Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms 2+2+2

Posted by Florian in Hunting, Meat, tagged with , , , , , ,

It’s duck season again, and I’m back at the West View Lodge for a weekend of wing shooting. You may remember that I had some reservations about the amenities on my previous trip. Well, this time, Captain Bill really did give me his very best room. It’s located in a section of the building I didn’t even know existed! Carpeting so thick you have to kick the room door to open it. A full-size bed. A rod to hang your clothes. A heater that runs the full length of the wall and is controlled by a 1970s-era thermostat that actually works (if I was ill-spirited, I’d steal the thing and sell it on eBay). A photo mural depicting a forest, a lake, and some seriously tall mountains. A flatscreen TV. The Internet, with 4 bars, no less. An I Love NY 2016 Travel Guide and a note that says “Thank you for staying with us!” And… a hook in the ceiling in case you wanna pull a David Carradine? On the remote chance that you ever go to the West View Lodge, ask for Room 11, people. Now I’m starting to wonder if Room 12 is a presidential suite with a jacuzzi and mirrors on the ceiling or something.  I might have to keep coming back for a few more years before I’m allowed to find out.

As the night unfolds, I do discover one drawback: the room overlooks the bar’s entrance, which means that I get to hear the enlightened opinions of the late-night patrons. Discussions, laced with everybody’s favorite F-word, might be diverse, but the underlying mantra is fairly constant: if everybody lived and thought like an aging Upstate New York white male drunkard, the world would be a much better place, just like it used to be in the good old days.

3:30 am, time to get ready! So far all of my duck hunting trips in the area have been on boats, on the shores of the tumultuous Lake Ontario. This time, as it’s earlier in the season, we’re going slightly inland, past Watertown, and into the Thousand Islands region. After an hour of driving on the interstate, then on a country road, then through a field, we leave the trucks and start trekking knee-deep in the mud, and then waist-deep in the swamp, to get to our blinds. Whosoever thinks that hunting means boozing and mid-afternoon napping in a tree stand in one’s backyard until a deer shows up to eat a bait pile a dozen feet away should A) get out of New Jersey, and B) try hunting ducks with Captain Bill.

And don’t think you can just shoot at anything that flies! In case you haven’t noticed, ducks aren’t the only birds in the sky. In fact, they’re a minority compared to a bunch of other species you’re either not allowed to hunt or wouldn’t want to eat. Add to this the fact that Canada goose season hasn’t started yet, and that the crazy warm weather we’re having doesn’t provide the best of conditions, and our quarry is pretty limited. The earlier hours of the day tend to be the most fruitful, and despite a few missed opportunities, we do OK and fun is had. Later in the morning, we’ve got plenty of time to admire the foliage, spot the occasional beavers and otters, take pictures, and pack before the storm. Every once in a while, we even see a lone duck in the distance.

Back home, my share of the game — two Mallards — is just enough to make this recipe. The inspiration springs once again from Culinaire Saisonnier magazine. As reported in the Winter 2015-2016 issue, at the restaurant L’Art de Vivre, in the famous Belgian town of Spa, chef Jean-Francois Douffet serves (or served) a quail on a bed of mushrooms with a “capuccino” of red cabbage and bacon. Douffet also serves a duckling with marinated Savoy cabbage, porcini sauce, and a gratin of root vegetables. Somehow, the two dishes intermingle in my mind until I end up with this idea, where the duck, cabbage, and mushrooms — three very Eastern European flavors — are prepared two different ways, hence the pretentious title of this post:

  • The duck breasts are just seared and cooked rare. Honestly, that’s the only sensible thing to do with wild duck breasts! And the rest of the meat is ground to make ćevapi, wrapped in flatbread and undoubtedly influenced by my recent Bosnian recipe.
  • The red cabbage soup with its bacon foam and the marinated Savoy cabbage are barely-modified versions of Douffet’s creations.
  • The porcini sauce is speckled with cute little sautéed beech mushrooms.

Between driving to the Thousand Islands, crossing a swamp, spending two mornings in a blind, and preparing the six elements you see on the plate, it’s a lot of effort for sure. Time to move to Jersey for some lazy backyard hunting? D’Artagnan is based there, and they sell excellent ducks too.  But then I’ll never be admitted into Room 12 at the West View Lodge.

Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms

Duck fabrication
Yields 4 servings

2 wild Mallard ducks

  • Right after the hunt, skin and gut the birds, then rinse them with water before packing them for the trip home.
  • Separate the legs and breasts from the carcass.
  • Scrape the meat off the legs and the carcass.
  • Reserve the scraped meat and the breasts (I got 150 g and 420 g, respectively). Discard the bones and carcasses.

Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms

Porcini sauce
Yields 4 servings

8 g dried porcini mushrooms
30 g butter
salt
black pepper, ground
80 g vegetable stock

  • In a bowl, pour boiling water over the dried porcini. Let steep for 30 seconds, then drain.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in half of the butter. Season with salt and pepper, add the stock, and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, and blend with the remaining butter until smooth. Reserve.

Red cabbage soup
Yields 4 servings

300 g red cabbage, medium dice
500 g vegetable stock
salt
black pepper, ground

  • In a saucepan, bring the cabbage and vegetable stock to a simmer, then cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until tender.
  • Transfer to a blender, then blend for 1 minute. You want to have about 500 g of soup — if you have more, return to the saucepan, and reduce over medium heat.
  • Pass through a chinois, and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Duck ćevapi
Yields 4

50 g peeled shallots, small dice
20 g butter
150 g duck meat scraped from the legs and carcasses, medium dice
35 g bacon fat, medium dice
18 g breadcrumbs
2 g parsley, chopped
2 g salt
0.5 g ground black pepper
1.5 g ground cumin
1.5 g ground coriander seeds

  • In a small saucepan, sweat the shallots in the butter until soft. Transfer to a container and let cool.
  • In a bowl, combine the duck meat, bacon fat, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, black pepper, cumin, and coriander. Pass the mixture twice through the fine die of a meat grinder.
  • Shape the ground meat into four logs of about 60 g each, about 8 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter. Refrigerate.

Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms

Sous-vide duck breast
Yields 4

420 g wild duck breasts (4 breasts)
salt
canola oil
black pepper, ground
40 g butter

  • Season the duck breasts with salt, and sauté in canola oil in a pan over high heat until brown on both sides.
  • Season with pepper, then transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the butter, and vacuum-seal. Cook in a 49 C / 120 F water bath for 1 hour.
  • Keep the pouch in the water bath until ready to proceed with the assembly.

Bacon foam
Yields over 4 servings

100 g heavy cream
100 g milk
100 g smoked bacon, small dice
4 juniper berries
salt

  • In a small saucepan, bring the cream, milk, bacon, and juniper berries to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.
  • Remove and discard the juniper berries, then process in a blender for 30 seconds.
  • Pass through a chinois, and season with salt if needed.
  • Transfer the mixture to a 1 liter siphon, and charge with one cartridge of N2O. Keep warm.
  • This makes more bacon foam than you’ll need, but the recipe is difficult to scale down.

Marinated Savoy cabbage
Yields 4 servings

180 g Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced with a mandoline
20 g kosher salt
25 g butter

  • Place the cabbage and kosher salt in sous-vide pouch, and vacuum-seal. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  • Take the cabbage out of the sous-vide pouch, and rinse in a strainer under cold water for 1 minute.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the cabbage in the butter. Cover and cook until tender.
  • Reserve in a warm place.

Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms

Sautéed beech mushrooms
Yields 4 servings

60 g cleaned and separated beech mushrooms
12 g butter
salt

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in the butter.  Season with salt, and cook until tender but not colored.
  • Reserve in a warm place.

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

canola oil
duck ćevapi
4 pieces flatbread, about 8 x 14 cm each
sous-vide duck breasts
red cabbage soup
porcini sauce
bacon foam
sautéed beech mushrooms
marinated Savoy cabbage

  • Brush a grill with canola oil, and cook the ćevapi to medium; if you prefer, given the number of elements you have to juggle, it might be easier to just sauté them in a hot pan.
  • Warm the flatbread pieces on the grill, and wrap the ćevapi in them.
  • Take the duck breasts out of their sous-vide pouch, and sauté briefly on both sides in a hot pan with canola oil. Let rest for a couple minutes, then slice lengthwise.
  • Reheat the cabbage soup and the porcini sauce. Make sure the bacon foam, beech mushrooms, and Savoy cabbage are still warm.
  • On hot rectangular or round plates, place a small mound of cabbage in the center, and a couple spoonfuls of mushrooms on a bed of porcini sauce next to the cabbage. Fan the duck breast slices on one side, and arrange the ćevapi on the other side. Top the duck breasts with the cooking jus from the sous-vide pouch. Pour the cabbage soup into cups, and top with some bacon foam out of the siphon. Serve immediately.

Thousand Island Mallard Duck, Cabbage, Mushrooms