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roast wild duck

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Roast wild duck

There are usually two ways to approach duck – remove the breast fillets and cook them pink, remove the legs and confit them. Alternatively roast the whole thing slow, low and crispy, only to be afterwards shredded or (dare I say?) pulled, Chinese style.

But the bird can actually be roasted whole or in quarters until pink. I spent a lovely summer a few years ago in Languedoc and passed numerous mealtimes in a great eatery called De La Grille. They did just a few things and did them well – salads, a whole grilled cuttlefish, simple pizzas and my favourite grilled duck. I think it was roasted rather than grilled* in an enormous wood oven where they concocted most of their menu, served as a hind quarter (they reserved the breast for a pricier option) and utterly delicious. Pink inside. Tender. Fantastic.

Roast mallard

The wild mallard is excellent cooked in a similar way, it’s a shame to cook game to death unless a pot-roast pheasant. Wild duck has great flavour and if you’re lucky you’ll get a more tender female specimen. The recipe is somewhat simplified Pierre Koffman’s.

*those cooking misnomers: ‘pan-roasted’, ‘oven steamed’, ‘grilled’ when they tell you to stick the thing in the oven or ‘pan-fried’ - like you could fry in a kettle?

roast wild duck


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large mallard duck
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • a few juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100ml white wine
  • salt and pepper
Wild mallard


METHOD

Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas 9. Season the duck inside and out with salt and pepper. Scatter the diced vegetables in a roasting pan with the juniper berries and the bay leaves, pour in the wine and put in the oven.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and, over a medium heat, brown the duck on all sides.

Roasting a mallard

Transfer the duck to the roasting pan and roast for 14-26 minutes depending on the size of the duck. (If you have spent some time browning the duck, 10 minutes may be enough.)

Remove the duck from the oven and remove the legs, cutting through the hip bone. (The bird will be hot so use a tea-towel or oven gloves to protect your hands.)Put the legs back in the pan to cook for a further 3 minutes. Leave the rest of the bird to rest in a warm place.

When the legs are ready (you might want to check with a digital probe, it should read 65 – 70C inserted in the thickest part of the leg), let them rest for a few minutes with the duck crown, then carve the breast or just cut each in half and serve with the legs and some cooking juices.

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