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Leftover duck? Cook it low, cook it slow

This article originally appeared in a March 19, 2015 edition of the Bayside Gazette.
A penny saved is a penny earned. Waste not, want not.
And waste in most kitchens, professional or residential, tends to be high. It’s a high byproduct industry. Even at home, if we make a nice sauce or relish for a special meal, we often rediscover it a few weeks later, reminiscent of your child’s science fair project on molds and fungi.
I had some frozen ducks in my freezer, so I figured I would go in a different direction than I normally do with them. I decided to barbecue them. Excited about the prospect of these little beauties, I rubbed them with a top-secret barbecue rub and let them set overnight, similar to what I would do with pork butt or brisket.
If you are using a farm-raised duckling, which I did here, you won’t need much, since there is much more meat on a domesticated duck than a wild one. There is a stark difference in the quantity of meat on a domesticated bird.
The next day, it was time to make the barbecue, meaning that I slow-cooked the meat on indirect heat on the grill for about three or four hours, until it shredded beautifully and easily. The key to this is to go low and slow.
Like any other guy, I like a hot grill and flames up to the sky, but that serves no purpose here. The goal is to release the fat from the skin slowly and slow roast the meat so that you are left with a smooth flavor and a tender and delicious product.
In the past, I have made pork, rabbit, beef, lamb, and duck barbecue. They are all suitable meats to use and all lend their own character to the finished dish. Once you’ve tried them, you can pick and choose according to taste and event.
As for the sauce I used on these, I wanted to go with a Carolina style base with some traditional duck accoutrements, so orange and cranberry were the saving graces. Making the sauce with some Champagne vinegar and sugar to start, you end with a sweet-tart cacophony of tastes.
Once the duck is cooked and cooled enough to handle, carefully pick every ounce of meat from the bones. You don’t want to waste any of this. The biggest downside to this dish is that you won’t be able to make a stock from the carcass, since the smoke will more than likely overpower it. That truly makes me sad because roasted duck stock can be magnificent.
But once you are done with the barbecue, you’ll understand why it was worth the effort. The sweet and savory perfection that finds its way on the buns will make you realize that you won’t waste much at all. And served with sweet potato fries, you will be happy that you tried it out of duck and not our old standby pork.
BBQ Duck
makes 1 quart
3 wild ducks or 1 domesticated duck
1/4 cup Your choice of barbecue blends or blackening

1. Cut the duck into smaller pieces, skin on and ensuring that all organs have been removed. Rinse well.
2. Rub well with the spice blend and set in the refrigerator overnight or for at least six hours.
3. When ready to grill, heat the grill, leaving one side unlit (or having charcoal on one side only). Put a drip pan under the duck to catch juices and fat drippings.
4. When the grill has a temperature of around 190, place the duck on the cooler side over the drip pan, allowing it to cook low and slow without the fats igniting the grill in an inferno.
5. When the duck is cooked to the point that it is shredding, remove and allow to cool.
6. Let it rest until cool enough to handle.
7. Pick the meat cleanly off of the birds. It will shred right off of the bone.
8.  Discard all bones, cartilage, etc.
9. Toss the meat with some of the fat and juices to retain flavor.
10. Serve the barbecue duck on Hawaiian sweet rolls, brioche, or some other sweet bread with your vinegar-based BBQ sauce. Serve with sweet potato fries.
Orange Cranberry Relish
1 cup Good Champagne vinegar
1 pound cranberries
Juice of 2 oranges with zest
Water, as needed
Sugar, to taste

1. Combine vinegar, berries, juice, zest and water in a saucepan and cook until the berries are softened.
2. Sweeten as desired and cook to ensure the sweetener is well incorporated and the flavors have married well.
Sweet Potato Fries
1  Sweet Potato
Peanut oil for frying
Salt, Cinnamon, & sugar blend

1. Cut the sweet potato into thin, long fries.
2. Heat your fryer to 350F and half-cook the fries.
3. Drain the fries on paper towels and set aside until ready to serve.
4. At the last moment, drop the fries in the fryer and cook until golden brown.
5. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and sugar to taste immediately.