You’ll remember (possibly) that on Day One of our saga we went to the Sarlat market and bought the necessary ingredients for my wife Jan’s duck soup. Today, Mr. Duck goes to the chopping block.
The starting point for a large pot of duck soup is having the right mix of meat and bones — two carcasses and a cuisse, or a whole duck leg including the thigh. To get the carcasses to fit into a pot (remember that ducks are relatively long), Jan first splits each of them in two, and then chops them up a bit more. To split the carcasses, she simply grabs hold and pulls. Here’s how it all begins:
With a bit of pulling, the two halves of the duck carcasse separate. Like this:
Now it’s time for some cleaning. Although the carcass has been stripped of most of the duck meat, there are a few things inside the carcass that we can do without — bits of various organs, for instance. So Jan moves in with her paring knife and scrapes away at the inside of the carcass, like this:
Finally, while still on the chopping block (okay, cutting board), she hacks through the carcasses to break them into more manageable chunks for the soup pot. It’s like this:
Then it’s simply a matter of putting all the bones, plus the duck leg, into a soup pot and adding enough water to barely cover everything. At this point, there’s no seasoning, no vegetables; she is just making a meaty-tasting stock. So Jan puts the pot lid on, brings the water to the boil, slides the pot lid slightly to one side, and then simmers the whole mix for about an hour and a half. Here’s how it looks when it’s getting started:
When all that cooking is done, Jan takes the pot off the heat and lets the stock cool. It now looks like this:
Once the stock has cooled down, Jan removes all the bones and picks them clean of their meat (there is a surprising amount left on the carcasses), and also takes the meat off the duck leg that she’s cooked along with the bones. Then the lid goes on the pot, and the pot goes off to the refrigerator to chill overnight. That allows the fat to rise to the top, so Jan can remove it easily and start the final preparations for the soup.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That part of the saga comes on Day Three.