Five Classic Waterfowl Recipes

The Sporting Chef offers new variations on traditional duck and goose dishes

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

By Scott Leysath
Photography by Woody Woodliff

Classic recipes aren't necessarily dishes that most people have actually had the opportunity to enjoy, but they do have a very traditional ring to them. There's boeuf bourguignon, duck á l'orange, lobster thermidor, and pheasant under glass, which simply involves serving a sautéed pheasant breast under a glass lid that captures the aromatic essence of the dish. Classic doesn't always mean fine dining, but the next time you serve your favorite duck dish, you might want to place a glass bowl over the plate and call it "duck under glass" to impress your guests.

Traditional waterfowl recipes are often less hoity-toity. Roasted wild goose has been a popular dish for generations, and so too has duck gumbo. Simple, hearty meals were probably the norm at the time of DU's formation, when some ingredients were hard to come by and a dollar had to be stretched during the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression. It's not difficult, however, to imagine Joseph Knapp and some of the other well-heeled founders of DU dining on teal á l'orange and similar wild duck haute cuisine. 

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

RECIPE ONE: TEAL Á L'ORANGE

Teal rank at the top of many lists of best-eating ducks. These diminutive fast fliers are one of the few ducks that can be cooked whole rather than in parts. However, this twist on a classic recipe features teal breast fillets over orange slices and basil leaves. 

Cooking Time: 25–30 minutes 
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients

  • 12 teal breast fillets, preferably with skin intact 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
  • 1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces 
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur 
  • 12 orange slices 
  • 12 basil leaves 

Marinade 

  • 3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup dry white wine 
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Step 1 Season the teal breast fillets liberally with salt and pepper. Combine the marinade ingredients and whisk to blend. Place the teal and marinade in a resealable plastic bag. Toss to coat evenly and place in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours. Remove the teal from the marinade and pat dry.

Step 2 Heat 1/4 cup of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the teal fillets in the skillet, skin side down, and cook them until the skin is lightly browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Flip them over and cook the other side for 2 minutes for medium-rare—or longer to desired doneness. Remove the teal and keep them warm. 

Step 3 Remove the skillet from the heat and set it away from any open flame. Slowly add orange liqueur to the skillet, but use caution—adding alcohol to a hot skillet may cause it to ignite. Please keep yourself and anything flammable away from the skillet, adding the liquid slowly and carefully.  

Step 4 Place the skillet over medium heat and reduce the liquid by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in remaining butter until smooth. To serve, arrange 3 orange slices and 3 basil leaves on each plate, then top with teal fillets, pan sauce, and caramelized onions.

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

RECIPE TWO: ROASTED WILD GOOSE

The classic picture of a plump goose on a roasting platter, flanked by roasted fruits and vegetables, undoubtedly depicts a farm-raised bird. However, roasting a wild goose whole will result in parts that are edible and others that are less so. This recipe solves that dilemma by giving the legs a head start in a tenderizing broth. 

Cooking Time: 2 1/2–3 hours 
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients 

  • 2 goose breast fillets, skin intact 
  • 2 or more goose legs 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
  • Olive oil 
  • Beef, chicken, or game broth 
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces

Directions

Step 1 Rub the goose legs and breast fillets on all sides with salt and pepper. Wrap the breast fillets in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator.

Step 2 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add a thin layer of olive oil to an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Place the goose legs in the skillet and brown evenly on all sides. Add about 1 inch of broth and bring to a boil. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover with a lid or foil. Place the skillet in the preheated oven, then check for doneness after 2 hours. The meat on the legs should have receded to the joint and should pull away from the bone with moderate pressure. If more cooking time is needed, add additional broth to the skillet, replace the lid or foil, and continue cooking until the meat is tender. Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate or pan, and keep warm.

Step 3 Increase oven heat to 400°F. Rinse and dry the ovenproof skillet (or use another one), add a thin layer of olive oil, and heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place the goose breast fillets, skin side down, in the skillet and cook until the skin is lightly browned and crispy. Flip over, add red wine, and stir to deglaze any bits stuck to the pan. Add reserved legs and garlic, stir, then place the pan uncovered in the preheated oven for about 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare—or longer to desired doneness. 

