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.
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 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.
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.
Prepared this way, fried duck is delicious. Biscuits and gravy along with green beans—with apple pie for dessert—help round out this meal.
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
With this stew, all that is needed to form a complete meal are dinner rolls or bread sticks and a beverage of choice.
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