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Cooking: Grilled Duck Bites

Prosciutto, mango and jalapeño give this traditional appetizer a tangy, spicy twist
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  • photo by John Hoffman
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—By Scott Leysath

If you haven't stood around a white-hot bed of coals with your favorite beverage in hand, watching a sizzling grill full of bacon-wrapped duck, you've missed out on something. Even those misguided souls who have decided that eating duck just isn't their thing will change their minds with the first bite of a marinated piece of breast meat snugly encased in crispy bacon. 

Over the years, I've probably eaten close to a pickup load of bacon-wrapped game. Too much of a good thing can be bad, at least as far as your physical health is concerned. Lately, I've switched from bacon to leaner, thinly sliced cured pork products like prosciutto or pancetta to give me that salty, crisp flavor and texture, but with about half the calories and fat. 

To make this appetizer more interesting, I've inserted a slice of mango and jalapeño to give it a firm, semisweet bite. If mango is not readily available or is out of season, try it with a slice of apple, pear, or pineapple. The duck has just enough time in the marinade to enhance, not disguise, the flavor of the meat—so it will still taste like duck.

Prosciutto Wrapped Duck with Mango and Jalapeño
Most people can eat several of these tasty appetizers. Allow at least 4 or 5 per person. This recipe makes 24 pieces, or about 6 portions.

Preparation Time: about 30 minutes    
Marinating Time: 2–4 hours    
Cooking Time: less than 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 24 strips of skinless duck breast fillets, about 1/2-inch thick by 2 inches long
  • 6 jalapeño peppers
  • 24 thin-sliced strips of prosciutto
  • 24 slices of just-ripe mango, about 1/2-inch thick by 2 inches long
  • 24 toothpicks or small wooden skewers

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • A dash of Tabasco
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. To prepare the marinade, whisk together all the ingredients except olive oil in a large, nonreactive bowl until well blended. While whisking, add the olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Add the sliced duck, cover, and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
  2. Place the jalapeño peppers on a cutting surface and slice 4 pieces lengthwise from the outside. This will eliminate splitting and scraping seeds away. When you're done with each pepper, you should have 4 seed-free jalapeño slices plus the stem section with the ribs and seeds attached. If you prefer your duck on the spicy side, add some of the seeds to the marinade. 
  3. Remove the duck strips from the marinade and drain. Lay prosciutto slices on a work surface. Place a strip of jalapeño, then mango, and finally duck across one end of the prosciutto. Roll the prosciutto up and over the duck, jalapeño, and mango while keeping it snug with your fingers. Secure with a toothpick.
  4. Cook evenly on a hot grill, cast-iron skillet, or broiler until lightly browned on all sides (for about 7 to 9 minutes total).   


Bloody Mary Marinade If your taste buds prefer something spicier, this marinade should do the trick. It works with the same recipe and makes enough for about 3 to 4 cups of duck breast fillets. Combine all the ingredients and mix well, then toss together with the fillets. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours.
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon celery salt
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