duck dinner

WaterLine photo by Chef Tim Spain

Recently I have been enjoying some wild game. One of the things I’ve been eating is wild duck. I think of ducks as basically flying petite filet mignon. They are very tasty and pretty easy to cook. Just cook a duck breast just like you would a steak. I like mine medium-rare.

Wild ducks don’t have the same risks of salmonella contamination as factory-farmed poultry, so eating them rare is much safer than trying a rare chicken breast. Salmonella is a bacteria naturally found in the birds’ intestines, so taking care in how they’re dressed will reduce the chances of salmonella getting on the meat.

To be on the safest side of protection from foodborne illness, I will usually freeze wild game first to help add another layer of protection. But don’t forget it in there. I wonder how many of us have wild game in our freezers from two hunting seasons ago.

A friend and I were talking earlier this week about wild game and he asked me “What do most people who have wild game in their freezers do?” I think he wanted a recipe, but I said most people don’t eat it. He agreed and said that people should open their freezers, thaw out their game and enjoy it. He’s right. Think about the efforts we make: Prepping for a hunt, going hunting, harvesting the game, dressing and butchering it. And then we chuck it in the freezer and forget all about it. Open your freezer and get out your game.

Duck is one of my favorite things to make, especially the duck breast. That’s the flying steak I mentioned earlier, and that’s the part that I suggest you cook like a steak. All you need is a super-hot skillet, some cooking oil and your favorite seasonings. I prefer Everglades seasonings. The original formula is the one I like to use on duck breast.

If your duck breast still has the skin on it, slice the skin several times in both directions. Cutting the skin will keep it from shrinking and causing the breast to curl. Sear the breast skin side down until it’s crispy. Then sear the other side for about the same amount of time or to your desired temperature.

Duck has a lot of savory flavor, and you will taste the fat in the duck. An easy way to “cut the fat” so to speak is to counter it with a semi-sweet sauce with acidity. I like to use dark berries like blueberries, blackberries and strawberries with a small amount of sugar and red wine.

I combine the berries, wine and sugar in a sauce pot and allow it to simmer until the berries start to break down. Then I puree the berries into the wine and sugar and strain the sauce to remove the seeds. This sauce is a good one to have on hand for other things too. I especially like it on ice cream or on pulled pork with a dash of hot sauce added.

So open your freezers and dig out the game you’ve harvested. Gather with friends and family and enjoy the efforts that were made to be able to enjoy these wild delicacies. Don’t let it go to waste.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

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