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This sausage was a long time in the making. After watching this video by Mike Pardus on Bob DelGrosso’s A Hunger Artist in March, I tackled a pair of ducks turning them into confit, proscuitto, duck stock, pate, smoked wings, and duck fat. It has taken nearly since then to find a critical piece of this dish from a well raised local duck.  Thanks to the hard work of Cassie at Green Grocer Chicago, I got what I needed. Duck neck skin.

I had ordered a Gunthorp duck in August from Cassie with the request of keeping the neck skin on the duck to see if I could use the neck skin as a more delicious version of sausage casing. With modern meat inspection, it is difficult to obtain a duck with the head 0r neck skin on. I had no idea this was the case, but months later when Cassie let me know that they had the neck skin, I was ecstatic.

This awesome duck dwarfed the two others that I had picked up from a grocer on Argyle earlier this year. Immediately after trying to locate the duck’s hip socket and running into inches of fat, I knew that the territory was unchartered by me.

After taking the duck apart into legs, breasts, wings, carcass, skin, and offal, I boned out the leg quarters and salted them along with some duck skin and pork back fat and let cure for a day. Then I ground the mixture and added a splash of wine, the leaves from 8 sprigs of thyme and 1 teaspoon of roasted garlic. I tested a small bit of the sausage mixture for seasoning by poaching it, wrapped in plastic, until it was cooked through.

Next, in concept, instead of stuffing the sausage into casings, I would have tied the shoulder end of the neck skin with butcher’s twine and piped the sausage into the skin, tying off the other end. However, due to inspection reasons, the neck skin was not left whole, but rather sliced from beak to breast.

This would not deter me, and actually proved to make the stuffing process much easier. The question remained as if the sausage would stay together. Since I had an extra neck’s worth of skin, I made two sausages – one where the seam was sealed with a bamboo skewer and another without — just to see how the sausage “casing” would stay together in the cooking process. To answer that question, the bamboo fastener did not hurt, but it was not needed.

To cook the sausages, I wanted to cook them as gently as possible while maximizing the possibility of crisping the casing. I first confited them at low temperature in the rendered duck fat in a vacuum bag. Then I crisped the skin in the oven.

These sausages were a hit. The texture was like a combination the smoothness of a slow poached sausage combined with the crispy skin of confit. The flavors were similar to duck confit — rich with tastes of garlic and thyme. Truthfully, it was bordering on too rich. After trying the first slice, I tried it with a little mustard and then with sriracha. The sriracha was a huge winner, but the mustard was almost equally as good. With either heat or acidity, the sausage takes off.

When comparing making this sausage versus making another other encased meat, this is easier (while finding the neck skin was damned near impossible). Working with casings and a sausage stuffer is a pain in the neck. The reason for trying this was that every duck has a neck and, most of the time, it gets tossed. With people left and right talking about how good poultry skin is, why not use it to enhance your dish. Additionally, given the cost of a great duck, why not utilize as much as possible.

My goal was, for this duck, to use everything. Literally everything, so keep your eyes out for future posts regarding the rest of the duck.

Duck Neck Sausage

  • 2 duck legs boned (about a pound)
  • 3 ounces pork back fat
  • 3 ounces duck skin
  • Leaves from 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon roasted garlic
  • Splash of red wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Step one: Season legs, skin and fat with salt and pepper. Let sit for 24 hours.

Step two: Grind legs, skin and fat in a meat grinder on the coarsest setting into a bowl sitting in a larger bowl filled with ice. Add garlic, thyme, and wine and mix with paddle attachment in your stand mixer until the mixture is tacky.  Test seasoning by putting a small amount in plastic wrap and poaching in water. Adjust seasoning. Form into sausage sized logs and refrigerate for an hour (this recipe makes 3 neck sized sausages, save the rest for meatballs or stuff it into actual casing).

Step three: Either stuff the neck or place the sausage log in the middle of the neck. Roll the skin “casing” tightly and tie one end securely. Pack the forcemeat to the tied end and tie the other end tightly.

Step four: Confit the sausage(s) in duck fat with 1 clove of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme. I used a vacuum bag in a water bath overnight at 190 degrees. You can simply confit the sausages in duck fat overnight in an oven at 190 degrees. You will need about 30x more duck fat if you omit the vacuum bags.

Step 5: Crisp the sausages in a 350 degree oven. When crisp, let rest for 10 minutes and slice to serve. Do not serve anything outside of the twine.