Someone with a sense of humor in the twitter-verse challenged us to get a handle on duck gizzards by issuing the following statement: I don’t get Gesiers du Canard, I don’t understand why, as anything else is in my mental menu.
Well random twitter follower, let me get this straight: Nothing else escapes your mental menu except duck gizzards? Really? Beef tongue, you’ve got that down cold? Goat’s head soup? Fried plantains? Porchetta? Got all that covered except duck gizzards, huh?
I’m only biting back at our responder because this was a serious challenge and I’m a smidge bitter. The odd duck breast and duck leg confit have passed through my kitchen but I wouldn’t know a gizzard if someone hit me in the head with it. Allegedly they are used in a secondary stomach of the ducks to grind food using stones that they have also swallowed. Yum. Luckily one of the many charms of my native Long Island is that it is home to one of the largest duck farms on the eastern seaboard, Crescent Farms in Aquebogue. Thanks to the fine folks there I was able to procure two pounds after one of the more interesting phone calls I’ve ever made to a purveyor:
“You want what?”
“Well, a few pounds of duck gizzards. I realize you’re a wholesaler but….”
“Nah, no big deal. We fabricate on Monday so just come down that afternoon sometime and I’ll have them ready.”
“Ok great, my name is…”
“Aw don’t worry about that. Just go to the office and tell them you’re the crazy person who wants gizzards.”
Sure enough, the fine staff at Crescent Farms was waiting for me, crazy gizzard person, with a fresh batch. Two lessons learned: always trust a local farmer to come through, and if you’re a duck the last word you ever want to hear is “fabricate.”
Now, technically this was supposed to be a challenge for duck gizzard confit, which is the translation of gesiers de canard. However, while the charms of confit duck are myriad and well worth the effort, the process also requires a literal vat of duck fat. While I was trying to figure out exactly what a gizzard was, I came across numerous recipes for gizzard Chinese style that held far more appeal. We’ll get to the confit someday but every now and then you have to call an audible, especially when you can’t find readily available vats of duck fat.
Besides, the Eastern ingredients common to many of the recipes I researched and amalgamated into my own are readily available and if you’ve gone to the trouble to track down the gizzards ease of preparation matters.
Ultimately I turned to a recent meal at Fatty Crab, in St. John, for inspiration. Common threads ran through many of the dishes during that wonderful meal: pickled vegetables of all kinds, ubiquitous crushed peanuts and cilantro and just the right level of spiciness. Taking those lessons and applying them to the gizzards served them well, a light meal for a difficult challenge.
Duck Gizzard Lettuce Wraps
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. duck gizzards, cleaned and sliced 1/8 inch thin
1 head of Boston bibb lettuce, cleaned and separated into individual leafs
1 cup crushed peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup pickled white onions
1/8 cup of canola oil
Clean the gizzards by removing the fatty membrane around the meat. Slice crosswise into 1/8 inch pieces and place in a Ziploc bag. Add the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper, shake the bag to distribute the ingredients, place in the fridge and marinate for 1-2 hours. While the gizzards are marinating, wash and separate the lettuce into individual leaves, crush the peanuts (I used the bottom of my wok on the cutting board) and chop the cilantro. Once the gizzards are done marinating, heat the canola oil in a large wok over medium high heat. Remove the gizzards from the marinade and add them to the wok. Cook until the meat has browned, about 4-7 minutes. Place the peanuts, cilantro, pickled onions, and cooked gizzards into individual bowls. Add liberal amounts of each to each lettuce leaf, wrap and serve.