Duck is one of DonQui’s favourite meats. He is also very fond of game.
Imagine his joy, therefore, at seeing a wild mallard duck at his local butchers. It was too much to resist so he picked it up, took it home and then did a bit of research on how to best cook the bird — this being his first attempt.
A wild mallard is much smaller than a farmed duck — just about perfect for two people. It also has very little fat. Unlike a domestic duck, there is no need to render the fat and the whole bird can be roasted rather than separating the legs and breasts. Because the bird is so small the best way to prepare it is by browning it all over in a hot pan and then finishing it off in the oven.
This is DonQui’s recipe.
Ingredients for the roast mallard for two people
1 wild mallard
1 onion quartered
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and halved
1 lemon cut in half
A good bunch of fresh thyme
Oil and butter for cooking
Accompaniments (all optional)
1 apple cored and left whole with the skin on
Butter, raisins and a splash of rum to fill the inside of the apple
A handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for at least 30 minutes
A good splash of red wine to deglaze the pan
Take the duck out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking so that it comes to room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 200º C. Meanwhile rub sea salt all over the duck, including the cavity. Salt on the skin will help to crisp it as well as adding flavour.
Place the quartered onion, chopped carrot and garlic in a roasting pan, douse with a little oil and place in the heated oven to roast for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are nice and dark but not burned.
As the roasting time for the duck is only 12-15 minutes, DonQui does this in advance to help create a deep rich sauce. Otherwise the vegetables will not imbue the dark roasted flavours to the sauce. Take the vegetables out of the oven once they are nicely roasted and set aside.
Put the soaked wild rice on to boil and then simmer about 45 minutes before serving. DonQui’s method for cooking wild rice is fully explained here. Once cooked the drained rice can happily sit in a lidded pot, off the heat, and will remain warm for at least 15 minutes if you do not get your timings right.
Once the vegetables are out of the oven, heat a mix of butter and oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Butter will give flavour and the oil will prevent it from burning. Brown the duck on all sides using tongs or a large spoon and fork to turn it. This will take about 10 minutes.
Take the bird out of the pan. Place it on a rack above the vegetables in the roasting pan. Then stuff the cavity of the duck with the halved lemons and sprigs of thyme. This will add flavour to the bird and the lemon will steam it from the inside while it roasts. Add the cored apple stuffed with butter, raisins and rum to the rack.
Put the roasting pan with the duck and apple above the vegetables into the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes. After 15 minutes the meat will still have some pink to it but more than that will cause it to dry out and toughen up. Twelve minutes will be just enough to cook through leaving the meat a little rarer.
Place the duck on a carving board, cover with tinfoil and a couple of tea-towels (dishcloths) and let it rest for 10-20 minutes. In this time the duck will continue to slowly cook from the inside out. This will even the cooking process which up to now has been from the outside in. If you do not rest for at leat 10 minutes the meat will not be properly cooked.
Cook the accompanying vegetables and make the sauce while the duck is resting.
To make the sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with a good splash of red wine over the roasted vegetables, stirring it all up over a low heat and scraping up the brown bits. Then strain the liquid into a pre-prepared gravy base. As the wild duck has very little fat there is no need to spoon anything off.
DonQui’s gravy base is a variation of his rich sauce. A simple alternative could be chicken stock thickened with a roux of butter and flour.
On this occasion DonQui decides to add some dried porcini mushrooms. As the duck is roasting he pan fries the soaked mushrooms in a butter-oil mix, using the same pan he browned the duck in without cleaning it. Then he adds them to the sauce along with the water they had been soaking in. This gives the gravy a deep earthy taste which perfectly matches the wild duck.
DonQui serves the duck with the wild rice, fresh kale from his allotment and french beans. Although not seasonal, he had picked the beans in season and froze them a few months ago. They were an excellent additional accompaniment.
As for the mallard — it was utterly delicious. DonQui will definitely try it again. Next time he will not bother with the baked apple. It is a traditional addition to a game bird, and went well with it, but DonQui thought the cranberry sauce was better and there was no need of two different sweet accompaniments.
DonQui advises looking out for pellets when eating a wild bird. He found three shotgun pellets in this mallard. He takes this as a good sign that the mallard will have been living freely as a wild bird should before succumbing to the hunter rather than the abattoir.