This weeks Big Wild featured duck, so here are a few thoughts to flesh out that discussion.
First consideration is that all ducks ain’t created equal! If you’re adverse to the funky, gamy character of wild meats, steer clear of the fish eating ducks like Mergansers and Scaups. Of all the species hunted for game, these guys tend to be quite fishy tasting and their fat is very gamy. Wood ducks and Teals are your best bet for a tamer, more palatable taste profile.
Season also has bearing on taste and condition of course; the character of the meat certainly changes if your duck is in migration mode versus stocking up for winter months, as a fer instance.
With any species, it’s best to field dress and clean promptly and thoroughly, and get the bird cooled below 40 F as soon as possible. Food safety rules apply to wild as well as tame game!
I think that brining a wild bird is almost always a good idea prior to cooking. 1:16 salt to water is a good rule of thumb, so 1/4 cup salt to 1 quart of water. Brine your bird from anywhere from a couple hours to overnight, then rinse thoroughly by running the bird through at least 3 fresh water changes and minor soaks. You can use alternatives to water if you want to de-funky the taste of your bird further; citrus juice replacing all or part of the water is nice, and apple cider is exceptional.
Here’s the game plan for a basic roast duck.
Prick the skin liberally to allow fat to escape.
Stuff the bird with,
1 medium Sweet Onion
A few stems Cilantro
1 teaspoon ground Sage
Salt and Pepper to taste
Rough chop fruit and veggies, mix all thoroughly in a bowl and stuff bird liberally.
Truss your bird with kitchen twine so thickness is as uniform as possible.
Roast at 300 F with wings toward the side wall of stove and breast toward the middle, until internal temperature of meat at the thickest part reaches 160 F.
Start with the duck breast side down and flip roughly half way through roasting process.
Remove the bird and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Meat should look, feel, and smell cooked, and juice from wing to body joint should run clear when checked.
Cook wild rice, brussels sprouts, green beans, or asparagus as a side with crusty, fresh bread and a nice, cold white wine of your choice.