I sometimes have the privilege of trimming duck breast at work. As fun as that is, I don’t get to eat it, and that’s terribly frustrating because duck is a fine, delicious meat. I can’t bring duck home, but I can bring home crispins and duck fat. There’s always lots of fat left over from trimming the breast, and rendering it is easy. (Sorry there’s no photo. My coworkers ate it all.) You can do the same thing with any kind of poultry skin, and it’s just like frying bacon:
Preheat a non-stick pan on medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the fat/skin.
Turn the heat down to low and stir occasionally. Turn the pieces a couple of times so they brown evenly. It could take up to half an hour. Keep the heat low, or the fat will smoke and burn. When it’s done, you’ll have delicious, crispy bites (“crispins”) and a couple of tablespoons of fat with which you can, perhaps, roast potatoes:
Aw, god. This was good. Not as good as roasted duck, but a serious upgrade from plain roasted potatoes. To get them crispy,cut them in good-sized wedges, and leave the skin on. You don’t want them too small. Boil them in salted water for a few minutes until they’re almost done. Drain really well. Then toss them in the duck fat, sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs (I used rosemary), and roast in a single layer at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until they’re nice and crispy. I like mine with dijonnaise (2 parts mayo, 1 part dijon), or as we call it in my house, mustardayonnaise. This photo represents a reasonable, American Dietetic Association-approved serving size. I would need a panoramic camera to capture all the fries I actually ate that night.
Another perk of my job is working with a guy who shares the venison he processes himself. Environmentally speaking, deer is probably the best meat you can eat. With few natural predators and a taste for home-grown vegetables, deer are major pests around these parts. It’s really a meat-eater’s duty to thin them out.
The meat is very lean, so it can be tough if it’s not slow-cooked. That’s why Johnny the Deerslayer processes his into stew meat and ground chuck. The chuck, I discovered, is perfect for meatloaf and not the least bit greasy.
Meatloaf’s a great way to stretch a meal, and you don’t need a recipe, just some ratio guidelines. What you do need is a meat thermometer. I don’t care how good of a cook you are, there’s no way you can eyeball a meatloaf and know it’s 155 degrees internally. With wild game especially you can’t fool around. Here is a basic recipe for a four-serving meatloaf made in a 6-inch loaf pan. You can easily increase this recipe for larger loaves, or to make layers for a meat cake. (You’ll need to double the recipe for each 9″ layer.)
1 pound of ground meat
1/2 c. onion (I recommend sauteeing them first, but that’s optional)
1/2 c. crumbs (bread crumbs, panko, crushed crackers, or ground rice-based cereal for gluten-free)
2 Tb. spices (any combination you like; good ones are parsley, sage, thyme, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, etc.
1/2 c. grated cheese (optional)
2 Tb. milk or yogurt.
From here you can add just about anything you want. If you don’t quite have a full pound of meat, throw in some vegetables like diced carrots, peas, cooked potato or sweet potato, or sauteed mushrooms. Garlic, worcestershire, soy sauce, canned chipotle, and diced peppers are good seasoning options, depending on your flavor theme.
Mix everything well, using your hands. Pack it tightly into the loaf pan. Then invert the loaf pan onto a sheet pan to dump it out. (Baking it without a pan will keep it from being too greasy. It’s also easier to check it’s temperature properly. If you’re making a meat cake, do bake it in a pan.) Brush with ketchup, if you’re feeling old school.
Bake for at least 40 minutes, or until the thermometer reads between 155-165 degrees. To check the temperature accurately, insert the thermometer into the long side of the loaf, just above the horizontal center, until the tip is in the middle.