Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The high cost of duck & how to cook it

Interesting melee going on at Rita’s site regarding the issue of shopper dockets. What has become apparent to me reading the comments section is underpinning the great divide in expectation that customers & operators face & the associated perceptions that both camps have in relation to redeeming these seemingly innocuous vouchers, oh how the passions run deep!
Perhaps a salve is required to soothe these frayed tempers, can I propose how I come up with a price for a dish & perhaps this will illuminate why something costs as much as it does in a restaurant?
Take duck for instance, it’s a traditionally expensive restaurant dish, in mostly all its guises.
In the old days you could get away with serving duck Maryland’s (the legs) as they were the cheapest & arguably the easiest to cook & serve, in fact you could get 'em almost for free, such was there lack of currency. However, those days are well & truly over. Nowadays, those once el cheapo legs are worth a mint & in some cases worth more than even the breast meat!
In fact a single no 18 duck (meaning 1.8kgs) will cost about $14 to $18 per bird. Now if you divide this into 2 portions it’ll cost you roughly $7 to $9 per serve & that is if you portion it exactly as half, without butchering further or even cooking it at all. You see cooking it reduces the weight served so this weight gats ADDED to the original purchase price. Should you decide to serve it as a quarter as many do. The cost for the duck declines but you’ll have to ‘bulk it up;’ with all sorts of restaurant chicanery & this is how many places justify the price of their duck dishes.
What is ironic though, is that there are only TWO commercial suppliers of duck in the country. That’s right, TWO. Pepes & Luv a Duck. Sure both act as negociants of sorts, qualifying the price of duck from many different growers spread throughout the country but it seems EVERYONE who buys Australian ducks, gets them from these two purveyors & that includes Sydney where a duck main can cost $50+ or more. This is of course, unless they buy ducks from overseas & for how much cheaper I am not aware. They would I presume, also be frozen but having said that so many ducks sold here are also frozen.
This could explain the huge disparity of cost that many cheap’n’cheerful Asian restaurants manage to put a BBQ duck on the menu for under $20 when a duck breast or a leg in a modern Aussie fine Diner will easily set you back $35 or more. To underpin this I have checked the websites of five of Hobart’s’ better restaurants who feature duck & the prices range from $33.50 for a leg with bits & bobs up to $38.00 for a breast, similarly padded out with garnishes.
Recently I put a half duck on the menu for $33 which was a quantum leap in our pricing structure but guess what, no one cared cause it was duck! In fact it is my beleif that those who oredr duck just want the duck & plenty of it, garnish be dammed!
This leads me to believe that many restaurants over charge for duck because they know it’s a meat that people love but are afraid of or don’t know how to cook well.
Despite death threats from my colleagues I shall divulge my fail safe duck cooking recipe free of charge in the spirit of transparency. But please eat it at the RVL when its on not because I have left out a method or ingredient but because duck is the one meat I reckon I cook better than most else in my repetoire, not blowing my own trumpet BUT a fact that a noted food journalist observed when he boldly said that only the Chinese can cook duck properly but he thought Cumper was not a traditional Chinese name!

1.8kg duck (it costs me about $14 to $18 whole but frozen)
3 cloves garlic
Some thyme, rosemary or oregano
Sea salt & black pepper
Water or white wine or chicken stock
Olive oil.

Take a deep roasting pan tight enough to fit one duck snugly.
Make sure duck is dry before rubbing in salt & pepper into duck skin. Scatter with smashed cloves of garlic & torn herbs & drizzle olive oil over the lot.
Roast in pre-heated oven (180C) until skin is golden.
Here’s the tricky bit. Add enough stock/water/wine to half cover the duck, that’s, err, half way?
Seal as tightly as you can with silver foil, careful not to get any tears or breaks. You want an impervious seal to ‘steam’ the contents.
Reduce the heat to 160C & cook for two hours.
Let cool completely, in fact let go cold in fridge.
Then remove the thick layer of fat & reserve (good for cooking spuds) & you’ll be left with a gelatinous liquid tasting of pure duck essence, ideal for a light but deep flavoured sauce.
Carefully remove the duck & portion into your required amounts, the meat will all be the same ‘falling off the bone’ texture.
To re-heat simply place in a pre-heated oven at 180C until warm & skin is crisp & serve with whatever you fancy.

