November 6, 2008

Duck Hunter's Pie

I have like a gazillion fresh, wild duck breasts in my refrigerator because Hunter McGee brings them to me. Seriously. I have no idea what to do with them. I heard that curing them like pastrami is good, but I haven't yet tried that (though I intend to very soon).

I've tried searing them (with the skin on). That was just okay, but not something I'd make again. Last week, I tried roasting a whole duck. That was a total failure. In fact, it grossed me out. (I have pictures, but I won't punish you with them.)

Anne said the key to cooking wild duck is to add fat and cook it low & slow.

So, I search online for some recipe ideas...because I am determined to find something to do with all this meat! I came across a recipe for "Duck Coop Pie," which is basically Shepard's Pie with shredded duck instead of lamb or beef.

To prepare the breasts--which are split, boneless, & skinless--I decided to braise them, making the most of the "low & slow" method. First, I soaked the meat in whole milk for 30 minutes(though, I've since heard that soaking in buttermilk overnight is better). This is supposed to make the meat tender and eliminate any gaminess.

Then, I put them in a baking dish, snug but not overlapping. I added salt, pepper, dried thyme, & garlic. Over the top, I laid thick slices of hickory-smoked bacon & sliced onions. I tucked in a couple of bay leaves before adding about a cup of chicken stock (the stock should just about cover everything). I covered the dish with foil and baked it at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then I turned the heat down to 300 degrees and continued cooking for 40 minutes.

Afterwards, I took the pan out of the oven, removed the cover, & let it cool. When the breast were cool enough to handle, I chopped the meat (the meat was fairly tender, but it was difficult to shred).

I made the pie filling by sauteing a couple a medium white onion with some chopped celery (2 stalks) & carrot (a handful of baby carrots) in some duck fat. Then, I added the duck meat, a cup of frozen peas, & a cup of frozen corn seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, & fresh rosemary. Next, I stirred in a bit of flour (a couple tablespoons), let it cook a minute or so, then added a few cups of chicken stock. It looked too thin, so I added some slurry (flour & stock mixed to a thin paste). I wanted it to look like gravy.

When the filling was thick, I poured it into a large baking dish. I topped it with mashed potatoes (skins removed & pressed through a potato ricer, then mixed with whole milk, butter, duck fat, salt & pepper) & dotted it with butter

The final step was to bake the pie at 375 degrees until the filling was bubbly & the potatoes were starting to brown, about 30 minutes.

And it was good! The meat was tender and flavorful, not gamey.

So, I'm inspired to try other recipes with wild duck breast. I'm thinking that pastrami for sure, as well as stew (with sausage & beans, cassoulet style) and confit (can you do that with breast meat?).

Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment!


Anonymous said...

Lucky you, an over abundance of duck! Are you planning on freezing some of it?
I think your recipe sounds yummy. You can find my favorite duck recipe on, duck breasts with orange, honey and tea sauce. It calls for searing then popping it into the oven to finish, so maybe you won't be crazy about it. It's easy and I think it's delish. If you try it I hope you like it.

Vijitha said...

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Jus popped into say a hi!

Do have a look at my blog.

Recipe sounds yummy. Gr8 post!

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Thanks for the shout-out. Glad you found a palatable way to do some of your wild duck meat.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, missed you yesterday at the KC book club. Good discussion and the ravioli were fantastic!

Yes, what a good problem you have, and I’d be happy to “relieve you” of some of those ducks if you have too many ;-) !! Our 15 year old son shot his first (and only) duck a few weeks ago and the breasts ended up measuring 7 ounces. After soaking it in milk (skim b/c that’s what we use) for an hour or so, I coarsely chopped it, sprinkled with S&P, and quickly sautéed in olive oil. We served it atop a salad of mixed greens with gorgonzola, dried cranberries, pecans, and a cranberry vinaigrette.

KELLY said...


That sounds good! I'm trying it tonight!