I grew up eating ducks that were stuffed with fruits, vegetables, and rice and cooked until well done. They were always tough and gamey tasting. Now I know that it wasn't the duck; it was the way it was cooked. Depending on how you prepare them, ducks and geese can sometimes become off-tasting if they are cooked beyond medium rare. If you prefer waterfowl well done, there are some delicious recipes that call for cooking the meat low and slow until it is pot-roast tender. These recipes work especially well for sea ducks, divers, and Canada geese, which tend to be stronger tasting than puddle ducks.
Several years ago, I was hunting with some New Englanders, and a discussion arose among us concerning what to do with waterfowl species that need a little more care in the kitchen. They agreed with me that cooking these birds slowly in a Dutch oven, slow cooker, or large pot can be delicious. The key is to cook them until the meat is falling apart. They also shared a simple stew recipe, which they said had been introduced in their part of the country during colonial times. The following recipe is loosely based on that traditional dish.
NEW ENGLAND WATERFOWL STEW
This recipe works well with any duck or goose breast fillets, including darker-fleshed sea ducks and divers. Make a large batch, let it cool, and freeze some of it for later. Makes 8-10 servings.
- 3 pounds (about 1 1/2 quarts) duck or goose breast fillets, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts beef or game stock
- 2 cups roughly chopped yellow onion
- 2 cups peeled carrots, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 2 cups celery, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 8 to 10 quartered small red potatoes
- Chopped Italian parsley
[STEP 1] Season meat with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot. Add meat in batches and brown evenly.
[STEP 2] Add rosemary and the next five ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until meat is tender and can be broken apart with moderate pressure, about 1 1/2 hours.
[STEP 3] Add carrots, celery, and potatoes. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. If desired, season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with parsley.