Is there anything better than hunting ducks over water with your favorite four-legged friend? Eating said ducks comes in as a close second. Mallards fattened on the agricultural seeds and grains along their migration routes are some of the tastiest waterfowl. Ducks are often eating the same things as domestic livestock to fatten them up before slaughter. To take full advantage of the fat the birds have stored, make sure to pluck the best birds from your hunts for roasting. Feel the breastbone for plump deposits of fat, and make sure the bird doesn’t have too many shot holes.
Duck fat, also known as confit, is used by world-renowned chefs for making the richest-tasting recipes, so why would hunters not take advantage of a fat duck in hand? A long, slow-roasting process is a great way to produce a tender, flavorful roasted duck cooked in its own confit. The fat renders from the bird, and the meat falls off the bone. Butter, maple syrup, marmalade, and cognac-based Grand Marnier infuse a rich and delicious accent to the duck. Real fruit can be used to further personalize the recipe.
This recipe takes only minutes to prepare, and the oven does the rest of the work, giving you more time to spend with your bird dog.
- 2 large whole ducks, plucked
- 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed and strained
- ¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
- 2 Tbsp dark maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp orange marmalade
- ½ cup butter
- Wash and clean the ducks. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the breast in a diagonal direction to allow the fat to render while cooking.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the orange juice, Grand Marnier, maple syrup, and marmalade. Bring to a simmer and slowly add small pieces of the butter. Do not bring to a boil. Melt all of the butter and whisk together into a consistent sauce.
- Place the ducks in a roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid. For best results, no moisture can escape in the cooking process. Drizzle the sauce over the birds until it starts to collect in the roasting pan. Reserve approximately a quarter of the sauce.
- Place the roasting pan in your preheated oven, and allow the ducks to cook for over five hours.
- Remove the ducks from the pan and allow them to rest. Carve the birds for serving, and top with the reserved sauce, rewarmed.
- To keep airtight when roasting, place the birds on foil, add sauce, and wrap tight. A second wrap of foil ensures the birds will roast in the sauce and rendered fat.
- A Camp Chef Dutch oven with a foil liner works well for roasting the birds, and allows you to cook indoors, or at camp, with little clean-up.
- Pintail, gadwall, and widgeon are fat and delicious birds that work well with this recipe.