Put A Bird On It

I just got back from a few days in Vermont, where I did some noteworthy cooking. There’s a soup I want to talk about, but first this duck.

On the small side, it provided just the right amount of food for the three of us with one breast left over for lunch the next day and of course the carcass made a sublime stock (which I’ll get to when I write about the soup). I used a technique I have had much success with: briefly poaching the duck beforehand to render fat and infuse flavor, then finishing on the fire.

I poached it in a big pot of water with copious fish sauce and vinegar plus half an onion, charred hard on the waiting fire, a cinnamon stick, a couple of bay leaves, a bisected head of garlic, and a handful of peppercorns. After about 15 minutes at a bare simmer, which tightens up the skin and relieves it of much fat, I moved it outside to the fire, turning it every few minutes or so to replicate the effect of the rotisserie which I do not own, brushing it with a plum glaze all the while.

The plums, courtesy of the same farmer who sold me the duck, are these gorgeous little garnet-colored orbs only a hair bigger than cherries. Tart, sweet, and suggesting a world of possibilities, I cooked a bunch down with soy and fish sauces, vinegar, maple syrup, cayenne, and black pepper, and kept it handy and warm in a little skillet off to the side. There’s a head of garlic in that twist of foil, too. I forgot about it, but not to worry; it got included in the soup.

Once thoroughly embrowned by the applewood fire (wood courtesy of the apple tree about 25 feet from this funky little fireplace that my grandfather built into the stone wall a long time ago) I took the bird off and let it rest a bit while I heated up some mashed sweet potatoes from the night before and brushed some of the chunky, funky glaze on plates. It’s been perfectly warm during the daytime, and blessedly cool at night, making this sort of food not only possible but pretty essential. I love summer for the garden, but I do not love the muggy heat. There are only so many lettuce rolls a person can tolerate before the urge to do some real cooking becomes overwhelming.

PS I fucking hate that show so don’t talk to me about it.

4 comments to Put A Bird On It

  • Carla B.

    Aaargh! This post has me thinking again about my own fireplace-in-a-wall project, which is so far down the to-do list I can hardly see it from here.

  • Peter

    Just think how happy your grandchildren will be when you finally do it.

  • The colors of that plate of food are beautiful.

  • Burleigh M.

    You think YOU hate “that show”?! Try living in the Bible Belt with a big handsome beard such as mine and THEN tell me how much you hate that show. Haha, the food looks great, I’m enjoying reading your blog.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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