Stuff The Duck – The Sauce Is The Star

Here in Ireland, we are such a bunch of hypocrites. We portray ourselves as being ruddy faced, outdoor types with knowledge that only someone born to wealthy working farmers could possess. We like people to believe we “know a fella” who can get us a poached salmon (uncooked poached that is) or a haunch of venison from “the Estate”, non, nod, wink, wink. When it comes to our feathered friends, a brace of pheasant or wild duck can always be had from “a lad I know”. This is mostly just tosh. Many of our better butchers now carry game in season and one only needs to pull on the wax jacket and green wellingtons to get from the car to the shopping centre.

Any butcher will tell you that our hypocrisy extends to the frequency of eating a bit of game. We may wax lyrical (pontificating while wearing a Barbour jacket) about partridge and a plum sauce or grouse roasted on a stick over an open fire. Very little of it sells well. I believe that is because few of us have half a clue as to how to cook wild game. Many are afraid of trying pheasant for fear of having something out of the ordinary.  Wild duck is a complete stranger to the table. Maybe it’s the fear of biting into a bit of lead shot. They don’t know what they’re missing. Our game birds are a rare treat. However, they need to be cooked correctly. Wild duck can cook really dry. To avoid that, I stuffed these duck with a sausage meat stuffing. I also made a simple fruit sauce. The sauce is the real star here. It brings out the very best in the duck while providing a lovely contrast to the sausage meat stuffing.

Stuffed Wild Duck

The ducks are Mallard. They are pretty small and need the stuffing for bulk if nothing else.

Ingredients

  • 2 wild mallard
  • 500 gms good quality sausage meat
  • 4 slices of Lardo or streaky bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • Black pepper to season
  • 150 gms frozen strawberries
  • 150 gms frozen raspberries
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • A glass of good red wine (a 2013 Fleurie in this case)

Side note on temperature: People more used to cooking wild duck may tut-tut at my approach to the temperature. Various guides suggest a safe internal temperature of around 73ºC/165ºF. Given that I was stuffing these with sausage meat, I calculated that by the time the centre of the sausage meat was cooked to a safe temperature of 63ºC/145ºF, all would be good with the duck as it is on the outside of the sausage meat. Anyway, I’m here to tell the tale so I reckon I got it right. Using a temperature probe helps. I removed the ducks from the oven when they were at 58ºC and let them rest. They went up to the required 63º while resting. 

To make the stuffing, chop the onion into small pieces, mix together the onion, sausage meat, pepper  and breadcrumbs.

Stuffed Wild Duck

Give it a good shove to be sure the duck is full to (and a bit beyond) capacity.

Slice the Lardo (if using) and drape both the ducks with enough to help keep the breasts moist during cooking. A good Lardo will ad a nice bit to the flavour too.

Stuffed Wild Duck (3 of 11)

As you can see, they are well stuffed. No need for any salt here as there is plenty in the sausage meat.

Insert the temperature probe and let the ducks roast at 180ºC/350ºF until done. This will free you to get on with the sauce. It’s so easy and so tasty, you will thank me every time you prepare it. It really is the star of this dish.

Stuffed Wild Duck

This is my favourite shot from this little adventure.

Put the frozen fruits, sugar and wine into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer while the alcohol evaporates and the fruit breaks down. Put the mixture through a sieve and into another saucepan. Reduce it to a nice thick consistency, tasting for balance between sweetness and the nice umami that the wine brings to the party.

Stuffed Wild Duck

They taste a lot better than they look.

Remove the ducks from the oven and let them rest for about fifteen minutes. Carve as best you can (they are small and difficult to do with any elegance). Serve them with oven roasted potatoes and some vegetables of your choice.

Stuffed Wild Duck

The sauce really is the surprise here. It’s a delight. Try it.

The combination of the rich duck, salty sausage stuffing and fruity sauce is a delight. It’s best appreciated with a glass of the wine used to make the sauce.

