Although duck is very popular in Chin and France, in North America people regard this bird more as decoration than delicacy for the table.
This aquatic, small salt or sweet water bird family has a number of subcategories, some of which have been domesticated. Ducks eat aquatic grasses, grains, plants, fish and insects. Some are migratory, other are not.
Most of the duck species on the market are descendants of the Mallard duck.
The most famous domestic species are: Aylesbury, Muscovy, Rouen, Nantes, Beijing and Szechwan.
Mullard duck is a cross between Muscovy and Mallard duck, and Aylesbury originates in Aylesbury England.
Commercial farms prefer Mullard duck to other species.
Duck contains a lot of fat and has a strong gamy flavour. French chefs cook legs in their own fat (confit) and connoisseurs know how heavenly a properly cooked confit tastes. They travel long distances to restaurants specializing in the art of cooking confit. One restaurant in Toronto, Avalon, was famous for its confit. Alas it is no longer in business as of March 18 2006.
Chefs in Beijing invented many different ways to prepare duck, all served in one meal. First the bird is rubbed blown up and air-dried, then rubbed with a number of special sauced. Subsequently it is roasted in a Chinese oven where the skin becomes crisp and glistens. The crisp skin is served in a thin pancake with scallions, followed by shredded duck, and then finally from the carcass, a flavourful soup comes to the table. Chinese being economical, use all the parts of any animal.
French on the other hand like to serve duck breast with braised cabbage and tart fruit-based sauces. The preferred wine for braised breast of duck is red Cotes du Rhone, although many other similar New World wines can be substituted successfully. Some Australian Shiraz wines from Margaret River in Western Australia, or California come to mind. Recently Ontario and British Columbia wineries started making Rhone-style Shiraz wines, which are highly recommended.
grace many tables in England and Europe, but not in North America.
Fattened liver craze sweeping North America prompted entrepreneurs to set up duck farms to fatten the birds to produce foie gras, although originally fattened goose liver were used, first in Egypt, then in Rome and later in France.
By all accounts fattened goose liver tastes better; duck liver has its aficionados.
Farmers prefer duck because it is more docile, small, and easier to handle then geese.
Quebec is famous for its fattened duck liver, although Hudson Bay Valley in New York State produces some as well. The Quebec fattened liver is firmer and tastier.
California’s Sonoma County has a few duck farms but they been subject to attacks by animal rights activists claiming that the birds are treated inhumanely. In reality, at least in Quebec, they are treated well and run free on fresh sawdust in big barns. The last two weeks of their lives however are spent in cages.
Twice a day they receive a corn gruel mixed 15 minutes before feeding, through a 15 cm long stainless steel pipe for five seconds.
According to visitors of fattened duck farms, the birds don not look stressed but more fatigued.
Duck liver retails for $ 95 to 115 per kilogram and can be attractive for inexperienced and undiscriminating foodies.
Fattened liver has now become such fad that some up-scale restaurants in Toronto offer foie gras menus consisting of: amuse bouche of foie gras, pan seared, foie gras en torchon, chili ginger spiced tuna with seared foie gras or grilled medallion of beef with foie gras.
Preparing foie gras requires skill ands patience. The cooking temperature must be monitored constantly for otherwise the volume shrinks more than 50 percent, considerable loss restaurateurs loath to absorb.
Raw foie gras is available in gourmet stores, or canned imported from France, and offered in terrine or pate or parfait, truffled of not. When buying pate, or parfait read the label carefully to determine whether it is duck or goose liver. Also in most cases French producers, use Polish, Hungarian or Israeli goose liver.