Poultry butchery is simple. (Really!) With a some practice, you can master this skill. What’s nice about poultry butchery is that all birds are basically the same. If you can butcher a duck, you can butcher a chicken, or a turkey, or a Guinea hen, or a pheasant… You get the idea.
Why should this matter to you? If you shop at a great butcher shop, it might not. Your butcher will happily break down your bird, free of charge. If you shop at a grocery store, this is unlikely. You can save a ton of money by buying whole birds and breaking them down yourself. You will end up with a variety of cuts that you can freeze until you need them, and a pile of bones that you can make into stock.
The most important thing you need for poultry butchery is a sharp knife. I use a boning knife, but a paring knife will get the job done. (If you want to buy a boning knife, this one is pretty terrific, and cheap too! http://amzn.to/YuCUPC)
Before you start, check the cavity. You might find the neck or other internal organs; set these aside for other uses. Or you might find nothing, as I did
Place the duck (or chicken, etc.) breast side up on a cutting board, and we are off to the races!
STEP 1: REMOVING THE WINGS
Pull the wing away from the body to expose the shoulder joint. Using only the tip of your knife, you want to cut around the joint (in between the bones) to separate the wing. The reason you are using just the tip (lol!), is that it might take some trial and error and you want to avoid damaging the breast meat. The picture below shows the wing bone already cleared. Next, you just continue to cut, following the shape of the bone. Repeat on the other side.
I’m not sure how helpful this picture is… Do I get extra points for gore?
STEP 2: REMOVING THE LEGS
Pull one of the legs away from the body and cut through the belly skin to expose the muscle. For a duck, the skin will be quite thick from the fat (as pictured). For a chicken, the skin will be almost translucent. Again: use just the tip of your knife.
Firmly grasp the leg; your thumb should be at the top of the thigh, where your belly skin cut ended. Twist the leg away from the body until the joint pops out. Cut around the joint (following the spine) trying to keep as much of the thigh attached as possible. Repeat for the other leg.
STEP 3: REMOVING THE BACKBONE
Stand the duck on its head (as it were…) and cut through the ribs, separating the breast from the back. You will usually be able to tell where to cut because of the band of fat surrounding the breast (of course, I forgot to snap a pic of this). Do this on both sides of the breast. Next, firmly pull the backbone away from the breast. This should expose the remaining joints near the neck, allowing you to cut through them easily.
BOOM! A gorgeous whole duck breast!
And all the other delicious bits you butchered all by yourself!
Well done! I knew you could do it! You deserve a gin and tonic, don’t you think?
Yesterday my boss gifted me (and every other butcher at the shop) a gorgeous Mulard duck! It came with one condition: that we bring back recipes and reports on the product. He is considering stocking these lovely duckies regularly, so this is their big audition. Anything you say, boss!
I immediately got thinking about what I was going to do with it. But with every great idea, I was faced with the same dilemma: There is no way that Mr. Butcherette and I could eat a whole duck! We could, of course, host a dinner party, but that doesn’t change the fact that a duck is a large – and expensive – creature (mine weighed in at 2.7 k, or 6 lb). This is not a product that most small households would pick up on the regular.
Then it hit me: about a month ago, I brought home a rabbit. I braised the legs and shoulders, and deboned, stuffed and roasted the loin. We ate like kings. With this in mind, I decided to break down my duck and get the most out of every single bit. Wasteful is not a word in my vocabulary.
- Duck butchery
- Rendering duck fat
- ‘Trail Mix’ using gribenes (the crispy bits of skin and fat resulting from rendering)
- Duck fat gougères
- Curing and confiting duck legs
- Duck rillettes
- Warm duck confit salad with potatoes
- Peking duck with ultra-crispy skin
- Ramen with duck broth, meat, and pickled vegetables
It’s going to be a crazy fun ride!
Two new things, actually. I’ll be posting this recipe step by step as I laaaaazily make it for dinner. I’m also trying a new recipe, as part of a new commitment (three new things!) to make healthier food. See, my sweetheart recently decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle. And since I do most of the meal preparation around here, I have too. A little. I mean, on Friday night I ate foie gras and washed it down with Scotch, but I stand in COMPLETE support of my one and only.
