I went in search of whole ducks yesterday, as paying exorbitant sums of money to _____ for two prepackaged duck breasts was not my idea of a good time. The aforementioned stores have whole ducks, but they go for about $5/lb. and are more often than not frozen. So I drove to Chinatown, to Peking Poultry, a bare bones (literally and figuratively) sort of place at the back of a 100 degree concrete parking lot, looming warehouse walls on either side, set back from the universe of parasols and slippers and shiny things in the storefronts (Golden Gifts Trading Company!) lining Broadway. A little handwritten sign taped next to the register advertised Muscovy ducks for $20 a piece, and stacked in all their pale splendor was a pile of recently-deceased 5-lb. Peking ducks (according to the reticent–in every language I heard her speak–woman behind the counter), for $13 a piece. Peking Poultry has a fantastic catalog of other things to pick up while you’re there: plump slabs of pork belly; chicken and pig feet; quail eggs in plastic jewelry boxes; boxes of fat fresh ginger; and, behind the fogged freezer doors, preserved duck eggs. Next to the stacked ducks was a tray of plucked quail, their tiny bodies in tight formation. And, in the back room, rabbits. The squeamish be forewarned: if you ask for one, they’ll come to you still warm. They will also, like the ducks, be in possession of their heads. There is a satisfying practicality to this. When I was in culinary school, the chef instructor happily informed us that the heads remain so that you may be very sure that what you are about to braise, in leeks and baby carrots with a tidy bouquet garni, is not your neighbor’s missing cat. So I took my ducks home, deconstructed them, salted and scored and seared the breasts in a cold cast iron pan, and am about to make duck stock before Pasadena reaches the triple-digit-temperature mark. Duck legs will be stewed or confited, but certainly not today. For the record: the duck scene in Julie et Julia was so damn cute, so arduously reconstituted and prefigured, as to be unwatchable. Should have left the head on that duck; I might have taken the popcorn bag off my own head.
Peking Poultry: 717 North Broadway, Los Angeles. (213) 680-2588.
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