I’m not sure why some hunters claim they don’t care for the flavor of wild ducks. I love them. If you are one of those who wonder what to do with some of your duck meat each season, or if you have family who aren’t quite sure about eating it, here’s a great recipe for even the strongest of waterfowl. It even works for ducks that have the reputation of not being the best table fare, say a northern shoveler or a ruddy duck. It’s a great meal with any duck — I used a cornfed mallard in this one — but the flavors of the adobo sauce can help mute some strong or muddy flavors.
You can use a whole, skin-on duck like we did, or 4 skinned breasts if that is what you happen to have. If you use a skin-on bird, quarter it so that you can pan-sear, skin side down, and get plenty of contact between the flavorful skin and the hot pan.
Sear the duck, then move it to a plate while you put together the sauce. Return the duck to the sauce, then slow simmer until the meat shreds easily. You can cook the duck up to a day or two in advance if you like to save time. Pile the meat and other ingredients on a flour tortilla and give it a good sear on a griddle or in a cast-iron pan until the tortilla edges are crisp and the cheese is melted for a quick and easy dinner or appetizer.
1 large duck, plucked and quartered, or 4 skinned duck breasts
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons duck fat or vegetable oil
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2 cups sweet corn
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 jalapenos, sliced
6 large flour tortillas
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 large red onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken, turkey, or duck stock
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Quarter the duck by cutting it in half down the backbone, then cut the halves in half just in front of the rear quarter. Season the quarters well all over with salt and pepper.
Heat duck fat or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the duck, skin side down, in the skillet. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook 2 to 3 more minutes. You don’t need to cook it through at this point, just crisp the skin and get some nice color going on. Move the duck to a warm plate.
Now, start making the adobo sauce. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1/2 of the red onion to the pan, sauté for a minute or two, then add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
Add the stock and the apple cider vinegar. Bring to a simmer and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits left from cooking the duck. Add the ancho chile powder, cumin, oregano, ground cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Stir well to blend.
Return the duck to the pan and cover. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 hours or until the duck is tender and shreds easily from the bone. Remove the duck from the pan and allow to cool, then shred or chop the meat. Reserve the cooking sauce.
To assemble the quesadilla, place one large tortilla down on a hot griddle or cast-iron skillet. To one half of the tortilla, sprinkle on some duck meat, corn, diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Drizzle on some of the reserved adobo sauce. Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, then fold the other half of the tortilla over. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese has melted, the vegetables are heated through, and the tortillas are crisp but still flexible.
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