We aren’t selective hunters here at Field To Table. We hunt and eat it all. Recently we’ve dipped our toes into the waterfowl pond, and I must say, we’re loving it. Hunting ducks is a good way to get the juices flowing. Watching a group come in and land at your decoys is one of the more satisfying feelings in hunting. But hands down- without a doubt- the #1 reason I LOVE duck hunting is because their meat is SO GOOD. If aged and cooked properly, you could easily trick someone into thinking it was a mule deer steak. It is by far the most tender and delicious of the small game species I have tried so far which include: grouse, ptarmigan, goose, squirrel, rabbit, hares, marmot, and maybe a few other I am forgetting to mention. Duck is unlike any of them.
Here is a simple way to cook a duck and blow your guests out of the water.
Step 1: Age duck, gutted but otherwise whole, in a paper bag for 5-10 days. Pluck and singe leaving skin as intact as possible.
Step 2: Make compound butter. This can be done well ahead of time or in large batches and stored.
1 stick of salted butter
1 tbsp minced garlic (roasted if you have it)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
This should be enough for 2-3 birds.
Step 3: Separate skin from breasts. In order to do this, start by wedging something small, like a chopstick, between the skin and the meat. Once you have created a big enough opening, use your fingers to detach the skin the rest of the way. The goal is to create a pocket between the skin and flesh.
Step 4: Stuff compound butter under the skin generously. Coat skin with butter as well.
Step 5: Bake at 300 degrees F until just before desired doneness, finish skin on broil.
Note: When broiling make sure the birds are far enough away from the heat source so no fat popping off the birds will create a flame.
Step 6: Remove bird when skin is nicely browned and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Take meat shears and cut the bird in half following the spine for a single serving.
Serving suggestion: Roasted duck, sweet potato mash, roasted California veggies and onion.
Cooking wild game can be daunting– usually you have to try to mask some unwanted flavor and toughness. This is not the case with a properly cared for duck. Follow my simple steps and you will be enjoying the spoils of your harvest in no time.