You now what they say – if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and, moreover, smells like a duck . . . then it’s probably a chef.
That was certainly the case with me today. Last week, I was expecting a delivery of duck from our supplier, but it didn’t materialise. I had given up on it, presuming that Aspen House had now become too small a customer for them to worry about. Presumption is a dangerous thing and, to prove the point, a delivery turned up today. I don’t know if they were making up for lost ground or merely trying to compensate me for not turning up last week, or indeed anticipating my next order and getting it in while they could. Whatever the reason, our sunny delivery man materialised this morning clutching a large tray laden with a big bag of duck legs and a whole pile of carcases.
Last week, the idea was to prepare just a few confit duck legs to have in stock (bit of an Aspen House favourite). Nothing too onerous, or beyond the capacity of our domestic kitchen. For this I needed a couple of duck carcases to render down so that I could have some fat for the confit legs. But that was last week. I didn’t want them this week – especially on a day when our rotting kitchen windows were being replaced, and Simon the Builder was having to cut through the irregularities around the existing window frames with a disc cutter.
So what did I get? 24 duck legs and a dozen carcases. And nowhere to prepare them in a kitchen rapidly filling with brick dust. I had to rely on the accommodating nature of the Aged Ps next door, with Sally’s Mum kindly giving me the run of her kitchen so that I could work in a dust-free environment. Not being up to the speed of your average TV celebrity chef, it took me some time to strip the fat from the carcases, cut it up and render it down in a very big pot. Then there was the stock to make from what was left of the carcases, plus the legs and wings to salt and set aside for six hours.
I started cooking legs and wings around 6.00pm. With only a domestic oven and a couple of large trays, the whole thing has to be done in three batches at around 1½ – 2 hours each, with other little jobs in between, including making the stock in three batches because I do not have a pot big enough to take a dozen duck carcases at the same time. I finished some time after midnight, by which time I had 24 finished confit legs, 24 wings and other scraps of meat (enough to make a substantial pot of rillettes), about six pints of duck fat (for roast potatoes – mm, mmm) and about a gallon of good stock. Not a bad day’s work really. Except for the fact that, yes – I really did smell like a duck.