Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Crazy Canard

By now many people are familiar with "drunken chicken" or "beer butt chicken". What you do is cram a can of beer in the cavity of a chicken, stand it on its feet on a grill and grill away. The beer boils, making the bird's insides juicy and delicious, while the coals coax the outside to give up its moisture. It's a win-win situation for the consumer.

One variation on this theme that I thought of would be to use Cornish game hens instead of chickens and prop them up on the tiny ("housewife size") cans of Sapporo that are sold in Japanese markets. I still haven't tried that out. What I did try out, however, will blow you away.
First, I went and bought one of these:

They call it a chick-can and its purpose is obvious--it holds the beer can as well as the bird up and prevents your meal from getting charcoal-flavored when it inevitably falls down. Inevitably, that is, if you don't have one of these. Then, I secured my bird: a three-pound whole liberty duck! I marinated the duck overnight in a water-based stew of roasted spices, onions, and garlic:

Glamorous, eh? I turned the duck several times during the night to ensure even distribution. Daffy here was on his way to becoming more delicious than he ever dreamt of. My next modification to the standard drunken chicken plan was to use good beer. Most people who make this dish use budweiser or some such truck. I figured the beer should match the bird, so after emptying a 20oz. Three Horses, I filled the can up with Chimay, reserving the rest of the trappist ale for later use. I started a bunch of Lazzari mesquite coals on my grill. A note about grilling: I almost never use gas. The one thing I use the propane for is to start my mesquite, then we're off and running. It is so important to the flavor of the dish.

Here we see the duck cooking in about a 400 degree environment. The pie pan beneath it collected enough duck fat over the course of the preparation to fill my 3 cup pyrex measuring cup. I saved the fat and ended up making french fries with it a couple of days later. Fantastic.

Back to the bird. I kept adding chimay to the can. It was boiling off pretty quickly so I plugged the duck's neck-hole with 3 fresh bay leaves and rosemary and marjoram from the yard. As he cooked, his pride swelled. It's curious to note how the duck looked dumpy in the photo above and then straightened out into the tasty soldier below:

The bird, about halfway done

Meanwile, E was busy cooking up several salads for the guests that had trickled in to join us for these, our memorial day festivities. She found time to whip up a blood orange, tequila, and coriander seed sauce for the bird that was excellent. Before I butchered the duck and after I took it off of the grill it looked like this:

I am no expert at carving, but I took pretty good care of this crazy quacker. In the end everybody got a generous serving of drunken duck that I challenge anyone to improve upon. Towards the end, the wings did get a little singed, so I recommend wrapping them in aluminum foil when you are about 20 minutes out from done. But let's face it - when it comes to duck it's not about the wings! With the indirect-heat method I used I estimate it took 2.5 hours to cook the fowl.


Blogger drbiggles said...

Alright! No propane! Almost. How long does a duck take to cook at 400 degrees? I do my chickens at 450 in the oven, not as much fat though.
MmmMmmm, wings.


8:37 AM  
Blogger Dr. Jones said...

Biggles; I had it on there for a really long time to ensure it got thoroughly cooked. It was probably only in the 400-450 degree range for the last 30 minutes or so (poor wings); the rest of the time it couldn't have been over 300 or so.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Meenakshi said...

Hey there...thanks for visiting my blog site(http://tripathym.blogspot.com)
Like your account of - How to cook the duck?)...almost makes me wish I was there eating it :)

10:10 PM  

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