By Scott Leysath – thesportingchef.com
I'm not much of a coffee drinker. While my duck blind partners are finishing off their last cup of java, I'm drinking water. I do, however, like the smoky flavor that coffee imparts to seared meat, and especially to a big, fat mallard in a cast-iron skillet. Most folks will be surprised to discover just how good pan-seared duck tastes after a nice rub of ground coffee, salt, pepper, brown sugar, and a few other seasonings.
Coffee imparts more than just robust flavor to the outside of any piece of meat. It also creates a dark, crispy crust when cooked over high heat. This crust adds an extra dimension to a well-prepared duck or goose, making it moist, tender, and delicious on the inside and crispy on the outside.
There's no need to fuss with a sauce to serve alongside this dish. Simply deglaze the pan with a splash of freshly brewed coffee or beef broth after the duck has been set aside to rest a few minutes. Deglazing the pan with liquid will loosen any of the bits that stuck to it while cooking. It's a good time to add a minced garlic clove, some fresh herbs, and perhaps a pinch or two of the rub. Give it a stir and reduce the liquid to just a tablespoon or two before removing the pan from the range and whisking in a few tablespoons of butter. Drizzle a ribbon of the pan sauce over the duck.
The coffee rub works best with ducks that are plucked rather than skinned. The fatter the duck, the better the end result. A large puddle duck with a good layer of rendered fat will balance the slightly bitter taste of the coffee. The rub also has just enough brown sugar to give the cooked duck a sweet edge. If spicy heat is your thing, add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper for a crispy duck that is sweet, spicy, and earthy.
Using freshly ground coffee will give you a more aromatic rub. This recipe makes about 1 cup of dry rub, but you can prepare extra if you like by doubling or tripling the ingredients. The leftover rub can be stored in the refrigerator for a few months.
- 6 to 8 ducks, split in half with backbone removed
- 1/3 cup ground coffee
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
Combine the dry-rub ingredients.
Brush both sides of the skin-on duck breasts with olive oil. Rub a liberal coating of the dry rub onto the ducks. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in the skillet and cook for 4 to 7 minutes, depending on the size of the birds. Once the skin is crispy, flip the ducks over and cook the other side until done.
Remove the ducks from the pan and allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.