The recipe is a bulgur stew with leek, mushrooms, peppers, and spinach. I’ll be serving the stew with homemade moose sausage. Technically, I made it at school, but it still counts. In my books. My teacher demoed moose butchering for our class a few weeks ago after he came back from a hunting trip. Then one day in class, I ground the scraps and turned them into sausage. Très facile. We’ll get into that one day.
I always stash stuff in my freezer if it’s about to go bad. And then I forget about it. And then there’s no room in the freezer. Which is happening right this second chez Butcherette. So I remembered, when I was taking inventory of the detritus, that I have about a pound of carrots in there. Praise be, because I’ll need 6-8 cups of stock for the recipe and I only have about ¾ of a container of beef stock (maybe 3.5 cups?).
So I stuck the frozen carrots in a medium saucepan. I added a quarter of red onion that was languishing in the fridge, and the leftover bits of spinach that we didn’t eat for dinner last night and covered it all with water. (Fortunately, a new shipment of spinach will be arriving on the Post Grad Seminar Express, just in time for dinner later).
Sorry the pic is so small, the large one is coming out grotesque…
I’ll let it simmer for 45 minutes or so, to trap all the goody-goody vitamins in the stock, and concentrate the flavour a little.
And since I’m laaaaazy, I’ll be taking my time making the rest.
I will post the recipe for this when I am done, as I do not really know exactly what’s going into this thing.
Chop 3 small leeks. If you’ve never cleaned leeks, you should slice them lengthwise, then rinse them. A lot of dirt gets trapped between the layers, due to the way the leeks grow. Once clean, quarter the leeks and slice around ½-inch wide.
Warm a large pot over medium-low heat. Add ½ tablespoon oil and leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly until softened, about 15 min. Get up off the sofa every 5 minutes or so to stir the leeks. It’s 7:00 pm – watch Jeopardy. Count your blessing for the callous on your left middle finger; without it you would have cut yourself instead of ridding yourself of an eyesore. (This may be a Choose Your Own Adventure).
Add 1 container of mushrooms, sliced and 2 diced red peppers. Drizzle ½ tablespoon oil over top and stir. Cook slowly for 15 minutes for. As before, get up off the sofa every 5 minutes or so to stir. If you think it’s getting a little dry, stir in a few tablespoons of water.
Add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 small minced jalapeño pepper. Stir 2 minutes. Add 2 cups chunky tomato sauce. Stir 1 minute.
Add 1 cup pearl barley, 4 cups stock (veg if you want to keep this vegetarian, otherwise chicken or beef are good too), 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence.
Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 min. Your One and Only will be home soon with the spinach. You will add more broth to finish cooking the barley later, as well as the spinach. Watch How I Met Your Mother. If you want to slow the cooking time further, so you can watch the whole episode, set the temperature to minimum. You will also cook the sausage later.
I have hereby decided that I am cooking Barley Risotto. Albeit a liquidy one. I had no clue what I was going to get from this recipe when I began cooking (and began changing it up) so It’s My Party and I’ll be Lesley Gore for Halloween if I want to.
After 20 min, the barley will not be fully cooked. Remove the lid and add broth ½ cup at a time, keeping at a simmer, until the barley is fully cooked and the consistency of the stew is to your liking. You should stir it every few minutes. This will take around 20-25 minutes more. If you find the stew too watery, raise the heat to reduce the liquid. Stir in 1 bag of torn spinach (remove the stems if you like – I like). Let the spinach wilt, 3 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, grill the sausages in a little oil over medium heat until casings are golden brown and sausages are cooked through, around 12 min.
Serve the sausages next to the barley risotto, or on the barley risotto, or sliced and stirred into the barley risotto.
My One and Only is slightly delayed. Sausages are grilling on low. Risotto is on low, covered, waiting to receive a whole lot of spinach. I’ll try to remember to snap a pic of the whole thing before we eat.
Now, it may seem like it took me 3 hours to prepare this meal. The truth is that this is a meal that I allowed to take 3 hours. Because I’m lazy. And I had some time on my hands. This can be done in about an hour. Later, when I post the whole recipe, I’ll show you how!
Taste test proves that this barley risotto may be a little spicy for some. Personally I like the heat, but this will be reflected in the final recipe. Apart from that, I think this is a really good quick, or super-drawn-out-lazy recipe. Go Butcherette!
Due to laziness and pot washing and other household and Butcherette-related tasks (coming soon! Cowboy Candy!) I’m posting only now. I’m not sure how soon I’ll be doing this again; it was pretty fun in a double-the-work-for-a-lazy-post kind of way.