So you see, don’t be afraid of duck, its not that hard & I hope many more people take the time to have ago at it. I know that it will a long time before it replaces the humble & oft maligned chook as our bird of preference but I also hope it never becomes so abused as well.


Anonymous said...

I'll endorse that duck recipe, and the reserved duck juices made into a stock with lots of time make for fabulous fondant potatoes.

I think some of the traditional costing methods have become a little more difficult to work with these days as the supply costs are all over the place at the moment. There is a lot of confusion out there amongst operators and diners alike. It concerns me also that there seem to be an awful lot of people getting into this game without perhaps fully understanding that it has a casualty rate higher than the taliban.

Personally I'm more miffed at the rising cost of Rabbit.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant thyme.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Too true about duck prices and options of supply.
What I dont get is how do they manage to sell a chinese roast duck for about $20?
Your Recipe sounds good.
I know confit is just so passe but I still find a carefully done confit the best way to cook a duck for re-heating. So many options in the curing mix, complex flavours on maturation no mess, simple once you see it done, very verastile. Quack

Zoe said...

Thanks, Steve, I've been wondering what to do with that duck in the freezer ;)

Michelle said...

Jeepers Steve! That sounds so good - I'll be there tomorrow! (err is the duck on tomorrow?) Had a woefully tough duck at an all too rare lunch out recently. And before that, ordered Peking Duck from highly regarded Sandy Bay restaurant for $30 to share with a friend. We were served 4 postage stamp sized pieces of duck and four julienned pieces of green onion. Miserable. As a result, we cried because we were still so hungry and broke. Oh I miss Haymarket...

steve said...

Hi Cartouche-thanks for the endorsemnt. On Ritas post I am amazed actually of the divide that some operators & some customers seem to have. I suspect though that the more sensational of the opinions came from a minority not representing the views of the industry toward this voucher guff.

Hello George-I agree, still love confit also. Unfortunately several of the ones I had when I ate out last were on the dry & over salty side of the ledger. Fashions come & go but confit duck legs will always be a stayer-that is until some lab geek makes them into a 'foam' or something.

Hiya Zoe-was it a wild duck? If so I would suggest to confit the legs but cooking the breast on the rare side. Wild duck dosn't have much meat & the ration of fat to meat is minimal. the legs will be tough as old blazers so they need long slow cooking so braising or confit would be an ideal application. The breast can be pan seared & then roasted but importantly leave them still attached to the frame as this avoids much shrinkage-you dont want to end up with quali breasts!

G'day Michelle-give it a go & let me know how you end up. I will have duck on this Frid & Sat night at the RVL. Yes some restaurants can be quite mean about drip feeding their customers duck, especially when you know how much it costs. As to the tough duck if you cook it the way & described you'll never have to worry about this again!

stickyfingers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stickyfingers said...

If both duck and belly pork are on the menu I'm in trouble - because I have a tendency to order both :P

Even though I live spitting distance from Luv-a-Duck in Port Melb, I like to buy my duck from Milawa free range poultry. I'm lucky enough to get them from their farm shop in South Yarra, and from the inner city farmers markets. Love-a-Duck have a huge market selling to Asia and the pacific too, so if you're in Bora Bora eating duck, it's likely to be one of theirs.

My roast duck recipe was given to me by my father who went to study under a Cantonese roast meat Sifu(master) in HK (just for kicks). It doesn't reqiure steaming, but you do hang the duck for a day after marinading. On the rare occasion I've got my hand on a goose I've done it successfully in a daggy old oven bag, removing it at the end to crisp the skin.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?