Ask Peter: Duck-neck sausages
I don’t have a sausage machine, but saw on MasterChef a few weeks ago one of the contestants had made a duck “sausage’’ using the skin, I think, wrapped around it. Naturally they didn’t show how he did that, nor what the rest of the ingredients would be. What do you think would go into making a duck sausage? Could I do something similar with chicken?
Ah, the old duck-neck sausage trick. I can remember making them the first time during my apprenticeship and was thrilled to discover that you could make a sausage using something other than the usual sausage casing. Casings are sourced either from sheep or pig intestines, although the fast-food market ones are mostly produced using collagen which can come from beef or pig (hides and bones) but also from fish and poultry — anything that contains collagen. Cellulose is also used and this comes from plant matter (handy for vegetarian sausage eaters). It’s worth looking into what your next casing is made from because if you’re Hindu you won’t want to be eating a chicken sausage that comes in a casing made of beef!
I hadn’t realised that sheep casings existed until I asked a Moroccan colleague how they could justify eating merguez sausages, which I knew Muslims could eat because they’re pork-free, made from highly spiced mutton or beef. I assumed the casings were pork, as that’s what I’d been taught, but she said it they were from sheep which of course makes total sense as all mammals have intestines. Duh!
Both ducks and geese have suitable “sausage necks’’ with good toughish skin. Goose necks are much longer and fatter than ducks and I assume a turkey neck may also work quite well (and an ostrich even better — great for a barbecue dinner for several hundred) but I’ve not used them. And imagine what a moa sausage might have looked like! To prepare the neck, remove the head and the body, then carefully remove the bones and flesh from the neck without tearing the skin itself as this is what holds all the filling in place. The easiest way (although it is fiddly) is to peel the skin back on itself in the same way you peel a banana, but keep the skin whole.
Use a thin sharp knife to cut the connective tissue from the skin and gently peel. Once you have one third of it off it will be easier to pull back. Don’t discard the inside of the neck as it’s full of flavour and is great added to stock. In fact if you’re ever making stock, even if you don’t need the skin, chop several necks into 2cm lengths and add them to the pot for some good deep flavour.
Once you’ve removed the skin it’s simply a matter of stuffing it with a filling then tying both ends with string and gently poaching it for 15 minutes to firm the sausage up. Remove from the pot, prick 20 times with a toothpick or sharp thin knife (to let any air escape), then brush with a little oil or melted butter and finish in a hot oven until golden and slightly crispy.
If you’re after a great recipe book full of sausagey ideas then you should get a copy of Jeremy Schmid’s Bangers to Bacon (NewHolland). I’ve just checked his book and he does include a delicious sounding duck and porcini sausage, although it’s stuffed in a casing, not a neck but I’m sure it would work just as well.
I find that chunky fillings work well with necks because they seem to cry out “keep me rustic’’.
I’d make a stuffing along the lines of 500g coarsely minced or hand-chopped lean meat (duck, beef, chicken or lamb), 100g finely minced pork fat, 40ml cold water, spices, fresh herbs and seasonings to taste and 80g roughly chopped pistachios. Mix everything together and leave to sit for 6 hours before poking into the neck. When it comes out of the other end tie both ends together and cook as above.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you’re stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.