The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.21.03


Fowl Weather

There is a glaze in the eye of every hunter I know at this time of year. You might recognize the look and the twitch. Eyes watery with anticipation and a far away focus, trigger finger at the ready.

Whether you agree with the practice of downing a few creatures for the table or not, the fact is that there are good vittles to be had if you've got patience and skill. Of course, there's the mandatory registry, too.

Autumn climes will leave you wet and cold and feeling like a duck. Fortunately as you will see later in this column, you aren't one. For those that prefer duck or poultry at the ready without all the fuss of hunting and cleaning, feel free to purchase a good bird from someone that has already done the deed for you.

Quebec is increasingly known for it's domestic production of quality quackers. An award-winning outfit In Brome had taken the world by storm with its variety of processed ducks. It has been said that duck production was the domain of our Chinese friends and that a foray to compete in the duck-growing arena would meet with financial ruin. Quebec has proven otherwise. Many products beyond dressed ducks are readily and easily available every day on grocery counters throughout the province.

So -- you want duck? You got duck any way you slice them. I will note here that should you purchase a domestic duck whole to cook at home that you will encounter much duck fat.

The opposite is true for a wild duck, in most cases.

Duck fat is worth it's weight in gold so keep it in the fridge for use later should you roast one at home on a rack in the oven over a deep pan to catch this liquid goodness. Every so often, carefully drain the pan while roasting to avoid a nasty kitchen fire.

The following recipe is completely safe but you will need to procure some duck. If you cant, simply substitute some poultry of choice. This recipe also makes good use of another autumn classic, the much-maligned squash. Here is what one person had to say about duck domestication. Bad, bad ducks I say.

"It is to be regretted that domestication has seriously deteriorated the moral character of the duck. In a wild state, he is a faithful husband...but no sooner is he domesticated than he becomes polygamous, and makes nothing of owning ten or a dozen wives at a time."

Autumn Duck and Squash Risotto

4 boneless, skinless duck breast halves, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or duck fat, divided use
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound squash, peeled and chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2-teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Soak porcini mushrooms for about 30 minutes in 1-cup hot water; drain and chop, reserving liquid.

2. In small saucepan, place chicken stock and heat to simmer over medium heat; keep warm.

3. In large fry pan, place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat; add duck and cook about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat; set aside.

4. In large saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat; add onion and garlic and sauté about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir and cook 1 minute. Add wine, mushrooms, strained mushroom liquid, squash, zucchini and bay leaves. Stir and bring to a boil; cook until liquid is almost absorbed. Gradually add chicken stock as risotto thickens.

5. Add salt, pepper, duck and cranberries, cooking about 10 minutes more or until rice is done. Stir in green onion and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese and garnish with rosemary.

Makes 4 servings.