I recently spent two glorious barbecue-filled weeks in Austin, Texas. I happily cooked for 1200 hungry folks for first Austin Food and Wine Festival, and I grilled the day away with my friend Roger Mooking for a Cooking Channel grilling special for the fourth of July.
Much of my cooking time was spent at Kreuz market in Lockhart, a town famous for barbecue about 40 minutes outside of Austin. The Schmidt family owns Kreuz and I am lucky that they treat me like one of their own. Needless to say, Kreuz is my favorite barbecue joint in Texas and I have spent a lot of time there over the years. Keith Schmidt took over the running of the 100+ year-old barbecue market about a year ago from his father, Rick. But Rick still comes to the market everyday to eat the barbecue and chew the fat with the townspeople. And the day I was there, they chewed on a different kind of fat—duck!
Keith and I have a tradition of smoking duck on the brick pits of the Kreuz. So we planned to smoke [and snack on] ducks as we waited for the 50 briskets that I needed for my Austin Food & Wine Festival event to smoke to tender perfection—after all, a pit-mistress has to keep up her strength!
In honor of our tradition, I also planned to grill duck for Keith’s family and other Texas friends at a cookout that was filmed by the Cooking Channel [airing July1]. And, I had an idea to try something new that would make the ducks cook faster with less tending, and deliver a crispier skin. I decided to up the “flavor” ante and celebrate the summer with my Spicy Watermelon Glaze.
I frequently butterfly a chicken and slather it with the watermelon glaze, and I wanted to see if I could apply the same technique to duck. I had never seen anyone butterfly a duck and I had never done it myself.
Using poultry scissors, I removed the backbone and flattened the duck like a book, twisting the wings behind the breast—this is called “wings a kimbo” and makes the duck lay flat. I coated the duck with a thin layer of olive oil and sprinkled both sides with a classic Texas barbecue rub of salt, butcher-grind black pepper and enough cayenne to turn the rub a light pink color. I put the duck on the pit and patiently waited 2 ½ hours to see what would happen. At 2 ½ hours, the butterflied duck was beautifully caramelized, and almost done—ready to be slathered with the spicy watermelon glaze. A few juicy passes with my mop and another ten minutes in the pit, and the glaze set. I took the duck out, and let it rest for about 10 minutes to make sure it would be juicy. I then, served the duck.
Keith and I took a tentative first bite, and then with big smiles on our faces, we eagerly dug in and offered duck to everyone around us.
It was, no doubt, the best duck that any of us had ever made or tasted. It amazes me that a small change in the technique [butterflying the duck] could make that much difference, and I wonder why I never thought of doing it before. It also makes grilling duck so much more accessible for everyone. This preparation makes duck as easy to cook as chicken and a simple way to change up summer cookouts and deliver a big flavor bonus. Talk about impressing your friends and family!
Now, I'll never cook duck another way. It cooks much faster, it cooks evenly and renders the fat from the skin leaving crispy duck skin and moist succulent meat. This summer, duck is the new chicken!!