By Scott Leysath, www.huntfishcook.com
With the new waterfowl season fast approaching, it's time to take stock of whatever birds you may still have in the freezer. For optimal flavor, the USDA recommends eating frozen game within eight to 12 months of freezing. Assuming that the duck has remained frozen, it will be safe to eat 10 years from now. It just won't taste nearly as good as if you cooked it shortly after harvest.
Proper packaging will prolong the life of frozen meats, but it's equally important to label and date each package so you can use the oldest birds first. Think of the date on the package as your expiration date and cook within one year.
Here's a recipe that's perfect for making the most of last season's ducks while making room for this season's.
Quick Duck with Tomato Sauce
Topped with shaved parmesan cheese and served atop warm pasta, this dish is fast, easy, and delicious. For thin slices, cut ducks into strips with a sharp knife while still partially frozen.
Preparation Time: about 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 1–2 hours
3 large skinless duck breast half fillets, sliced across the grain into thin strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
2–3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or substitute canned diced tomato, drained)
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Shaved parmesan cheese
Warm cooked pasta
1. In a bowl, combine the sliced duck with the next 4 ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
2. To prepare sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian seasoning, and pepper flakes. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced duck and marinade and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, simmer for 2 minutes more.
4. Arrange pasta on plates, spoon duck and sauce over, and top with cheese.
Freezer Burn Relief
Freezer burn occurs when meat that is exposed to air dries out over time. The oxidized areas become discolored and leathery. Once thawed, simply cut away the freezer-burned portion and the remaining meat is safe to eat. Wrapping meat in butcher paper or storing loosely in plastic bags does not protect meats from exposure to oxygen. Consider purchasing a vacuum packaging unit or, at the very least, submerge your ducks or duck parts in water in a freezer-safe resealable bag or carton.