The standard approach to cooking wild duck is something rich, awash in red wine and invariably heavily reduced and that can certainly be very pleasant. However, wild duck is a richly flavoured meat and my preference is for something fresher and zestier.
Feeds four (or less if hearty appetites and/or the duck breasts are small)
4 large wild duck breasts
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
A few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1/2 bottle of white wine
250ml vegetable stock or water
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 120 Celsius.
Heat some of the olive oil in a large casserole, add the diced vegetables and gently cook without browning until tender. Add the thyme, bay, garlic, tomatoes, wine and stock or water, along with most of the citrus juice and zest (retain a few pinches of zest and a tablespoon of each juice). Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Heat a little more olive oil in a separate pan and brown the duck breasts on all sides, seasoning with a little salt and pepper as you go. Add them to the casserole and cover with its lid. Transfer to the low oven (about 120 C/Gas Mark 1 or 2) and cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is completely tender.
Remove the breasts from the pan and keep warm while you finish the sauce. Warm the plates.
Skim off some of the fat from the surface, then taste the liquid for seasoning and to assess its intensity. Boil to reduce if you think it needs it. Stir in the reserved lemon and orange juice to refresh the citrus flavour. Serve the duck breasts on warmed plates with a generous amount of sauce spooned over and sprinkled with a little parsley and a pinch of citrus zest.
Enjoy with good company, mashed potatoes and a good red from the Rhone.