I started hunting ducks late in life, but they occasionally showed up on the dinner table when I was a boy, gifts from hunting relatives. I did not like the ducks my mother and grandmother prepared. Both women were wonderful cooks, but ducks weren't common fare in our household, and apparently my mom and granny had no proper experience in their preparation. The birds they served were roasted for long periods with no enhancements. They tasted like liver and were dry and tough.
I remember well the first time I tasted "good" duck — a fat rice-field mallard cooked to perfection by Betty, a chef at Hartz' Duck Camp near Stuttgart, Arkansas. What a revelation! Could this succulent bird really be the same animal my mother and grandmother had prepared? Had I been so foolish as to turn my nose up at this incredibly delectable game bird for all those years?
I soon discovered that duck can serve as the basis for a wide variety of mouth-watering recipes. The meat is dark and less moist than domestic duck, with a much more pronounced — and in my opinion, pleasing — flavor. If you prefer your game well done, larding, basting and cooking in a covered pan or slow cooker adds moisture that might otherwise be lost. It's been my experience, however, that wild ducks should always be on the rare side if you want to enjoy the full flavor. When roasting, allow 20 minutes per pound at the very maximum.
Here are some great recipes you can start with:
Stuttgart Betty's Roast Mallard
- Any number of mallards
- Baking soda
- Green bell peppers
Salt the ducks to taste, and rub with baking soda. Allow to sit one hour, then wash off the soda. Stuff the body cavity of each bird with small chunks of onion, bell pepper and celery, then rub each bird with flour. Place in a large roasting pan with enough water to half cover the ducks. Cook in a 350-degree oven for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until the birds are tender. Remove the vegetable stuffing and discard. Halve each bird lengthwise before serving. If desired, thicken the broth from the ducks with a milk and flour mixture to make gravy.
As befits a recipe from Stuttgart, these birds should be served over a bed of rice. Each mallard serves two people.
Quick & Easy Duck in a Bag
- 1 duck
- 1 large oven cooking bag
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 can beef consomme
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup currant jelly
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup red wine
Put duck in bag with all ingredients. Follow directions for using the oven bag. Bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours.
Grilled Marinated Duck Breasts
- 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pepper to taste
- 16 boneless duck breast fillets (2 from each duck)
- 16 slices bacon
Combine first five ingredients and pour mixture over duck breast fillets. Marinate in refrigerator at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Remove duck breasts from marinade, and wrap each in a bacon slice; secure bacon with toothpicks. Grill over slow coals 7 minutes on each side or until bacon is done.
- 2 whole ducks or 4 breasts
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 (6-oz.) box long grain and wild rice
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 (6-oz.) can sliced mushrooms
- 1-1/2 cups half-and-half
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 (3-1/2-oz.) package slivered almonds
Boil ducks for two hours with sliced onion and celery. Cook rice according to directions on box. In a deep skillet, melt butter; saute chopped onion, and stir in flour. Add mushrooms and their liquid. Add half-and-half, parsley, salt and pepper. Add rice. Bone ducks and add chunks to other ingredients. Place in a 2-quart casserole, sprinkle with almonds and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. When it bubbles in the center, it's done. Serves 8.
Duck, Sausage and Oyster Gumbo
- 1 pound sliced okra
- 1/4 cup bacon drippings
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 7 cups water
- Cubed breast meat from 2 cooked ducks
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cubed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 pint oysters
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- Gumbo file' powder (optional)
Cook okra in 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings until tender; set aside. Make a roux by heating the remaining bacon grease and butter in a Dutch oven; stir in flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the roux is a caramel color. Add the white onion, bell pepper and celery; cook until onion is clear. Add three cups water, the cooked okra, duck meat, sausage, salt, black pepper, green onions, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer for 2 hours. Add 4 more cups water with the oysters, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce. Continue simmering 1 hour. Serve over cooked rice. Serves 8 to 12.