Monday, May 9, 2011

Wild Duck with Orange Sauce

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Duck. It really beats me why venison has such a bad rap. As far as "gaminess" is concerned, wild duck packs the bigger punch (if not prepared correctly, of course). Rick usually throws it on the grill wrapped in bacon, and that's how I first had it. I was completely surprised by its texture and taste, having been used to domesticated duck widely found in Asian cuisine (i.e. Peking duck). For one, wild duck meat looks very dark. It almost has a blue-ish tinge. Two, unlike farmed-raised duck, the texture is not like chicken at all. It's more like red meat. And three, it CANNOT be overcooked. Fascinated, I searched online to learn more about this popular water fowl. 

The complaints I mostly found for cooking wild duck is that it can taste fishy and/or tough. The "fishy" taste varies from species to species, depending on the bird's diet. This is especially true for fish-eating ducks. There are a few ways to tame this taste, but one popular way is to use fruit. The acidity helps to mellow the flavor. 

Wild duck should also be cooked only to medium-rare, and not recommended anywhere beyond that. Unlike farm-raised duck and even venison, wild duck is much less forgiving if pushed too far.

So we've been scratching our heads about a duck recipe, but did not want to do the usual wrapped-in-bacon bore. It's been a challenge for us, having run into the usual obstacles described above. But I think we have a winner here. The spices go great with the duck and the orange sauce adds a kind of balance. 

Serves: 4
- 4 filleted duck breasts, skin off (we used mallard)
- 4 tbs. butter (1/2 stick)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tbs. poultry seasoning
- 3 tbs. fresh chives, chopped
  (or 1 tbs. dried)
- 1 tbs. parsley flakes
- 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- cracked black pepper to taste

Orange Sauce:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tbs. cornstarch
- 1 cup orange juice 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Assemble the seasonings. Chop the chives, like so. In a small bowl, mix together chives, poultry seasoning, parsley, garlic salt and cinnamon. 

3. Remove any silver skin and fat from the duck breasts.
4. Place a piece of aluminum foil big enough to envelope all four breasts on a cookie sheet. Lay the breasts on the foil. 
5. Rub the seasonings from step one into the breasts, bottom and top. Crack black pepper over the breasts, if you desire, at this time.

6. Dot pieces of butter on top of the breasts. Then place a bay leaf on each. 

7. Crimp up the sides of the aluminum foil, making a packet. Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes. 

8. Half an hour into baking, combine sugar, nutmeg, cornstarch and a little bit of the orange juice in a small sauce pan. Mix well. Then add the rest of the orange juice.

9. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Take off heat when the sauce is slightly thickened. Since there's corn starch in it, the sauce will thicken by itself. Don't try reducing it too much, or else you'll end up with jello as it cools.

10. Drizzle sauce over duck breasts. Serve immediately.

Wine suggestion:
- Pinot Noir 

- Wild Rice
- Brussels Sprouts 

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  1. I have made a great Duck a l'orange for years but this may have it beat. Thanks!
    Matt McCroskey SCIOC

  2. You're welcome Matt. Remember to be careful with the sauce! :-)


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