Step 4 Allow the breast fillets to rest for a few minutes before slicing and arranging them on plates with the legs. Whisk the butter into the skillet and spoon the pan sauce over the sliced goose. 

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

RECIPE THREE: PAN-SEARED DUCK BREAST WITH WILD RICE

This simple recipe is a variation on the traditional pairing of ducks with wild rice. While stuffing wild ducks can lead to overcooking, this dish turns duck breast fillets into tender, mouthwatering morsels. The secret is to brine the fillets first, then pan-sear them quickly on high heat.  

Cooking Time: 20–25 minutes
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 medium to large duck breast fillets, skin on or off 
  • Olive oil 

Brine

  • 1 quart ice-cold water 
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt 
  • 3 tablespoons crushed peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions

Step 1 Heat 1 cup of the ice-cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining brine ingredients—except water—and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir until salt is dissolved. Allow to cool completely. Add remaining ice-cold water. Place the duck breast fillets in brine and refrigerate for 12 hours. Remove from brine and  pat dry.

Step 2 Heat a thin layer of oil in a medium-hot skillet. Brown the duck breast fillets evenly on both sides. Allow to rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then slice and serve over wild rice and roasted bell peppers.

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

RECIPE FOUR: MARINATED DUCK LETTUCE WRAPS

This easy dish is a tribute to Peking duck, which typically requires a few days to prepare. If more pronounced flavor is desired, allow the duck fillets to marinate for up to 24 hours. 

Cooking Time: 15–20 minutes 
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients 

  • 4 to 6 medium to large duck breast fillets, skin on or off
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Hoisin sauce 

  • Iceberg lettuce leaves, trimmed 
  • Shredded carrots 
  • Julienned green onions 
  • Sriracha or other hot sauce 

Marinade 

  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil 
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • Pinch or two of five-spice powder 

Directions 

Step 1 Combine marinade ingredients and whisk to blend. Place duck breast fillets and marinade in a non-reactive bowl or resealable plastic bag. Toss to coat evenly and place in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours. Remove duck breast fillets from marinade and pat dry. 

Step 2 Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If the skin is intact, place the fillets skin side down and cook until skin is crispy. Once browned, flip them over and cook until the other side is medium brown but not overcooked. 

Step 3 Once cooked, place duck breast fillets on a cutting surface and allow them to rest for a few minutes before slicing them thinly across the "grain." Spread a thin layer of hoisin sauce on the lettuce leaves and top with duck, carrots, onions, and Sriracha as desired. Fold the lettuce leaves over and eat with your hands like a taco or burrito.

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Photo © Woody Woodliff

 

RECIPE FIVE: DUCK GUMBO

This classic Louisiana stew is a common menu item in bayou duck camps. There are perhaps more versions of this recipe than any other. Its roots run deep, with influences from a wide range of cultures throughout the world. As with any gumbo recipe, exact measurements are not required or encouraged, but are provided here merely as a general guideline.

Cooking Time: 3 hours 
Serves: 12 to 15
 

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 8 duck breast fillets, skin on or off, diced into 1- to 2-inch pieces 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 1/2 cups each chopped celery, onion, and peppers 
  • 4–6 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 quarts chicken stock 
  • 3 bay leaves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder 
  • 2 teaspoons filé powder 
  • 1 cup flour 
  • 2 cups sliced fresh or frozen okra 
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced 
  • 2 pounds shrimp (peeled, deveined, and preferably wild-caught) 
  • 1 cup seeded and finely diced tomatoes 
  • Warm cooked rice 
  • Hot sauce 

Directions 

Step 1 Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Season the duck liberally with salt and pepper and add it to the pot. Cook, stirring often, until the duck pieces are evenly browned. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Step 2 Add chicken stock, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and filé powder. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover pot and simmer until duck pieces are very tender, about 2 hours. While simmering, heat remaining oil in a small pot. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture (roux) is chocolate brown but not burnt. If the roux burns, start over. Once the roux reaches chocolate color, remove it from the heat and transfer to a heat-safe container. Allow to cool completely.

Step 3 Once the duck pieces are very tender, whisk in cooled roux. Add okra and sausage, then cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Toss in shrimp and tomatoes, and cook until shrimp turns pink. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve in bowls over rice with hot sauce.