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Game Dishes: Fanciful Duck to the Taco Truck

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Poultry Performing on Either End of the Spectrum
By Candice Horner and Dave Merrill

Game is for eating. But even when we’re rolling fancy not every dish has to be über haute couture, nor should it be. That said, if we can show either end of the spectrum just to give you some ideas to rip apart and make your own? We will. Undoubtedly you’ll have some versions that fall somewhere in between, and assuredly we’ll receive some hate mail about how horrible our recipes are (lies).

FYI, if you have game recipes you’d like to share with us, from pigeon to platypus, penguin to pronghorn — very soon you’ll be able to submit them for consideration.

brick duck

Bricked Duck
Yes, we’re using a brick. But that’s not the best part; this recipe works equally well on both harvested and farmed birds. This sentence would seem obvious to those that don’t know better — hog is pig and duck is duck, right?

Not just no, but hell no!

Those who damn sure know the difference will appreciate the universal nature of this recipe — and it doesn’t even include battering or frying. We shamefully admit our freezers were empty of harvested wild duck when this recipe was photographed. But as stated, this recipe rolls well with both a scrappy harvested duck and a big, fat farmed one with equal measure and deliciousness.

Duck is often regarded as a fatty bird, but that statement concerns the skin more than the meat itself. The fat is delicious, but can be overpowering for some palates. Still, this recipe uses a bare minimum of ingredients, even including the quick pan sauce. Keep this one around for the fall to impress your family or potential sexual partners.

And of course, we have to have some booze with it.

The pairing today is a pale ale from North High Brewing Company. It’s not overly hoppy like so many other craft brews. Right in the nose, there are robust citrus notes that make it a perfect companion to this duck recipe. As far as a side dish here, we opted for a mushroom risotto, but any similar earthy side will go well with this one. Of course our favorite is just enjoying it all by itself and forgoing the side altogether — your mileage may vary.

north high pale ale

+    Duck breasts
+    Fresh cracked black pepper
+    Salt
+    Heavy-ass brick

For the sauce:
+    Butter (unsalted)
+    Shallots (chopped)
+    Chicken stock
+    Pinot noir
(not amazeballs, but not awful)

Raw duck fillet in big round plate and cutlery isolated on white background, top view

Raw duck fillet in big round plate and cutlery isolated on white background, top view

1. Ensure the duck breast is at or near room temperature. Taking it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking should suffice. If the skin on your duck breast has a heavy layer of fat (especially common on farmed fowl), crisscross score the skin to allow for the most even cooking.

2. Generously rub the top, bottom, and sides with salt and pepper. Place the breast skin-down in a cold, ungreased pan. Turn the temperature to low/med, and drop that brick on top. The weight of the brick ensures the skin cooks evenly so you don’t end up with an irregular rubbery mess.

Of course, cover the brick with foil first. Or don’t. We don’t care.

3. Within a four to six minutes, you’ll begin to hear the fat from the skin bubbling up and out. If it’s sizzling and/or spitting, the pan is too hot and you should lower the temperature. Regularly drain the fat from the pan and save it for later. (Ever had tater tots fried with duck fat? You’re welcome.)

4. Continue cooking until nearly all the fat has drained, and the skin is lightly browned. This can take up to 15 minutes with larger breasts.

5. Turn up the heat to medium/medium high until the skin is nicely brown and you have an internal temperature of 120 degrees F. Instant-read thermometers take all of the guesswork out.

6. Flip the breast over to cook the skin side to your desired doneness. Though the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, we’re looking toward that medium rare 130 degrees F as the cutoff.

7. Remove the breast from the pan using tongs. Set aside to rest and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Now It’s Sauce Time
8. Turn the heat up to medium/high, add shallots while stirring regularly with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching. Ensure to scrape up all the juicy browned bits of meat — the more the merrier.

9. After the shallots have softened, deglaze the pan with a pour (5 ounces, or just over a half cup) of Pinot. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan once the wine is reduced by at least half.

10. Add (1) cup of chicken stock, and cook until the sauce is thick. Cut your duck breasts against the grain, top with sauce. Godere!

To read the rest of this article, click here to purchase a copy of CARNIVORE 2

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