Following up on last weekend’s trip to the farmer’s market, I’m tackling my biggest challenge yet – cooking game. After reading Girl Hunter I was more determined than ever to practice working with game, so I bought a drake breast from the local vendor. According to the vendor, the drake breast is a bit tougher than the female duck or “hen”, but has more fat so it supposedly stays moist.
My goals for this project are this:
- Successfully roast an edible duck breast
- Render a bit of duck fat (thus, the fattier drake)
- Utilize what’s left of the carcass to get make stock
I’ve started by brining my drake in a spicy apple brine recommended in Girl Hunter. I made one modification – instead of apple juice, we had unfiltered apple cider on hand, and I used that. After brining overnight, I set the breast (whole, bone in, skin on, with wing) on a rack over a pan to air dry in the fridge overnight. For those of you not familiar with brining, I’m a huge advocate of it. I’ve been brining my Thanksgiving turkeys for years, and nothing beats the moist meat. Air drying in the fridge provides incredibly crisp skin.
At this point, life got a little hectic. The drake breast sat in the fridge in “air dry mode” for 2 days, and I was panicking that I’d ruined it, but it turns out I was aging it, which is actually a great idea with game. Girl Hunter even gives you aging recommendations for different types of critters! So all was well.
I used the recipe for “Whiskey-Glazed Turkey Breast” for the duck, since the note on the recipe says “Also try: upland game birds” and the author recommends trying different techniques. Using my huge cast-iron skillet, I browned the breast, skin side down, in butter, then flipped it, added chicken stock, and popped it into the oven under a foil “lid”. I brushed the duck with the whiskey glaze and it began to brown beautifully. Along with the duck, I’d quartered baby yukon potatoes, tossed them with olive oil, dried oregano and thyme, and they were cooking on the lower shelf of the oven for about as long as the duck.
When I pulled the duck out and let it rest, it was perfectly done. I sliced it up, trimmed the skin and fat (and saved them for rendering later) and dinner was served. My husband found the drake texture “a little too steak-y” but the brining left the meat moist and tender. I’ll be working with the remaining parts to make stock and to render the fat… More on that later.
Wiskey-Glazed Drake Breast – adapted from Girl Hunter by Georgia Pelligrini
6 tablespoons butter
1 drake breast, skin on and brined (mine consisted of breast and wing with skin)
salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock (or turkey or duck, if available – I only had homemade chicken)
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons whiskey
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a cast-iron (or oven-proof) skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter until it begins to bubble. Sprinkle both sides of the duck with salt and pepper, then place the duck, breast side down, in the butter. Brown for 5 minutes. Turn breast over and add stock. Cover with lid or foil and transfer to the oven.
2. In a separate skillet, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat – add honey and whisk until well incorporated. Ad whiskey, orange zest, orange juice and cayenne – whisk together. Turn heat to low and let glaze reduce by half. (My glaze was more liquid than the honey-consistency I expected. I’m not sure if that’s normal or operator error) Turn off heat and set aside.
3. Cook turkey in oven for 10 minutes, brush with half the glaze and re-cover. Roast for 20 minutes, brush with remaining glaze and return the breast to the oven, uncovered this time, and turn the heat up to 400 degrees. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 140-150 degrees.
4. Remove pan from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.