This is the less lazy, more pot-watchy version, adapted from epicurious.com
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 small leeks, chopped
1 container mushrooms, sliced
2 red or yellow peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeño, diced (remove ribs if you want a less spicy sauce)
2 cups chunky tomato sauce2 cups chunky tomato sauce
1 cup pearl barley
4 to 8 cups stock (veg, chicken, beef)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or whatever all-purpose seasoning you have)
1 bag spinach, tough stems ripped out, leaves torn
6 sausages of any variety, optional
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, peppers, and garlic; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add tomato sauce, smoked paprika, and Herbes de Provence; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Cover and simmer until and barley is tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 20-25 minutes. Add spinach; stir until wilted, 1-2 minutes.
If desired, pan-fry 6 sausages over medium heat, around 12 minutes, turning occasionally.
I’m not much of a twitterer, but a friend just sent me this little bit o’ wisdom, courtesy of Steven Winterburn (@5tevenw):
“If you say Jesus backwards it sounds like sausage”
I don’t know this Steven fellow, but I like the cut of his jib and whatnot.
Which reminds me, my classmates made moose sausage today. From the moose my instructor hunted last weekend. Which we watched him butcher in class yesterday. Which I’ll tell you about later. Sorry, loves!
After 3 endless weeks of theory at butcher school, we are finally getting to the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, theory has it’s place. I can name all the bones in a beef forequarter! Challenge me next time we’re having cocktails! It’s just that now that I’ve got this hulking slab of beef in front of me, it’s become all too clear that cows are not the 2 dimensional beasts the drawings had led me to believe. As lost as I may be feeling, there is something unbelievably satisfying about this work. I love it, I love it, I love it!
This week we’re working on cuts from the front of beef. Here’s a chart so you can play along at home.
And this is what it looks like when it arrives at the butcher shop.
That’s not me. I’m far cuter. But I wear the same hot uniform. Also I wear safety boots. Unlike that clown. Anyway, you can see all the vertebrae and the ribs. The shank is hanging down on the right and the brisket is right next to it.
So first thing this week we got a delivery of about a million beef shanks. I’m bad at math so I’ll let you see for yourself:
I should mention that strictly speaking, we aren’t allowed to snap photos in class, so all of these were taken by a classmate who is far sneakier than I. This is really too bad because I can’t tell you how much I loved deboning the beef shanks and I wish I had more pics. It’s nowhere near as physical as I thought it would be and I just adore breaking through the membrane that fixes the muscle to the bone with my boning knife. It’s like saran wrap and as you poke at it with the tip of boning knife and pull away the muscle with your other hand it comes apart far easier than you think it might. It really is gorgeous. I’ll try to sneak you a pic. Which reminds me, I feel like I should name my boning knife. Any suggestions?
The best thing about deboning the shank, is that when you’re done you are left with a glorious bone, like 2 feet long. And then you cut it up. You can use the ends for making soup and the centre part for marrow bones. Sweet, glorious marrow! One of my favourite things in the whole entire world. The trouble is, you have to slice the bones on the band saw. The horror. For months now, I’ve had visions of severed fingers, limbs, you name it. And you know what? It’s not so bad! I most certainly will not be grabbing any of my choppables from behind the blade anytime soon, but there was no sweating, no shortness of breath, and no tears. And the second time I did it, it was that much easier. Go Butcherette!
How do I tag this? Obsession? Technique? Pop Culture? I’m going with all of the above!
Tomorrow Butcherette is starting a whole new chapter. I am going back to school to become a certified butcherette!
When I first thought about becoming a butcher, I phoned the only butcher I know personally – my ex’s grandfather, Norman. As you can imagine, it made for some awkward conversation. Still, Norman has been a butcher his whole life and has a wonderful reputation in the city. He knows meat better than anyone I know. So I dropped my bomb.
Now, you need to know that Norman is old-school. At first he sounded incredulous. A woman butcher! What a concept! A few minutes later, the teacher, excited to share his trade, crept out: Will they teach you about grading beef? What about aging? Will you be butchering whole carcasses? I told him that I didn’t have all the answers to his questions yet, but that I’ll be damned if I will walk out of that school without learning everything there is to learn about beef, veal, pork, lamb, poultry, and game meats; not to mention charcuterie.
