Enjoy.

Makes 2 servings.

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