Duck – the easy way

Duck does not have to be complicated. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told how gamey duck is, or that it needs to be smoked, or that you have to marinate it for hours to cut the flavor. I’m here to present a recipe that would argue otherwise.

Start with a duck. I used a breasted and skinned mallard that had been sitting in my freezer for a month. Thaw it out. Bone it. Here is a great video from renowned wild game writer and chef Hank Shaw on how to break down a duck. Jump ahead about a minute to see him bone out the breast.

On a side note. I highly recommend plucking your ducks. I have been trying to pluck all the game birds I bagged this fall, and let me tell you, it makes a tremendous difference in finished cooked product. But if you’re not into the extra work, at least take some time to pluck a couple of ducks. Skin on duck breasts are not even in the same category as skinned ones. It blew my mind how much fat renders out of that skin, and how delicious it keeps the meat.

For this particular dish, I used a duck breast I’d gotten from a friend, and tried not to morn the fact that all he does is pull the breasts out of his bird.

Once you’ve got the breasts out, put the tenders to the side. Find yourself something heavy, like a hammer, or my preferred weapon of choice, a cutting board, and flatten out those breasts. Note, if hammering, make sure to cover your breasts with some plastic wrap, you want to flatten the meat, not pound holes in it. A heavy cocktail glass makes a nice meat hammer as well. Once you’ve got them to about half their starting width, heavily salt and pepper them and turn on your pan our skillet nice and hot.

Now that your pan is nice and hot, hit it with some olive oil. After a minute the oil should be getting to the right temp, toss in some garlic and place your breasts in skin side down. You should be getting a nice sizzle from the meat, we’re looking for some char on each side while we’re cooking. Add a sprig of rosemary to the opposite side of the pan and a quarter stick of butter. Flip your duck and begin basting with the melted rosemary garlic butter.

Once the duck is nicely blackened on both sides, but still some what soft to the touch when you poke it, its done! We’re not trying to cook to well done here. Rare to medium rare is where you want to be sitting with wild duck. DO NOT OVER DO IT or you’ll be eating a piece of meat that tastes like shoe leather! Serve this over risotto like I did, or with any starch. Its particularly good with mash potatoes and roasts carrots. Enjoy!

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