*insert anecdote about the weather getting colder and the nights darker*
But at least it’s game season.
And so here’s a wild duck recipe to keep you warm… or at least teach you how to make a delicious game stock. This Confit leg and breast of Mallard with chicory and braised red cabbage dish uses only a few basic ingredients, but requires a healthy amount of kitchen time and techniques to serve up.
Here’s a couple of musical ingredients to add to your session in the kitchen:
Get your hands on:
Mallard (wild duck) x 1
Large carrots x 2
Large white onion x 1
Celery sticks x 2
Large garlic cloves x 3
Duck or goose fat – 200g
Large shallots x 2
Madeira (or other sweet dessert wine) – 100ml
Red wine – 50 ml
Chicory flower x 1 (halved)
Red cabbage – 1/2
Cider vinegar – 100ml
Caster sugar – 2 tbsp
Cinnamon stick – 1/2
The crux to this dish is making the stock, which will transform your sauce. It takes a bit of patience, but is worth doing. As with any leftover stock, you can freeze it/use later in the week for another meal. A sharp knife is essential if you want to split the bird into breasts and legs yourself. If not, your butcher can do so.
Use the link below for a thorough tutorial on how to do so. Ducks have slightly different bone structures to other poultry, and so it is worth noting the techniques. The legs aren’t too tricky to separate. With the breasts you’ll need to keep your knife against the breast bone as you make single, controlled strokes into the flesh, gently and neatly separating the meat from the bone.
After doing so, break up the carcass into at least 5/6 separate pieces.
Roughly chop 1 carrot, your onion and celery. Crush 2 of the garlic cloves and fry everything in a large saucepan with a glug of oil, on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add your game carcass (and giblets if you still have them).
Keep on the heat until everything is nicely browned, and the veg is starting to caramelise, 10 minutes or so. Season well.
Add 2 bay leaves, 1 crushed star anise, a handful of thyme. Cover with 500 ml of boiled water, and leave to simmer on a low heat for 2-3 hours at least.
Sieve, and set aside.
Set your oven to 140 degrees celsius.
To confit the legs, place them in a small oven dish. Season well, add some fresh thyme and rosemary and a crushed garlic clove. Cover with the duck fat, and place in the oven. After 1 & 1/2 hours, remove the legs from the oven and place to one side.
At the same time, slice your red cabbage thinly into strips, place in a saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and the cinnamon stick. Add a couple of splashes of boiling water, cover, and leave on a low heat to slowly cook.
To make the sauce, finely slice your shallots, carrot and garlic and fry with a knob of butter on a medium heat until starting caramelise.Add your madeira, red wine, 1 more crushed star anise and reduce by a half. Add 200ml of your stock and reduce on a high heat for 10 mins. Season to taste.
Sieve, and then continue to reduce until almost a syrup, adding a couple more cubes of butter along the way.
Rub salt into your mallard breasts at least 2 hours before cooking, then allow them to come to room temp. Wash off the salt under cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper.
Place them skinside down in a cold frying pan, and gently increase to a med-high temp over around 8 minutes or so, until the skin is golden and crispy. Add a small spoonful of the duck fat, and continue to cook on the other side on a medium heat for 3 more minutes, basting well.
At the same time, add a good spoonful of the duck fat to another pan and repeat the above process with the halved chicory leaves. The duck legs can be cooked alongside the chicory, basting and turning well to warm through and crisp up.
Allow your breasts to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Plate with the cabbage, chicory and madeira sauce.