So, pull on your wax jacket and green wellingtons. Get into the 4X4 and go to your butcher. Buy the brace of duck (dressed and ready for the oven). Nip into the supermarket for the frozen fruits. Cook this dish and feel free to invite a country squire or even a suburbanite who will be impressed with your wild game prowess. Enjoy.

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Latest comments
  • As always a fun and informative post. We also have fresh wild game when in season (as well as frozen off season), but not wild duck. At least I’ve not seen it. I’ll be asking our butcher if it’s available. We do have fresh domestic ducks and I’m wondering how your dish would pair with such. What think you Conor? Also, all your images are stunning, but the one of the wine pouring is fantastic.

  • Another informative, simple dish to enjoy with friends. They all love the short rib on garlic in wine. Used this style of cooking on other meats to great success.

  • They look like nice ducks. I usually cook mallard with a little thyme, garlic and a knob of butter inside, breast down on a rack for half the cooking time, like goose.

      • It’s tricky – the duck’s safe pink, but pork sausage meat needs to be the correct temperature, or as you know, it’s dangerous. Lamb sausage could be good…

  • Love, love this post, got me smiling from beginning to end… The fruit sauce, it is simple and straightforward, but I bet it is outstanding in the taste department.

    I know exactly what you mean by “tastes better than it looks” – I just made a leg of lamb sous vide, and it was like the ugly duckling… I need to blog about it because it was so good, but the pictures… not that great….

  • No wild game of any kind is sold here and I read your comment about domesticated duck. I’ll certainly try the sauce.

  • Canada, the land of plenty does not allow any game to be available commercially. Of course you can hunt it yourself, but I’m not into it anymore, so Conor, please let us have your take on a regular (whole) roasted duck. Assume the sauce is a keeper.

  • This one cracked me up; I know the Barbour and green Hunter wellies brigade well from my former life, but put that lot on here and you’d get some serious ribbing 🙂 Up here, our wild waterfowl are either pretty scarce or fairly protected, so I’m thinking I’ll be lucky to find any in the shops. It does, however, strike me that if I happen to venture to Far North Queensland and can pick up some emu, that sauce might find a friend to play with, especially as emu is a dark, very lean game bird. By necessity, it’d be farmed, but only in the sense that it’s raised in a fenced enclosure; the flavour, fat ratio and texture don’t seem to be affected.

      • I shall have to visit the butcher who does native game … 🙂

  • Well, I for one have always regarded shooting for the pot providing both healthy available meat and looking after animal numbers in nature absolutely normal , so personally cannot see any reason for the ‘hush-hush’ in season! Personally am in the same position as Kate, but your taste warning read may still try this with farmed duck . . . and Kate has a good idea re emu: I have to buy it frozen in my part of Australia but we have quite a few good companies for all the wonderfully tasty and healthy wild meats. Love the use of the berries and am wondering whether fresh would be of advantage , , ,

  • Thank you for publishing this recipe, Conor! I love duck and my husband was telling me that I don’t want to get wild duck (I know a lad too). This recipe looks amazing and I appreciate you mentioning how to keep it from drying out. That sauce though!!!!

  • Love this, a great way to combat the potential dryness of a wild duck, and a super fruity sauce. Thumbs up!

      • Bah humbug. I love fruit with savoury dishes.

  • Oh, I will be looking forward to it! I have my post ready to go, it will be live at midnight my time, so probably early tomorrow morning for you, I think we are 6 hours apart.

  • Well I own a Barbour jacket. And I wore it in Ireland when we visited. But I don’t own the wellies yet. This is the prettiest set of photos yet, my friend. And what a sauce!

  • Hi Conor, that photo is magnificent indeed, especially the reflection of the corkscrew. Great use of a thermometer with a probe, and good call to pull it out of the oven early to allow for an increase in core temperature while resting. Wild duck can end up dry and gamey, but with such professional temperature control and fruity sauce it must have been a feast.

  • You’ve outdone yourself. I wish I’d had this recipe back when my dad was hunting like crazy.

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