J – Wild ducks disappearing on the horizon …the season is over.
This duck season has been like no other for me. First, I was actually aware of it happening. Second, I got to taste some amazing wild duck. Thanks to Luke on both. I remember reading his ode to the season a few months ago and thinking “this will be interesting.”
The wild ducks arrive in Sacramento as the leaves are turning and the mornings are getting colder. Duck hunting is king in this city built in the heart of rice country. I’m not sure why we are obsessed with ducks … we just are. Nobody likes getting up at 3:00am to walk through the mud and sit sweating in the water in the pitch black for hours. But, we go anyway. Once you’re out there, you don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s in your blood. When you hear the wind whooshing through duck wings, your heart beats faster. Everyone is waiting for shoot time, listening to the birds leaf down through the air in the gray light of dawn. It’s duck season again.
Now, I understand his passion a little better. Luke was nowhere to be found on Wednesdays, unless the weather was rediculous. There were LOTS of ducks in his freezer and distributed to all his friends. The Be Mindful. Be Human. kitchen activities were scheduled around his duck hunting. It was worth it.
As a farewell to duck season and honoring all its earthy qualities, we decided to do a simple recipe of wild duck and mushrooms with an orange sauce on a bed of red lentils. Colors and tastes of the season.
Wild duck has a stronger and “wilder” flavor than the duck you get at the butcher. Rich and robust. When there is lots of fat on larger duck breasts, you will want to score the skin and render them skin-side-down for a good while. With smaller breasts, scoring and rendering is not needed because there is much less fat. Either way, don’t overcook them. Medium rare is perfect. They should rest after cooking. Present them sliced on the bias for good looks and ease of eating.
|Wild Duck Breast and Mushrooms with Orange Sauce|
- 2 small wild duck breasts, skin attached
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp grapeseed oil
- Zest and juice of an orange
- 2 button mushrooms, cut into small wedges
- 1 tsp butter
- Salt and pepper duck breasts on both sides.
- In a medium saute pan, heat grapeseed oil on high until almost smoking.
- Reduce heat to low and add duck breasts skin side down. Cook until skin is golden brown and flip over. About 5 minutes on each side. Medium rare is perfect.
- Add zest and orange juice and let simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Remove duck to a plate to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove sauce to a bowl and set a side for plating.
- Using the same pan on medium high heat, add teaspoon of butter and let it melt. Add mushrooms. Cook until golden brown. About 5 minutes.
- On a serving platter, plate red lentils (see link below)
- Add mushrooms on the sides
- Top with duck breasts sliced on a bias.
- Dizzle orange sauce over duck and lentils.
- Serve immediately.
Luke’s Lentils (Red Lentils) recipe
Wild duck, mushrooms and properly cooked lentils are wonderful together. The simple orange sauce added a nice acidity and sweetness to the savory meat and vegetables. It was all gone in a flash.
Thanks, Luke, for a great dish and a great duck season. Looking forward to next fall.