For tonight's Memento supper club, we're going to be making duck sausage. I bought a full duck from Uwajimaya (along with some pork back fat and hog casings), and needed to break it down before I grind it up & make the sausage using our fancy new Kitchenaid food grinder and sausage stuffer attachments. So I did what any self-respecting foodie would do when they have a full duck in front of them and some time to kill: I pulled out Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, turned to page 570, and followed the steps to bone a duck - a process that removes the main carcass from the bird without damaging the meat or the skin, allowing you to stuff the bird with pate, roast it whole, and cut it into perfect slices. It was made famous in the book and film "Julie & Julia", as it was the last recipe in the book that Julie prepared.
I'm happy to say I did it fairly quickly, and without a single puncture to the skin. The process is simpler than it would seem, and just requires careful attention. My zoology degree may have also come in handy, given my experience with dissections and knowledge of anatomy.
How to Bone a Duck, Turkey, or Chicken
To begin with, cut a deep slit down the back of the bird from the neck to the tail, to expose the backbone.
With a small, sharp knife, its edge always cutting against the bone, scrape and cut the flesh away from the carcass bones down one side of the bird, pulling the flesh away from the carcass with your fingers as you cut.
When you come to the ball joints connecting the wings and the second joints to the carcass, sever them, and continue down the carcass until you reach just the ridge of the breast where the skin and bone meet. Then stop.
Repeat the same operation on the other side of the bird.
By the time you have completed half of this, the carcass frame, dangling legs, wings and skin will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and you will wonder how in the world any sense can be made of it all. But just continue cutting against the bone, and not slitting any skin, and all will come out as it should.
When you finally arrive at the ridge of the breastbone on the opposite side, stop again.
Then lift the carcass frame and cut very closely against the ridge of the breastbone to free the carcass, but not to slit the thin skin covering the breastbone. Chop off the wings at the elbows, to leave just the upper wing bones attached.
After that, I actually removed the skin and broke the bird down into parts, chopped up for the sausage making to come. But I'm excited to have this skill in my culinary tool box, so to speak, and think it would be a wonderful way to prepare a thanksgiving turkey some year.
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