File this dish under, “because I can.” Objectively, it is a ridiculous — if beautiful — plate of food. Duck gizzards, cured like corned beef and then cooked in duck fat sous vide for the better part of 24 hours, glazed with a malt vinegar dressing and served with unopened cabbage buds and cabbage flowers, then dusted with toasted caraway. Who would make this?
I would. And I’ll tell you why. It’s all about the gizzard. Holly and I shot a lot of ducks this past season, and because we eat everything up to and including the quack, we have a whole lotta gizzards in the freezer. I know. I can sense some of you squinching up your noses right now. Gizzards are a polarizing ingredient: You either love their crunch, that density approaching that of granite, or you do not.
I do not. In fact I despise gizzards cooked in the usual way. But I recognize that a gizzard is simply another cut of meat — and meat it is, not something wobbly like a liver or a kidney. Admittedly, gizzards can be challenging. For the most part I’ve always met that challenge by cooking them slowly in duck fat and slicing them thinly.
Then, at a recent Duck Hunter’s Dinner, I decided to make my confit of gizzards with wild mushrooms. Only this time I added just a little curing salt to the mix. And I was armed with my SousVide Supreme, a water oven that lets you cook at precise temperatures under 212 degrees. So I cured the gizzards a good long time, then confited them in the sous vide machine far longer than the normal 8 hours. Nope, I let them sail right past 8 hours and on into the evening. Holly and I watched a movie, then some stand-up comedy, then decided to go to bed. I went into the kitchen to turn off the machine. Then I hesitated… what if I left this on overnight?
I went to sleep, wondering. When I awoke, I made the coffee, completely forgetting about the gizzards. A few hours later, when it came time to do prep work for that night’s party, I realized they’d been cooking for almost 24 hours! I expected mush. What I got was magic.
The gizzards were that pretty pink of corned beef, and tender! Yes, tender! Tender, yielding gizzards, salty, slick with duck fat and ever-so-slightly herby from thyme. We had confirmed gizzard haters at the dinner, but everyone pronounced it magnificent.
I vowed to repeat the recipe, but was soon distracted by some shiny thing or another. Then, a couple months later, my cabbage plants bolted.
If you’ve been following this space recently you know I am on a flower kick; I like using them to fancy up a plate, especially when they add real flavor. How could I use these pretty white cabbage blossoms, I thought? And the buds, they look like little broccolini florets. And they will be tender and delicious, too, unlike the leaves.
Here’s an important tip when you are foraging, or just picking things from your garden: The part of the plant you use hinges on whatever it is that plant is doing at the time. Before my cabbage bolted, the plant was spending its time making leaves. So you eat the leaves. But when it changed its mind and decided to send up flower stalks, the leaves become tough and bitter — now is the time you eat the young stalks, buds and flowers.
I don’t know why the crazy idea of making corned gizzards and cabbage popped into my head, but it did. It is my own peculiar neurosis and I’ll own it, thank you very much. So I cleaned some gizzards and set them a’cooking in the sous vide thingy, and then thought about what would go with them.
Corned beef and cabbage is not actually an Irish dish. It’s an Irish-American dish. But still, I thought I’d go with the traditional caraway seeds as a spice, and then a mustard vinaigrette to tie everything together. And what vinegar could be better than malt vinegar, that favored acid of the British Isles?
Perfect. And when I say perfect I mean that this dish was perfect. I would not change a thing. Everything balanced. If you can make a light, playful corned-beef-and-cabbage, this is it. I’d happily serve this to Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi — and I guarantee you I would not be packing my knives and going home for it.
Crazy? Maybe. Ridiculous. You betchya. But it’s good. Really good. I dare you to make this. Dare you.
corned gizzards and cabbage
This is the best way I know of to cook gizzards. If you use this method, you will get a pretty pink gizzard tender enough to approximate corned beef, only denser. And ducky. Of course you need not use duck gizzards here — any gizzard will do, just be sure to properly clean them.
I realize cabbage florets will be hard to find. Use broccolini or broccoli raab instead. In a pinch you could use small broccoli florets. Be sure to toast the caraway seeds. It makes a difference.
And yes, you really need a vacuum sealer to do this properly, and a sous vide machine helps a lot, although you can get close with a big pot of hot water.
Prep Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 22 hours
- 1 pound gizzards, cleaned
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon Instacure No. 1(curing salt)
- 1/2 cup duck fat or butter or lard
- 1 heaping tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted
- 1 cup of small broccolini florets, or florets from cabbage or broccoli raab
- Cabbage or broccolini or broccoli flowers (optional)
MALT VINEGAR DRESSING
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1/4 cup malt vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 cup safflower oil or other neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola
- Mix the kosher salt, instacure and thyme together and then mix it well with the cleaned gizzards. Put in a non-reactive container (plastic, glass, ceramic) and let this cure in the fridge for 4-8 hours. The longer you go the saltier the gizzards will be — and the better chance you have that the cure will reach the center of the gizzard. I keep mine in for 6 hours.
- Rinse the gizzards well and pat dry. Put the dried-off gizzards into a vacuum seal bag and pack in the duck fat or butter or lard. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you will not be as successful with this recipe, but you can try packing the gizzards and fat in a seal-able plastic bag.
- Set your sous vide machine to 160 degrees. If you don’t have a sous vide machine, bring a very large pot of water to a simmer, then turn the heat as low as it will go. Place the sealed gizzards in the water and let this cook for 22 hours. If you are using the pot method, you will need to monitor the temperature every so often, and you will need to refill the water as it evaporates, which it will do even if you cover the pot, which I recommend that you do.
- The next day, get a medium pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt. Set up an ice water bath nearby. Boil the cabbage florets for 1 minute, then shock them in the ice water. Drain and set aside.
- To make the malt vinegar dressing, put the vinegar, salt, sugar and mustard powder into a blender and buzz briefly to combine. With the motor running on low, drizzle in the oil until it it well combined. Turn the motor to high and buzz for 30 seconds. Add more salt to taste.
- To serve, toss the gizzards with a little of the dressing and arrange on a plate. Arrange the cabbage florets around them, then the toasted caraway seeds and finally the cabbage flowers.