Monday, September 06, 2010

Duck Scratchings

One of my jobs at the restaurant is to contribute ideas which, after some tinkering, could end up as viable, tasty dishes on the tapas menu. One day, I was watching head chef prepping duck legs for service, trimming off the excess skin and fat, when it occurred to me: duck scratchings! Just like pork scratchings, except more ducky! Crisp, puffy duck skins, roasted in the oven, dusted with salt and served as a tapa with beer - how unique! No one else in the world could possibly have come up with such an awesome idea!

68,203 results on Google proved me wrong.
No matter. It was still worth pursuing.

Just to see what I should be doing, I popped into the British food section of my local supermarket, which happens to stock pork scratchings - the template for my idea. I bought two different brands (one's actually made in New Zealand!), and tipped them out to see how they looked and tasted.

While both were pleasantly porky and salty, the British-made product was quite hard, and the NZ-made scratchings crunchy - crunch is what I was after, and I figured cooking my duck skins at a moderate heat for about half an hour should do it.

Turn your oven on to 180c, and pop a tray inside to warm up. Using a good sharp knife, cut your duck skin into finger-width-and-length strips.

Place your duck skins onto the heated tray (line it with baking paper; I forgot), sprinkle generously with maldon or sea salt, then place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. They will shrink in size quite considerably, so don't be alarmed. You'll also end up with a surprising amount of rendered duck fat.

Pass the fat through some muslin (to keep out debris) and into a container. Cool it down, cover and pop in the fridge; use it later when roasting spuds to make them more flavoursome.

Place the scratchings on a paper towel to drain. Allow to cool, during which time they'll harden.

Did they make it onto the menu? No. While they are quite tasty (lots of roast duck flavour, pleasantly salty), they still retain a little fat which may turn people off (that, and the salt). Longer cooking may remedy this, but to the detriment of the skin's flavour, I feel. No worries! It was an interesting experiment, and a neat way of using up waste product. The next time you're preparing duck at home, give this a go - duck skin is far tastier than, say, chicken skin (which you're supposed to remove for a healthier meal), and a real treat. Tell me how you get on :)


Bronwyn said...

I do it completely the other way around. I aim to render the fat, and the scratchings are a delicious by-product. Put them in a pan and heat gently on top of the stove, or in a deep dish in the oven, and cook until ALL the fat is rendered. Use the fat to confit the duck legs. Put the scratchings in the microwave on top of a paper towel and nuke them carefully until what fat is left melts out and soaks into the paper towel. Then cool, salt, and eat. Delicious.

Unknown said...

Nigel! I heard the news about the earthquake in Hawke's Bay and I thought of you. How's everything? Take care.

Nigel Olsen said...

Bronwyn - We confit the duck legs in its own fat, too. Some of the trimmings were kept aside for my experiment.

Arfi - All good here, Arfi! No one around here noticed a thing. I bet baby's putting on weight!

Mel said...

I had to settle for the next ducky thing we had at home... duck rillette. Still good, but I still feel like trying duck scratchings!

And hey, before I saw that line about the Google results, I thought duck scratchings were your invention too ;-) Never heard of such a thing!

Nigel Olsen said...

Ha! Some serious wishful thinking on my part, Mel :)

Nicole said...

I don't do duck. All I can think of is "quack quack quack".

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Nigel,
They look tasty though! A cold lager beside them would be a real treat. Glad to read the earth quake treated you well. We felt it here pretty nicely in Palmy.