My parents were gifted some wild ducks from a houseguest (a duck hunter!) -- we're wondering about the best way to cook them, since I gather they will be quite different than the duck we're used to. Thoughts/tips/recipes?
My experience with game (wild poultry mostly, plus a little venison and boar) was a long time ago but basically the meat is leaner/gamier; there is less fat which also taste different. You do not want to overcook wild duck.
Other than that, my memory says that game can be used as a substitute for many of the same dishes prepared from farmed animals, with thoughtful consideration placed on the game's flavor differences.
This online discussion:
appears to capture many of the salient points, including the fact that wild duck flavor will depend on the duck's diet. The general consensus is not to overcook the duck and to drain the wild duck's fat and replace with another cooking fat.
Not knowing the provenance/diet of the wild ducks, I would opt to saute the breasts and serve with some sort of sauce that had sweet/sour flavors to moderate some of the gaminess.
I'd confit the dark meat, opting to use a fair amount of (pork) lard to balance the wild duck fat.
As for the carcass, I would make stock, but not try to combine it with other poultry scraps. I'd make it as a standalone stock and check flavor, recognizing the possibility that it might be too gamey for my tastebuds.
Good luck, sounds like a fun project.
Amanda is the Design & Home Editor at Food52
Wild duck is very lean and dark in color, almost like a piece of beef tenderloin—and you should treat it similarly! It isn't hardly as gamey as you'd expect, can be enjoyed very rare (as rare as tuna), and gets very tender if you use a Jacard knife on it before cooking. I agree with CV—whatever you do, don't overcook it!
Recipe from a duck hunter friend for "Poppers": Hollow half a jalapeno, spoon a tsp. cream cheese in the boat, add a bite-sized cut of wild duck breast (de-thawed if out of your freezer—they keep well that way for well over a year), wrap in a piece of bacon, secure with toothpick. Grill just until the bacon is sizzly (2-3 min), toss in brown sugar, then back on the grill until glazed. Eat hot! (Could probably be pulled off under a broiler.)
Oh, and thank your houseguest! It is a treat.
One of my life's most memorable meals was wild grouse at the host's cabin in the Tetons. We were cautioned at the beginning of the meal, to watch out for shot still in the meat. Don't know if that's a concern with your ducks, but something to be aware of.
Chops is a trusted home cook.
I recommend brining. to lessen the gamey flavor. Full disclosure: I don't care for game, but I've cooked it lots of times, and my husband and his friends are avid hunters and that's what they do.
I can't find the article but I know people recommend dry age the duck before cooking with herbs and it will greatly improve the flavor. The article also said wild ducks should be treated like steak exactly like Amanda said.
Everyone I know cooks wild duck with bacon to cover up some of the gaminess of the duck. I would not recommend duck jerkey; tried that once and it was a BAD IDEA.
HalfPint is a trusted home cook.
I've had wild duck breast grilled to rare. Served with a soy sauce ginger sauce. Quite tasty, but then I don't mind the gamey-ness and the ginger sauce sort of covered it. I think this might be quite good with the XO sauce mentioned in the Features article.
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Well played. You deserve a cookie.
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