The acid in orange juice helps tame duck’s wild flavor. Braising is a successful all-purpose cooking method for any type of wild duck—fat or lean, young or old, dabbler (such as mallards or teal) or diver (such as bluebill or canvasback).
- 1 large (around 4 pounds) or 2 small (approximately 2 pounds each) wild ducks
- salt and pepper to taste
- 5 T. butter
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
- 3 sprigs of thyme, about 4 inches long
- 1 sprig of rosemary, about 3 inches long
- 3 cups orange juice, divided
- 2 cups chicken or duck broth, divided
Cut up duck as you would a chicken, into breasts, legs, thighs and wings. Leave leg-thigh portions whole if desired, or separate if pieces are large. Discard or set aside neck, back and giblets for another use. Salt and pepper each piece.
In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Working in batches so you have only one layer at a time, add duck pieces. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, turning once, until pieces are browned on each side. (Add more butter if pan gets dry.) Return all browned pieces to Dutch oven, arranging so they are stacked in no more than two layers. Add onion, herbs, salt and pepper. Pour 2 cups of orange juice and 1 cup of broth over. Cover tightly and bring to just below a boil; reduce heat to the lowest temperature able to maintain a slow simmer (i.e., liquid should be moving slightly—not continuously bubbling but not sitting so still that it skins over). Braising is about cooking as slowly as possible, at as low a temperature as possible.
Add the remaining orange juice and broth as liquid reduces, cooking for 6 to 8 hours, or until meat is tender and falling away from the bone. Serve hot.
Makes 4 moderate or 2 large servings.