Teal à l'Orange

Early teal season is nice because it happens in September, when the days begin to cool down and the mornings are neither too hot nor cold. Hunting the first day of the season is a tradition for many families, including Rick’s cousins who are avid waterfowl hunters. Rick went two years ago with the Browns and did well. This last season, I decided to tag along with my camera. 

Though the 2015 opener was slower compared to previous years, Rick and I were able to come home with six ducks. We plucked all ducks and found them to be pleasantly fat and healthy. However, one was extremely shot up, so we decided to use it for stock. I was also able to take some of the excess fat from near the tail area and rendered it down for later use. Here’s a great tutorial on how to render duck/goose fat from Hank Shaw: http://honest-food.net/wild-game/duck-goose-recipes/rendered-duck-goose-fat/ 

For those in need of instruction on how to hunt and process waterfowl, check out our book Hunting for Food

This recipe was adapted from bon appetit’s Duck à l’Orange, a classic French dish. Cooking time was adjusted for teal, which is a small duck that takes little time to cook. We also made some tweaks to suit our tastes. This recipe is a winner! It was an ideal treatment for these tasty, little birds. 

Servings: 2 

Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cooking Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes 
- 4 whole teals, plucked and wings removed (reserve) 
- 2 tablespoons of duck fat or oil
- Quarter of an onion, roughly chopped

- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 3 cups of water
- 1 duck carcass of shot up duck, optional
- 3 navel oranges
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 1/4 cup of port
- 1 tablespoon of cold butter
- 1 teaspoon of lime juice
- Paprika

1. Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit. If available, cut up duck carcass into smaller pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat or oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown duck carcass pieces and wings, onion and 3 sprigs of thyme for 5-7 minutes. Next, add celery, carrot, peppercorns, chicken stock, and water. Simmer for 1 hour. 

 2. Slice off the peel and pith (white part) of one orange. Remove as much pith as you can from the peels using a fillet knife. Add the peels to the simmering stock. Cut out the orange membranes over a bowl and reserve for later. Juice the other two oranges.
 3. Pat ducks dry and prick them all over with a toothpick-- this will allow the skin to render more efficiently. Season them well with salt, including inside the cavity. 
Place ducks breast side down in a cold, heavy skillet. Turn up the heat to medium and allow the skin to render and brown. Then turn ducks on their sides and backs to brown. Remove ducks from the skillet and place them on a baking sheet. Do not cook ducks all the way through-- you only want to brown the skin. Set aside.
4. Once stock is done, strain it. Discard all solids except the orange peels. Slice the peels thinly and reserve.

In the same skillet where the ducks were browned, add 1/4 cup of port and reduce to a syrupy consistency; scrape the bottom of the pan.
Next, add the strained stock, orange juice and 2 more sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened and smooth (about 20 minutes)-- you will end up with about 1/3 cup of sauce. Take off heat, remove the thyme and whisk in cold butter and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can complete this step while you bake the ducks in the next step.)
5. Lightly dust paprika over duck breasts and sides. After your oven has had at least a half hour to heat up after it reached 450°, roast the teals for 12 minutes; meat will be pink. Cook longer if you like meat that's more done and crispier skin. (It's a bad trade off either way for me-- I like crispy skin, but I also like pink meat. I haven't been able to achieve both.) 

Allow ducks to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle orange sauce on the dish and lay duck on top. Garnish dish with orange wedges and sliced peel. Serve with roasted vegetables. 


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