I got two wild mallard ducks from Exotic Meat Market, both shot in Scotland and shipped to the U.S.
|This mallard was in Rudesheim, Germany near the Rhine River.|
I went duck hunting a few times as a teenager in Utah and remember how dark and gamy the meat could be. It has been years since I've had wild duck, so I was excited to try cooking it and realized I needed to take steps to reduce the gaminess.
|The mallards had been de-feathered and cleaned.|
I did a search on the internet for wild duck recipes and focused on two that had elements I wanted to try.
The first was marinated duck breasts, a recipe that looked very simple and good. It called for two duck breasts (that is, the two breasts from one duck), an inch of ginger, peeled and sliced lengthwise, 2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, 6 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of honey.
|Here are two breasts removed from one duck. One breast is skin-side up and the other is meat side up.|
These ingredients were all mixed together for a marinade and poured into a shallow dish. The duck breasts were put into the marinade and turned to coat them, then left at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
|Duck breasts in the marinade.|
I used a variation of the recipe for duck breasts with the skin on, which required putting the breasts, skin down, in a hot, dry, nonstick skillet, and cooking the skin until crisp, then turning it to the other side. The idea is to cook the breasts until the marinade caramelizes, then add the rest of the marinade into the skillet and cook it for 5 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
|The duck breasts in a hot skillet, skin-side down.|
|Here all of the marinade has been added to the skillet.|
After the duck has rested for 5 minutes, slice and serve.
|Slices of duck from two breasts.|
I cooked the duck for the minimum amount of the recipe, 5 minutes, and it was still over-done. It had just a slight liver taste, but it had a deep-rich flavor and the marinade worked well with it. I enjoyed it, but would have loved it had I cooked it about two minutes less. I would follow this recipe again, but just cook it for less time.
The other recipe that I was intrigued by was wild duck with burnt wheat. It called for separating the legs and wings of the duck and leaving the breasts attached to the carcass. These parts were cured in salt for an hour, then rinsed off and refrigerated uncovered for 30 minutes to dry. Then wash the parts, then pat dry.
|These are the legs and wings from two ducks, salted.|
|The same parts after curing for an hour.|
|The parts after they have been washed and refrigerated for 30 minutes.|
The rest of the ducks, which was one carcass with breasts and one carcass without breasts, I put in a brine of one tablespoon per one cup of water for about 75 minutes. The recipe called for a 4% brine for 8 hours in the refrigerator. I didn't have the desire to figure out the 4% or the time to wait 8 hours, so I used my usual brine recipe instead.
|It is amazing how much blood the brine has removed from the ducks.|
|The two duck carcasses after brining. Note how much grayer the meat looks with much of the blood removed.|
The recipe calls for the carcass with the breast (and I also included the carcass without the breast), halved down the middle, to be cooked sous vide at 52 Centigrade for 3 hours. I was a little leery of this low temperature. When I'm cooking other game meats rare I usually use between 55 to 57 Centigrade, with 56 Centigrade being about right. It then calls for the wings and legs to be cooked sous vide at 78 degrees Centigrade for 14 hours. Again, I was leery of this as I've never cooked anything anywhere near that hot sous vide, and for 14 hours? But, what the heck. The recipe goes on to call for removing the breasts from the carcass and then roasting the carcasses and using them for stock and more steps I had no interest in trying. Ultimately, the recipe called for the breasts to be put in a frying pan, smoking hot, and searing the breasts on the fatty side for 30 seconds. Let it sit 5 minutes and then slice and serve.
|I ended up doing both carcasses at 52 degrees Centigrade for 2 1/2 hours, then instead of removing the breasts from the one carcass, I left them in and cooked both carcasses in a hot frying pan for a minute or so on both sides.|
I included the wings and legs in the sous vide with the carcasses for the 2 1/2 hours, then jumped the temperature up to 78 degrees Centigrade. After about 1 1/2 hours I looked at how hot they were cooking and had second thoughts. So I pulled them out, let them sit for awhile and tried them. They were way over-cooked for my taste: quite hard and most of the moisture cooked out of them. It probably would have worked out had I tried to follow the whole recipe with added wheat, etc., but for my purposes I basically ruined the legs and wings. I gnawed the meat off the wings and legs, but it was not great.
I also ate bits and pieces off the rest of the carcasses, but they were mostly fat and very little meat. If I were to do it again I would cut off the breasts, wings and legs, and throw the rests of the carcass away, unless of course I needed them for stock in a recipe. I think both methods of brining and cooking would be great, but adjusted as stated above. I really enjoyed the wild duck. The vast majority of the gaminess was removed and they had a wonderful taste.