Cooking Wild: Duck With Wild Cranberry Drizzle

DEPT_cooking-wildThis is a delectable dish for the waterfowler who wants to showcase duck in gourmet fashion.

It calls for just the breast and the recipe is best suited for one or two plump prairie-fed birds that have fattened themselves up nicely on grain and have been plucked instead of skinned.

Don’t fret if your ducks are skinned or skinnier, for that matter, for you can increase the number of breasts used and butter them up a little to keep meat moist upon cooking.

Nothing complements duck better than a sweet, tart sauce made from wild cranberries, which belong to the honeysuckle family (viburnum species). There are various members growing in Canada but the most common type found in Western woodlands is the “high-bush” cranberry.

You’ll find them flourishing on moist grounds along lakeshores, riversides, in bogs, edges of marshlands and in mixed deciduous forests.

The high-bush cranberry grows on shrubs that can reach about eight to 10 feet tall, but most brushes are somewhat shorter. The juicy, tart berries have one flat seed inside and grow in clusters. They ripen in late summer to early fall and those that aren’t eaten by birds and animals often remain on bare branches all winter long.

Once you’ve tickled your taste buds with wild cranberries you’ll want to keep your eyes open for them and, good news is, I’ve even had luck gathering cranberries from the same marshlands where a supper’s worth of ducks were harvested. Now, in my book, that’s the ultimate duck-hunting day.

Prepare the Duck Breasts

  • 2 to 4 duck breasts (serves 2 to 4 depending on size of the birds)

With a sharp knife, score each breast down the middle by making parallel cuts in the skin about one quarter inch apart. Now cut slits crossways to make a grid pattern. Put breasts skin side down in a flat shallow dish. (If using skinned birds, instead of scoring, make a couple deep slits in each breast and fill with the slat with hard butter).

Mix together one-cup white wine, three tablespoons soy sauce, three tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice and a teaspoon each of grated lemon zest and grated ginger. Pour over the duck, cover and refrigerate for several hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat a non-stick skillet and sear breasts skin-side (or buttered-side) down, over high heat for four to five minutes. Turn and sear other side. Add the marinade and cook over high heat until liquid is reduced to about one-quarter cup.

Place duck in buttered baking dish or roasting pan—skin-side or buttered-side up.  Pour remaining cooking liquid into bottom of pan. Roast uncovered in preheated 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for eight to 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius (158 F) and meat is tender. Do not overcook or the meat will dry out.

Transfer duck to serving platter. Drizzle the wild cranberry sauce (see recipe) over top and garnish with a few whole cranberries, if desired. Goes great with wild rice on the side, white wine for toasting the feast and lots of duck talk…

Wild Cranberry Drizzle

  • 1 cup wild cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • ½ cup honey (more or less to suit taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch blended into 3 tablespoons wate

Put cranberries in sauce pan, add water, juice and zest and bring to a boil. Simmer three minutes or until skin pops on the berries. Mash several times with a fork to help bust the berries open. Strain through a sieve, forcing juice out of the berries with the back of a spoon. Discard skins and seeds. You should have one cup of juice, add a little water if needed to make the measure. Add honey and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thick, smooth and clear.

Note: you can use 1 cup of store-bought fresh or frozen cranberries in place of the wild cranberries. Since they are much harder and less juicy, you may need to increase the water and the cooking time.

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