Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Duck neck sausage

Photos by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 11 April 2012.

Last September when the fuss and flurry of Floriade was over, I was left with, what looked like, a gaggle of duck necks, which I threw in the freezer to deal with later. Well, later has now come, and I need to do something creative with them. Thus, my duck neck sausage was created.  

I was a little obsessed while working on what stuffing ingredients to include, and it was only when my sister phoned during a  sensitive stage of the preparations and I described what I was doing, that I stopped to think what this dish might sound like to the uninitiated. Her response was, well, not what you’d call positive. 

But I persisted and the result is absolutely delicious, if fiddly, and for people like me who are dedicated to everything duck, an essential addition to your duck repertoire, that is if you have one. 

If you haven’t had the experience of cooking multiple duck breasts at Floriade, and aren’t left with a gaggle of duck necks, I believe you could approach a poultry supplier who could sell you the duck necks very cheaply.

Don’t be put off by the duck neck thing - this is really a fun dish to make. I have provided quantities for 2 duck necks. If you have more necks, just increase the quantities of filling.

The makings
You can buy duck fat in tubs from many supermarkets, Costco, poultry suppliers or delis. Costco has the best price.

2 duck necks
1 to 1.5 kg of duck fat
250g minced pork fat or 2 tbsp of duck fat extra
200g of duck breast meat, chopped finely
bunch thyme, leaves stripped
60 g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
4 tsp of cognac or good brandy
1 tsp of grated lemon zest
4 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp of five spice powder
½ 450ml can of sour cherries, drained
½ tsp of salt
ground black pepper
kitchen string

Strip the skin of the duck necks away from the windpipe, as if peeling off a glove. The skin will be attached to the windpipe by little fibres that pull away easily. Remove the windpipe from the skin and throw away. Wash the skin thoroughly, inside and out and pat dry.

Place the chopped duck meat, flour, balsamic vinegar, pork mince, pork or duck fat, pistachios, cognac, thyme, cherries, five spice powder, lemon zest and salt and pepper into a mixer, that is fixed with a paddle attachment. 

Mix on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until well combined, although don’t overmix until the mixture turns pasty. Place the stuffing mixture into a piping bag.  If you don’t feel confident with a piping bag, you could spoon the stuffing mixture in, just make sure you push it down. The filling should be packed in quite firmly and resemble a thick sausage.

Heat the duck fat in a small medium saucepan, on low to medium or 90C.

Tie a knot with kitchen string at the narrow end of the neck and pipe the stuffing mixture in, filling it well. Tie off the large end of the neck with another piece of string.  Repeat with the second duck neck.

Place the neck sausages into the saucepan of duck fat and cook for 30 to 40 minutes on low heat. Make sure the sausages are just covered in the melted duck fat and the heat remains low with just the occasional bubble.

While the sausages are cooking through, preheat the oven to 200C.

Remove the sausages from the saucepan, place on a baking tray and crisp up in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Check they are not burning.

When the sausages are crisped, remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Holding the sausage to maintain its shape, slice carefully into 1 cm slices with a sharp knife, throwing away the string. Serve with salad and a spicy chutney or pickle for the warmer months or with potato mash and vegetables for the cooler months.