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Cooking: Tangy Grilled Duck

This mildly sweet dish has just enough heat to give it an edge for summer barbecuing
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  • photo by John Hoffman, DU
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By Scott Leysath

Several years ago, during one of my game-cooking demonstrations, I overheard somebody telling a friend, "Leysath is always cooking with some kind of fruit or berries." Now I like fruit, and sometimes incorporate it into my recipes, but I'm not a big fan of overly sweet flavors with my game meats. When I include the occasional fruit in a sauce or condiment, I like to balance sweetness with acidity and heat. Occasionally, for example, I'll top my grilled duck with a spoonful or two of a delicious fruit salsa.

Once known only as a tomato-based condiment, salsa has evolved to include a variety of fruits such as peaches, apples, melons, and berries. Before you dismiss the thought of putting fruit in a salsa, give this recipe a try. It's not too sweet, and pairs quite well with grilled duck.

Breasted ducks will work fine with this dish, but I prefer to use birds with the skin intact when grilling over a hot bed of coals. Plucking a big fat mallard does take some time, but the payoff is crispy, flavorful duck skin. If peaches aren't available, nectarines or similar fruits will do. Use whatever looks best in the store, choosing fruit that is still a little firm.

Grilled Duck with Jalapeño Peach Salsa
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 10–12 minutes
Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large ducks or 4 smaller ducks, split in half with backbone removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Jalapeño Peach Salsa
Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 medium peaches, halved, with the pits removed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Step 1. Liberally season the ducks with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly with olive oil, lime juice, and garlic. Place the seasoned ducks in a nonreactive container. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Step 2. Remove the ducks from the refrigerator, pat them dry, and season with additional salt and pepper. Place the ducks, skin side down (if the skin is intact), on a medium-hot grill. Cook until the skin is well browned and crispy. Flip the ducks over and grill the other side until done, preferably to a medium-rare internal temperature of 135–145°F.

Step 3. To prepare the salsa, rub 4 of the peach halves with olive oil. Place the peach halves cut side down on a medium-hot grill for 5 to 6 minutes or until fruit is lightly browned. Cool. Dice the grilled peaches and the remaining 2 uncooked peach halves. Place in a nonreactive container with remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Step 4. To serve, place the grilled ducks on a platter or on individual plates. Salsa can be spooned over the top of the duck or served on the side.

SWEET-HOT PEPPER SAUCE Here's another great condiment that takes the edge off fresh hot peppers. Slice the peppers thinly width-wise and toss with sugar—2 or 3 tablespoons is enough for 1 cup of sliced peppers. Cover the peppers and let them sit at room temperature for 1 hour. The sugar will liquefy and combine with the heat in the peppers to make a sweet-hot syrup. Top grilled ducks or geese with the peppers, a dab of the syrup, and a big squeeze of lime juice to give the birds a nice zing.



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