Secrets of Cooking with Wild Game: Water Fowl

Male mallard duck
Image via Wikipedia

I find it kind of humorous that word fowl is also a word used to describe something bad.  An example would be, “oh my, that skunk smells foul!” Unfortunately, most hunters I come across that hunt ducks and geese share their disastrous cooking stories of “foul” fowl with me. I must admit I don’t get to cook with as much wild water fowl as I would like. Mostly, because my husband doesn’t hunt them and he would rather spend his time fishing or hunting pheasant, deer and wild turkey.

I agree water fowl can be challenging to cook with but challenging as it may be the American plate is even more frustrating to deal with. We Americans have been eating too much bland beef and chicken and have lost the appreciation of the “wild” flavors of game meat. In Europe the flavors of wild meat is still coveted and is considered a “special” meal. The strong flavors come from amount of red muscle fibers the bird has and their diet. Ducks and geese have more of those red fibers muscles because they use their breast muscles to fly thousands of miles. That explains why pheasant meat is whiter and more mild tasting than say, a duck. Pheasants do not migrate and spend most of their time walking on their feet than flying. Does that mean that pheasant tastes better than duck? No, just different. Duck red fiber breast muscle is about 80% while goose runs about 85% hence the stronger flavor of the goose. Pheasant red fiber breast muscle runs round a meager are 35% and industrial chicken is at 10% and its flavor is bland. The best advice is to try to find a recipe for duck or goose and try not to adapt it from a chicken recipe. It will never work.

Duck has also been known to smell and taste fishy or muddy. There are ways to reduce this common problem.

The birds age – will help identify if it will be necessary to do a little prep work before moving forward with your recipe. Young ducks have bright yellow bills and feet.

Hanging– time will also aid in the flavor of the duck as well. In cool weather a 2-3 hanging period is all that is needed, any more than that may result in an increased wild flavor. In warm weather remove the guts before hanging.

If your duck smells fishy or earthy try this method before proceeding with your recipe. Place whole bird in roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with one potato and 1 teaspoon of salt and pour boiling water to about an 1/2 inch and cook in a preheated oven for 10-12 mins @ 350. Proceed with your recipe and reduce cooking time by 10 mins.

Do not over cook! -Or, your duck will resemble wet beef jerky. Cook the duck just enough until the beast is cooked through out.

Anyone out their still have and wild duck left in the freezer? I would love to hear about your favorite recipes.


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2 thoughts on “Secrets of Cooking with Wild Game: Water Fowl

  1. We grew up on duck and a couple of my favorite recipes are just roasted duck on bread and butter, or duck gravy on toast.
    1- In a pot of water, add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and 1 chopped onion (my wife’s addition to the recipe).
    2- Boil the duck until it is easily deboned (I boiled 3 ducks for 6 hours).
    3- Debone the duck.

    Use the breasts for sandwiches and meat from the wings, legs, thighs and back for gravy.

    To make gravy:
    1- In the duck broth (or whatever amount of broth you want for gravy) add the duck meat.
    2 -Add cream and flour (I used Wondra sauce and gravy flour) to the desired consistency, and add salt and pepper to taste.
    3 -Boil the gravy until it is the right consistency – I thickened it to the consistency of Chipped Beef or Country Gravy.

    Serve the gravy over buttered toast.

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