Now I had his attention! And do you know what he said to me? He said, “do you know what they’ll call you?” I steadied myself. What was coming next? “A cute butcherette!” I registered this domain name a few days later. Thanks, Norman!
I had originally conceived of butcherette.com as a place to demystify butchering which seems, even to me, a difficult skill! But with three months until school started, I just knew that I could do other things in this space. I know first-hand that there are so many people out there who see cooking as magic meets luck. (I won’t name the friend who I coached by phone, step by step, through making Rice Krispie Squares). I will continue to post recipes that are completely doable – easy peasy – as I like to say!
Which reminds me, easy peasy is not an expression familiar to most in North America. I picked it up thanks to my favorite British soap, but per urban dictionary:
It comes from a 1970′s british TV commercial for Lemon Squeezy detergent. They were with a little girl who points out dirty greasy dishes to an adult (mom or relative) and then this adult produces Lemon Squeezy and they clean the dishes quickly. At the end of the commercial the girl says “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy”.
Today it is a silly way to state something was or will be very easy.
There you have it! You may also want to check out: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=butcherette
What’s a Butcherette to do when vegetarians are coming to dinner? Easy peasy! She figures out how to make those veggies as big and bold as possible. There are so many techniques to make your food more flavourful and this recipe take advantage of many of them: These vegetables are first grilled, then dipped in balsamic vinegar, and finally marinated in the vinegar as well as a spicy gremolata. And to make things even easier, these vegetables are served at room temperature. So while they marinate, you have plenty of time to grill yourself a juicy steak.
Gremolata is an Italian condiment of parsley, garlic, and lemon. It is amazing with all kinds of meat, poultry, or seafood. And vegetables. Obviously. This one has been spiced up with red pepper flakes and oregano. I also added oil, since the vegetables are grilled dry. So maybe it’s not really a gremolata. But it’s delicious, so that’s okay.
Use any vegetables you like to grill for this. I like eggplant (especially baby eggplant – so cute! I prefer the texture, but that may or may not be the cuteness possessing my brain), zucchini, red peppers, and portobello mushrooms. Pick your poison. Mix it up. Don’t be shy.
In case you’re unsure how to prepare your veg for grilling, it generally goes like this:
Eggplant – slice horizontally into ½- to ¾-inch slices
Zucchini – slice lengthwise into ½- to ¾-inch slices
Red Peppers – halve, core, and slice each half into 2 or 3 slices, depending on size
Portobello Mushrooms – slice into ½- to ¾-inch slices
My grilling days are numbered here in the north. Hopefully I can get these vegetables out a few more times before the produce turns to shit. Fingers crossed.
Grilled and Marinated Vegetables
Serves 8 as a side dish or appetizer (less if there are vegetarians in the midst. Butcherette is just like Sigourney Weaver)
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 medium garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
1 ½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh herbs (use whatever you have: oregano, basil, thyme, you get the idea)
¾ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil
about 2 pounds of vegetables, prepared for grilling
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Finely chop the parsley, garlic, and fresh herbs, if using, and put in a medium bowl. Add the dried herbs, if using, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the oil, season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
Pour the vinegar into a shallow bowl. I use a pie plate. Set a platter next to the vinegar bowl and spread a thin layer of the parsley mixture over it.
Preheat an outdoor charcoal or gas grill or a grill pan until smoking hot.
Put enough vegetable slices on the grill to cover it without crowding. Cook the veg until well marked, 3 to 6 minutes, then turn the slices over. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes more. Remove the veg from the grill.
While still hot, dip each veg slice into the vinegar and arrange in a single layer on the platter. Spoon a thin layer of the parsley mixture over the vegetables and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon.
Continue grilling the vegetables, then dipping and spreading with the parsley mixture until all the slices are cooked and seasoned.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour (or refrigerate for longer). Serve at room temperature.
The food I cook is often influenced by food I eat in restaurants. I go through phases where I want to learn to cook one type of food or another – up to and until something else takes over. It is obsession. It is how I learned to cook. It is what made me a cook.
A few weeks ago we brunched at Murray Street in Ottawa, where I ordered their Benedict. What I got was 2 pieces of spicy, dense cornbread, each with different toppings. One was topped with a perfectly poached egg and a tangy cheese sauce. The other with a thick slice of their house-made Canadian bacon. Each of the impeccable ingredients elevated the dish to a level I never thought a Benedict could reach. The bacon was fatty and crisp. I scraped all traces of the cheese sauce from the plate. But the cornbread moved me. I had to have it again.
