Ducks and Geese: They’re Delicious!
Nearly 10 years ago, my son, Mike, who was then 15 years old, stood on our patio in heavy winter camouflage clothing. He held a pair of drake mallards in each hand and couldn’t contain his excitement as he described how he got them.
“Dad, we had over 100 mallards come in on us,” he said. “You could hear their wings hitting limbs as they came in through the flooded timber.”
The excitement of that wade-and-shoot hunt at Duck Creek turned my son into an obsessed waterfowler. Mike quickly developed waterfowling skills and began regularly bringing ducks and geese home and putting them in the freezer.
This posed a problem. I didn’t hunt ducks or geese because I never cared for the taste of them. However, out of respect for the game my son was bringing home, and to honor his efforts, I had to learn how to make good use of his harvest.
I studied different wild-game cookbooks and tried numerous recipes. Some of them made the ducks and geese taste like tough liver. Other recipes, however, transformed waterfowl into superb cuisine.
Often recipes that call for domestic meats work well with wild game. A great source for recipe ideas is the Internet. With a little experience you will develop a knack for determining the quality of a recipe by just looking at the ingredients.
If your past attempts at cooking ducks and geese produced results that were less than satisfactory, try the following preparation tips and recipes. I think you will be pleased.
Rinse and Marinade
Waterfowl need strong breast muscles to migrate between summer breeding areas and winter feeding grounds. Abundant blood vessels furnish these flight muscles with oxygen and other nutrients. The large quantity of blood found in waterfowl breast muscles is the main reason waterfowl have the “ducky” taste many people dislike.
The first step to converting waterfowl to quality food is to rinse the blood out of the meat. The most efficient way to do this is to fillet the breast meat off the bone, trim off any fat, and cut the meat into 1-inch chunks. Using only the breast meat seems wasteful, but the amount of meat on waterfowl legs and backs is minimal.
Place the chunked breast meat in a bowl and run water over it, swirling the meat with your hands, a big spoon or a spatula. Squeeze the meat against the side of the bowl, then continue rinsing. When the meat no longer turns the water red or pink, cover the meat with water and place the bowl in the refrigerator. Let the meat soak at least eight hours or overnight. Repeat these steps, twice a day, for three days. Sure, this process takes a little time, but the results make the wait worthwhile.
The next step is marinating. Most grocery stores carry marinades bottled and ready to use; other marinades come in dry packets that require the addition of liquids, such as oil, water or vinegar.
Even when the marinade directions call for less time, I’ve found that proper seasoning of duck or goose meat requires about 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Experiment with different flavors. You might like a zesty Italian marinade, or a honey-teriyaki concoction. Some people like their marinades spicy or peppery.
With waterfowl properly rinsed and marinated, you are ready to cook. The following three recipes repeatedly pass the taste test in our family’s kitchen.
Ducks Are What They Eat
Ducks that eat a lot of grains during the winter months, such as mallards, teal, gadwalls, wigeons and pintails, generally have a milder flavor than diving ducks and shovelers, which primarily eat fish and invertebrates. However, proper rinsing, marinading and cooking will convert even the “fishiest” duck into a delectable main course.
- Slice duck or goose breasts off the bone, cut into 1-inch pieces and rinse as described. Cover and marinate the meat for 24 hours in the refrigerator, using your favorite marinade.
- On a kabob skewer, place a 1-inch piece of green pepper, followed by a piece of seasoned duck or goose (as an option, wrap the duck or goose in bacon before skewering), followed by a 1-inch chunk of onion. Repeat this pattern until the skewer is full. For added color, use red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, along with the green.
- Place over a medium-high charcoal fire and grill. Turn frequently, and baste using a fresh batch of marinade.
- Cook until meat is medium-rare to medium-well—about 10 minutes.
Duck or goose cooked this way takes on a marvelous mix of flavors from the charcoal smoke, marinade, green peppers and onion. One to two full skewers will serve as the main course for an adult. A tossed salad and baked potato go well with this main course. These kabobs also work well as hors d’oeuvres.
This recipe is best applied to breast meat taken out of smaller ducks, such as teal and wood ducks.
- Trim all fat from filleted duck breasts, then refrigerate the meat for two or three days, changing the water several times.
- Pat breasts dry, then place them between two pieces of waxed paper and pound the fillets with a tenderizing hammer until they are half as thick as they were originally.
- Lightly brush with olive oil, sprinkle both sides with seasoned salt, place in ziplock plastic bags and return to the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
- Pour about 1/3-inch of oil into a skillet. Heat the oil to 350 degrees—medium high.
- While the oil is heating, mix flour, pepper and seasoned salt to taste in a bowl. You may need more seasoned salt than you think.
- Dip fillets in milk or buttermilk, roll them in the seasoned flour, then place coated meat in hot oil. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 5–10 minutes.
- Carefully turn meat so as not to knock off batter, then fry until other side is brown.
- Remove from skillet and drain on absorbent paper towels.
Prepared this way, fried duck is delicious. Biscuits and gravy along with green beans—with apple pie for dessert—help round out this meal.
Duck or Goose Stew
Cut 2–3 pounds of duck or goose into 1-inch pieces, rinse as described and marinate in two changes of red wine in the refrigerator for two days. Before starting, make sure you have the following ingredients:
6 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 beef bouillon cubes
3 cups water
2 cups red wine
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
3 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
1 15-oz can sweet corn, drained
2 15-oz cans green beans, drained
6 medium potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped celery
- Remove goose or duck pieces from wine and let drain in a colander.
- Place meat and flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, in a covered container. Shake container vigorously to coat meat.
- Cook bacon in large, heavy pot over medium-high until brown.
- Add flour-coated meat to pot and brown.
- Add garlic and cook for one minute.
- Add bouillon cubes, 3 cups of water, wine, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
- Chop onion and celery and cut carrots and potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add to stew along with corn and green beans.
- Simmer for 1 hour.
- Mix 2 tablespoons flour with 1/2 cup water. Stir into stew. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove bay leaves. Yields 8–10 servings.
With this stew, all that is needed to form a complete meal are dinner rolls or bread sticks and a beverage of choice.