Thirty-odd years ago my brother went hunting and brought home three mallard ducks, which my mother dressed and roasted. This was the first time I had duck, and I hated it. I remember the breast meat being dark, and though I preferred dark meat, this tasted entirely too gamey. Thankfully I didn't have to suffer eating duck after that initial experience, since my father was put on a low-cholesterol diet, which severely limited his, and consequently our, meat choices for years.
Fast forward to last month, when my father reads in the paper that duck meat is, in fact, high in monounsaturated fat, which is the kind linked to raising good cholesterol levels. The article was followed by a recipe for duck breast with plum sauce. Dad fondly recalled eating duck frequently as a child, since his family had raised them. And naturally he decided if duck was now good for you, it was time to have it again.
So I called the one grocery store I thought might have duck, and sure enough, they had one frozen bird left. After it thawed, I prepared to roast it. The first thing I noticed was that the duck skin was thick and white, not pinkish like turkey and chicken. As it roasted, it didn't produce a great smell like turkey and chicken. It didn't smell bad, just different. I roasted it longer than I first estimated I'd need to, because the skin didn't seem to be browning. Finally I decided that by the time the skin browned, the meat would be shriveled and dry, so I took the duck out.
Now, one of my favorite foods is crispy skin from roasted chicken/turkey, but duck skin is really unappetizing. Not only did it not crisp up, when I peeled it off, the underside was just a layer of white globs of fat. Yuck. I didn't bother tasting it. Under the skin, however, the duck meat was perfect. Moist and tender, the breast meat was just as I remembered--dark, not white. And having a domestic duck instead of a wild one made a huge difference in flavor. The meat wasn't gamey at all; it was very mild, similar to chicken dark meat.
I hadn't seen the price of the duck when I bought it, but a few days after eating it, I came across the receipt and discovered I'd paid $22.57! I'm guessing the duck was about 8-10 pounds, but it certainly didn't net much meat. A typical 5 pound roasting chicken (on sale for about 80¢ a pound) has more meat than this duck did. I can usually eek out 3 meals (for 4 adults) out of a roasted chicken, whereas the duck barely produced enough for one and a half meals. Certainly not very cost efficient! But it made for one special meal, and the plum sauce (recipe below) was delicious!
I mentioned to Dad that the grocery store also had a frozen goose for sale
, something I've never had, but he replied, "Goose meat is really greasy," which is his way of saying he isn't interested. But maybe if he reads it's actually a good kind of grease, he'll change his mind. I'll be sure to check the price
4 tbl (60 mL) chopped shallot (about 1 medium)
1 cup (250 mL) dry red wine
10 tbl (150 mL) plum preserves
1 cup (250 mL) warm water
3 tsp (14 mL) cornstarch
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard (optional)
In a medium saucepan, saute shallot in oil until translucent, about 1 minute. Add thyme and stir until fragrant. Add red wine and simmer till liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in plum preserves and simmer, stirring constantly.
In a small bowl, stir together water, Soup Base and cornstarch until dissolved. Add to plum sauce and stir till well blended. Stir in mustard if desired. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened.
Notes from Lynne:
I couldn't find any plum preserves, so I used red plum jam instead.
Instead of dry red wine, I used plum wine, which is what I had on hand.
I forgot to put in the Dijon mustard, but it tasted amazing without it, so I don't think it's needed.