Last week, two of my favorite blogs - NorCal Cazadora and Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook - wrote two great posts about one of my favorite game species, duck!
I always admire Hunter, Angler for his creativity and commitment to using every part of the animal in his fabulous recipes. Last week he wrote "Wild Ducks - Eating Everything But the Quack" in which he discussed using every conceivable part of the ducks he and NorCal had harvested on opening day. He wrote about everything from rendering the fat from the butt of the duck all the way to using the bones and feet for duck stock and the gizzards for confit. The butt and feet!? Wow, I really feel inadequate now. That is a true conservationist hunter.
His post got me thinking about the amount time and effort it must take to pluck a duck (or multiple ducks) - including the wings - and then go about preparing all of those parts for their various uses. I'll admit that I gave up plucking ducks myself a few years ago and started paying the local bait and tackle shop to pluck them for me. At $3 per bird, it was worth the hours of personal investment it takes to do it in my garage. And as for butts and gizzards, I just can't go there. For the time and effort needed I just can't envision making that many dishes that will involve these residual parts of the animal. More power to those that do.
Every season I only have a few of my ducks plucked because I find there are a limited number of variations to making a whole roasted duck. I much prefer to breast out my ducks into wonderful steaks that allow a much broader array of recipes. I also take the thighs and save them up for oso bucco or another slow braised dish later on.
I love a rare/medium rare duck breast with a wonderful reduction sauce of one type or another. For anyone who ever thought of duck as tasting 'gamy' or like liver - I'd love to try and convince you othewise. Here is one of my favorite duck recipes that is fast, simple, and is sure to impress your non-hunting friends.
Seared Duck Breast with Asian Pear Reduction
6 large duck breasts from 3 quality birds such as mallard or pintail.
Equal parts coarse Kosher salt, brown sugar, & coarse black pepper mixed onto a small plate. Stir in approximately 1 TBS of seasoning such as Emeril's Essence.
2/3 cup diced onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup white wine
2 TBS dark molassis
3 TBS bourbon
1/3 cup diced fresh asian pear
Lightly pat the duck breasts in the dry rub for an even, light layer of rub on both sides. Set aside.
Heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, adding the duck breasts just when they sizzle when entering the pan. Turn down the heat to medium, turning the breasts once after approximately 6 minutes, depending on thickness. When rare/medium rare, remove from pan and set aside on a small plate to rest. The meat will continue to cook while it is resting.
Turn heat up to medium high and add onion to pan. Cook 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add white wine and bring pan to a simmer. When boiling, add molassis and bourbon. CAUTION - add bourbon away from the burner to avoid flames! Cook at a hard simmer until liquid is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Add diced pear and stir until well coated. Cook for 3-4 minutes until pear is warm and soft, but do not overcook or pear will become mushy. I prefer mine warm, but with a crisp texture.
While cooking the reduction, thinly slice duck breasts and arrange on serving plates. Remove reduction sauce from heat and immediately serve over duck breasts.
Pair this amazing dish with a light starch such as Orzo pasta and fresh greens or steamed veggies. Viola! The perfect meal.
Have any favorite duck recipes in your pantry? I'd love to hear about them!