Trust me when I say that cornbread is forgiving! I cobbled this recipe together from several recipes so it would include all the elements on my hit list. I remembered that the Murray Street version had caramelized onions or shallots on the bottom. I’m a sucker for anything caramelized, so it was an automatic in. As was the heat from their version. I opted for chipotle peppers. Likewise, I simply had to have a other add-ins: sharp cheddar cheese (a nod to the sublime cheese sauce) and whole kernels of corn. I like using coarse cornmeal, which provides texture. You will often find it packaged as polenta – a story for another day.
The title is actually a bit of a fib; my fully loaded ideal would include bacon (drippings or bits). I was cooking for friends, including a vegetarian, the day I made this so there is no meat here. It can easily be added, in any guise, if you are missing it.
This isn’t the cornbread I started out making. This one is more cakey, though still moist, but it is comfort food at its finest. I’m going to keep trying for the Murray Street ratio. Still, for a Northern girl, I think I done good…
Fully Loaded Cornbread
4 shallots, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 ½ tbsp sugar or honey
2 ½ tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
½ to ¾ cup milk
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups corn kernels
1 ½ cups sharp cheddar, shredded, divided
3 tbsp canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
Heat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan or spray with nonstick spray.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, covered, until shallots are deep brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Spread shallots over the bottom of the baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar or honey, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, ½ cup milk, and butter. Stir in the corn kernels, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and chipotle peppers. Combine the two mixtures, stirring just until well moistened. If the mixture seems a little dry, add up to ¼ cup more milk. Spread in the prepared baking pan and top with reserved ½ cup cheddar cheese.
Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.
Did you miss me? Never fear, Butcherette is back from the summer-of-weddings induced hiatus.
There’s nothing I don’t love about the summertime. The sun is hot and the Quebec produce hits the market like a tidal wave! As soon as I saw the first baby cucumbers, all I could think was: pickles! My girlfriend Diane matures them by the barrel, but I don’t have her patience. If I want it, I want it NOW!
The Momofuku cookbook has a master recipe for pickles of all kinds. Like any carnivorous foodie, Momofuku has a special place in my heart. Peter Meehan earned his cohort Chang a check plus plus in my heart when he inscribed my book at the signing:
The only thing that would have made it better is if he drew a lamb chop instead of a heart. But I digress.
Oddly enough, their variations – from melon to turnips – do not include cucumber. They must be too cool for the obvious, but we aren’t, right? We are never intimidated and we adapt easily. We agree that cooking is something that we must do to satisfy basic needs, but it need not be boring. We can have fun and make every recipe our own. We are butcherettes!
I first experimented with this as the first adorable little baby cukes came out a month ago or so. The pickles were insanely cute and we ate them quickly. Cute food should always be eaten quickly. I remade them here, using the same pickling liquid, which I brightened up by adding extra hot pepper flakes – I figured they’d already given much of their love to the first batch. I wish I could tell you how many cucumbers you’ll need. I first used baby cucumbers; I needed about 6. This time, the cucumbers were bigger, but not fully grown; I used about 4. So, if you use hot house cucumbers you’ll need 2? Maybe? Hopefully you have a loved one who loves to snack as much as my bf does!
As with most of my recipes, this can be tweaked one way or another to suit your taste, or what you have in the pantry. Momokuku’s recipe calls for rice wine vinegar, but I had none in the house so I used red wine vingegar. I also wanted my pickles to have more of a spicy Asian feel so I changed it up some more. Likewise, you can pickle many other vegetables or fruits in this brine. In the end, these are not Momofuku’s pickles. And guess what? They are amazing!
Quick Vinegar Pickles
¼ cup piping hot tap water
½ cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 ½ tsp soy sauce
¾ tsp red pepper flakes
Cucumber, sliced thin
Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes in a mason jar or bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. I use a 500 mL (1 pint) mason jar, which I cover and shake.
Pack the sliced cucumber into the mason jar, or add to the bowl, and shake/stir. Cover and refrigerate.
You can eat these within 30 minutes, but I like them after they’ve sat at least an hour. These pickles will keep for several weeks. Keep in mind that the flavours intensify as time goes by. If you want to keep them that long, you will want to tone down the strong flavours a bit (vinegar, soy, red pepper) and add more water.