Duck with Thyme and Cream

When it comes to wild game, simple is often times the best treatment. This wild duck with herb and cream sauce recipe has few ingredients, but it allows the main ingredient to shine. I thought the savory Ponzu, fruity dry sherry, and fresh marjoram and thyme complemented the gaminess of mallard well.

You can cook the duck whole, spatchcocked or simply halved. Or take the time to split and debone the breasts like I did here, leaving the legs and thighs intact. This helps the pieces lie flatter in the pan, allowing for more even browning and cooking. Prepping duck this way also makes it easier to serve and eat. 

Unfortunately, I'm lactose intolerant and have had to cut back on the amount of dairy products I can enjoy. If you are also trying to avoid milk products, I've found that Trader Joe's coconut creamer and a bit of corn starch works as a decent substitute. Read on for the alternative recipe in step 4.

Servings: 2 
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
- 1 whole mallard duck
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons of dry sherry
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of fresh marjoram
- 2 tablespoons of Ponzu sauce
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (or 1 cup of Trader Joe's coconut creamer and 1 teaspoon of corn starch)*
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste

*You can use any coconut creamer you like, but I prefer Trader Joe's because it tastes less coconut-y and less sweet than other products. 

1. Remove the duck's backbone with kitchen shears. 
2. Then follow the contours of the duck's back and breast bones and separate the meat from the bone. Keep leg and thigh bones intact by snipping the socket between the thigh bone and body. Cut the duck in two between the breasts. Allow the meat to sit for an hour at room temperature. 
3. Pat duck dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add half the olive oil to a pan and turn heat to medium. Add duck skin-side down to the still-cold pan and cook until the skin renders and turns golden. 

Flip the duck and brown on the other side until internal temperature reaches about 135 degrees. Remove duck from heat, wrap in foil and allow to rest for at least 5-10 minutes for a finishing temperature of 140-145 degrees for medium doneness.
4. Meanwhile, add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and sauté the shallot, marjoram and thyme for 30 seconds. Do not let the shallot burn. Add the dry sherry and cook until most of it evaporates-- a few seconds-- while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release browned bits. Then add the Ponzu and heavy cream. Simmer until thickened and season to taste.

To substitute the heavy cream with coconut creamer, whisk together half the coconut creamer and the cornstarch in a bowl until there are no lumps. Add it to the pan along with the rest of the coconut creamer. Simmer until thickened. 

5. Serve cream sauce with the warm duck and your favorite side dishes.