Duck and Wild Rice Pemmican
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Inspired by the ancient practice of drying meat for preservation, this duck appetizer is rich, satisfying and surprisingly easy. While it takes a little time and patience for the duck to dry in either a dehydrator or a very low oven, the recipe comes together in a snap. Serve as finger food or on a bed of greens for a starter or light meal. Maple sugar can be found in the baking section of most food co-ops and grocery stores, and sometimes in the bulk section. If it’s not available, substitute light brown sugar. Hand-harvested wild rice is preferred to get the “popping” result. The darker paddy rice will take more time to pop and is less consistent. From Sean Sherman.
• 2 duck breasts, skin on
• 4 tbsp. maple sugar (see Note)
• 1 tbsp. salt
• 1/3 c. uncooked wild rice (see Note)
• 1/2 c. dried blueberries
Carefully remove all the skin and fat from the duck breasts, cutting close to, but avoiding, the meat. Cut the fat and skin into 1-inch chunks.
Place skin, with its fat, into a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Set the pan over low heat and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until skin has crisped and released its fat to liquid oil, about 45 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove crisped skin (cracklings) and drain in a bowl lined with paper toweling. Allow liquid fat to cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a bowl or clean glass jar, and reserve.
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and salt.
Slice the duck breast into thin, long strips along the grain. Rub both sides of the duck breast strips with the salt/sugar mix. If you have a food dehydrator, follow the instructions for making jerky; or to dry the duck in the oven, preheat the oven to the lowest setting (130 to 150 degrees). Lay the strips on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and put this in the oven. Leave the meat until it is dried out but still pliable, about 6 to 8 hours.
In a medium skillet, heat the reserved duck fat oil over low and add the wild rice. Shake the pan until the rice begins to “pop” and “puff.” Spread the rice out on a paper towel. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the puffed rice for garnish.
Place the crisp duck fat (cracklings), dried duck, puffed wild rice (except for the reserved amount), dried blueberries and any leftover duck oil into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse to chop fine. Put the mixture in a bowl and, using 2 tablespoons or 1/8 cup, form the mixture into small bites. Serve garnished with the puffed wild rice.