Saturday, October 25, 2008

No Time to Eat Everything But The Quack?

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.

Dry Rub:
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!


Anonymous said...

I don't know that I've ever eaten duck, but reading all the great recipes lately has convinced me I might want to try it. Thanks for sharing some more recipes.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Duck is very good, and that sounds like a great recipe. Unfortunately, though, I don't hunt ducks, so I never have any duck meat available to me.

I keep telling Norcal that one of these days I'm going to take up duck hunting though. Then, maybe, I could actually try one of these recipes.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Simply - Come on out to the Valley and we'll go shoot some wonderful, fat rice-fed mallards and make some amazing dishes. You have an open invite!

crestonejake said...

I bet your Dad would love the taste of that duck recipe.

Blessed said...

That sounds pretty good!

A long time ago I posted my favorite duck (and goose) recipe here's the link:

sportingdays said...

After moving to Sacramento, it took me about two years before I learned about the bait/tackle/gun shop practically downtown that would pick and clean your ducks, pheasant and geese for a few bucks each. It's a nice service, to be sure, and a kind of cultural statement, I think, that really speaks to Sacramento's connection to waterfowl hunting and its geography as the epicenter of the Pacific Flyway.

I can still remember how cool/bizarre it seemed to me the first time I went there -- walking through the middle of an urban city -- the state capital of California for cryin' out loud -- with a strap of ducks in full view. "I LOVE THIS TOWN," I thought to myself then and have lived here ever since. The other cool part is that you can pick up your cleaned ducks and take them just a couple of blocks away to a fabulous Chinese restaurant that will prepare them for you (along with any other fish and game you bring them).

I do still enjoy to pluck and clean my ducks myself when time permits. For me, it's a final connection to the birds before they go on the table or in the freezer, and I know I clean and pluck those birds more carefully and respectfully than anybody else could.

I always pluck my ducks whole, never breasting them out, because a barbecued whole duck (cooked like a steak over a hot grill and served bloody and rare) is one of my favorite meals on Earth.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Can't argue with that Sporting! And it is indeed very cool that in the heart of the crazy left Coast that you can take a stap of ducks into the local bait shop 10 blocks from where the Governator works and have them plucked. See everyone, California isn't all that bad!

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Thanks for the shout-out! I like the Asian pear reduction, and my only gripe is that you skinned the breasts, which robs you of the best part, IMHO -- crispy skin and yummy fat! I know a lot of guys who will pluck the breast and then breast out the bird, which at least preserves the skin and fat. Ever try that?

Live to Hunt.... said...

Hey Hunter Angler, thanks for checking in! I do indeed like some breasts with and without skins. With this sweeter reduction I like it without so you get more of just the meat flavor. Mmm, crispy duck skin. Now that's what I'm talking about!

The WildCheff said...


You are doing a great job!

The primary is that your are flavoring the game in a good way...pairing it with fruit and enhancing it with liquor which shows you are respecting what you cook vs. drowning it with creamed soup or Italian dressing.

The key is to enhance your game with flavor vs. mask the flavor of the game.

I recently made a Duck Marsala with dried cherries for the Food Network and Outdoor Channel while filming in Michigan...which coincides with what you are doing.

Keep up the great work Kimosabe.


Denny Corriveau
Master Game Chef/Instructor
National Pro-Staff Game Chef
WildCheff Enterprises, LLC
Amesbury, MA / Sebago Lake, ME
"I’m Game if You Are!"

Member: NRA, Professional Outdoor Media Association, Professional Outdoor Speaker’s Bureau, New England Outdoor Writer’s Association, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine