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A waterfowl hunter’s delight

When I was a kid, grandpa loved duck hunting in the ponds and marshes behind our house and grandma was an expert at cooking his quarry. Even though she had a lot of wonderful recipes for making the most out of grandpa’s bagged birds, my favourite dish was her delicious duck pot pie, a meal I still enjoy today as much as I did years ago.

Like grandpa, I love waterfowl hunting and this old recipe of grandma’s is still one of my favourite ways to prepare duck. One of the things I like most about the creation, aside from the tender bites of duck meat hidden beneath the hearty potato-cheese topping, is the fact that this recipe is well suited for birds that are in less than platter-perfect condition!

What I like to do upon preparing my ducks for the freezer is to label them according to their best-suited purpose. For instance, I label a prize that lands in the bag in prime condition as being a “roasting duck.” On the other hand, a bird which needs to be trimmed of shot damage and is in less presentable condition gets tagged as being a “pot pie bird.” This way I can show off all my birds in gourmet fashion, even the ones that took the harder fall.

This pie can be made in advance and reheated at serving time, making it a very nice company meal. And the really big bonus is that one mere pound of duck meat, prepared in this fashion, makes six hearty servings. You can make one large deep-dish pie or six individual pot pies, which are great for freezing for future use.

I like to serve it with a sweet and tangy green cabbage salad on the side (try my easy recipe below) and a glass of robust red wine for toasting the feast.

1 pound boneless duck meat, diced
2 cups homemade duck stock (or homemade or store-bought chicken stock)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 minced onion
2 diced carrots
1 diced parsnip
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried crushed basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup flour (or 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup chicken gravy mix for deeper colour)

6 large peeled potatoes
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese (or a mix of the two)

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Cook them in a large kettle of boiling, salted water until tender to a fork – about 15 minutes. Drain and return them to the pot. Add cream, butter, salt and pepper; mash until smooth; fold in the cheese and then set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add the duck, mushrooms, vegetables and seasonings. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the duck is tender. Stir in the peas.

In a small bowl, blend the flour into one cup of water, until smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the duck and vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Empty duck filling into a 10-cup deep-dish pie or casserole dish and spoon the potato mixture over top. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Turn the broiler to high and continue cooking for five minutes or until the top is golden.
Cabbage salad

Put four cups of shredded green cabbage into a large bowl. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of sea salt. Work the salt into the cabbage with your hands, until the cabbage begins to wilt or “gives off a little juice.”

In a small bowl, mix together a quarter-cup of balsamic vinegar with three tablespoons of liquid honey and two tablespoons of virgin olive oil. Add a shake of black pepper and mix well. Pour this over the cabbage and toss. Let it stand at room temperature for about one hour before serving.

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