By Scott Leysath -

If one of your culinary goals is to make waterfowl taste like something other than a duck or a goose, I want you to reconsider. Drowning your ducks-even the darker-fleshed divers-in overpowering marinades to make them more palatable is not only unnecessary but also a terrible disservice to the birds. Marinades should always enhance the natural flavors of waterfowl without overwhelming them.

The following simple recipe is one of my favorite ways to marinate duck. The breast fillets used in this dish should be soaked overnight in a mild brine, patted down with a dry towel, and then immersed in this flavorful marinade for several hours. You might want to use a needling device to puncture the meat to speed up the marinating process. Lightly pounding the fillets with a mallet or heavy skillet will also help tenderize them and decrease cooking time.

Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
Marinating Time: 6-8 hours
Cooking Time: 10-12 minutes
Serves: 4


  • 3 lemons
  • 3 limes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.), chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 to 6 duck breast fillets (skin intact)


Step 1
Cut 1 lemon and 1 lime into 4 slices each. Slice the remaining lemons and limes in half and squeeze the juice into a medium bowl. Add garlic, kosher salt, pepper, and herbs, then whisk together. While whisking, add olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified.

Step 2
To remove the breast fillets, use a sharp knife and, with the bird breast side up on a firm surface, carve along both sides of the breastbone. If desired, continue cutting along the body so that the leg is attached to the fillet. Arrange the fillets in a nonreactive container, add marinade, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning occasionally to coat evenly.

Step 3
Preheat the oven to 375deg;F. Remove the fillets from the marinade and place them, skin side up, in an oven-safe skillet or baking dish. Arrange the reserved lemon and lime slices over each fillet. Place in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until skin is golden brown.

Bottled lemon and lime concentrates are handy, but they lack the true flavor of freshly squeezed juice. Similarly, chopped garlic from a jar is okay in a pinch, but it really doesn't compare with freshly minced garlic cloves. Taking a few extra minutes to process fresh ingredients will make a remarkable difference in the taste of the finished dish.