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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Favorite Sauces

Try these easy recipes to prepare flavorful marinades, bastes and dipping sauces for waterfowl 
  • photo by John Hoffman, DU
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By Scott Leysath - thesportingchef.com

Without question, you can prepare a delicious duck or goose just by giving it a good rub with your favorite seasoning and slapping it on a hot grill until it's cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The bird will be moist and tasty, and for some folks there's simply no reason to fix something that's not broken. Others prefer a little variety on the plate. 

Great restaurants make sauces from scratch. Roasted bones and carcasses simmer with vegetables and herbs to make stocks and broths. A bottle of wine is reduced and emulsified with creamy butter. It's all about depth of flavor, and there's no doubt that a well-prepared homemade sauce will taste better than something from a packet, bottle, or salty bouillon cube. Fortunately, there's a middle ground between basic preparation and extravagant dishes, where those of us who prefer to spend more time in the field than in the kitchen can combine a few ordinary ingredients into a special sauce. 

If you start with a basic condiment, like mustard or ketchup, and add a couple of dashes of flavor, you can create unique and savory sauces in your own kitchen. For example, start with a quarter cup of ketchup and whisk in a little sesame oil, a squeeze of lime, some soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar. You'll create a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce that's great for smoked duck or goose. Give it your own touch with a little hot sauce and maybe some herbs or a pinch of garlic powder. 

Here are a few more fast-and-easy sauces that will add flavor to ducks, geese, and just about any other game you want to prepare for the table.

Custom-built Barbecue Sauce 

Makes about 1 cup. Start with store-bought barbecue sauce and add a squeeze of this and a pinch of that to transform your sauce from mundane to marvelous.

  • 2/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and bring to a boil in a small saucepan. Allow to cool.

Zesty Hot-and-Sour Sauce 

Makes about 1 1/4 cups. These Asian-inspired ingredients combine to add a great finish to any waterfowl stir-fry.

  • 2/3 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon pickled ginger, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil or parsley leaves, minced
Whisk all ingredients together.

Balsamic Berry Sauce 

Makes about 2/3 cup. This is my go-to sauce when I want to change the minds of those who complain that game birds taste “gamey.”

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons berry preserves; any berry will do
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into a few chunks
In a small saucepan, heat the first three ingredients over medium heat. Reduce liquid by half. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter until emulsified. Spoon sauce over cooked waterfowl.


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