Roast Duck with Apple Stuffing

Several years ago, I found an Irish pub cookbook in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. While its cover bore no author, this collection of classic Irish recipes has become one of my most cherished cookbooks. The dishes tend to be seasonal, and they highlight local ingredients—the kind of food you’d expect out of a decent pub that cares about its vittles just as much as its drink. Also, they’re the kind of recipes that work well with wild game.

One recipe that stood out to me was goose with apple stuffing. In Ireland, Scotland, and England, it was tradition to eat a young goose on Michaelmas Day (Sept. 29), also known as the Feast of Michael and All Angels. This medieval holiday falls near the equinox, when autumn begins and the days begin to shorten. Michaelmas festivities call upon the archangel St. Michael for protection during the darker, colder days ahead.

Michaelmas also coincides with the apple harvest, a fruit that coincidentally pairs well with waterfowl. In addition to hunting, I also look forward to picking local apples in the fall, among so many other wonderful things that happen that time of year. This is a great recipe for celebrating both the wild and farmed harvest seasons.

I’ve modified the original goose recipe and adapted it here for wild duck—a much smaller specimen than a large farm-raised goose. I’d choose a fat mallard for this recipe, as it could feed two people and offers a cavity large enough to stuff. Multiply the recipe as needed for more servings. Of course, it also is possible to prepare this recipe with a whole wild goose—you’ll have to multiply the stuffing amount and increase roasting time; use a probe thermometer in the thigh and cook the bird to your liking.

This apple stuffing recipe is unique because it has no bread in it. Distinctly Irish, the main starch is potato. The stuffing also includes duck liver and heart, thus encouraging you to use more of the animal. If you know how to clean the gizzards, you could also throw them into the stuffing as well.

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