Mallard with mushrooms
Mallard, the common or garden town park duck is, in my humble opinion a much underrated meat, the breasts are delicious and sweet, and just the right size for a one each portion.
There are a few things to bear in mind, firstly, I think it’s a good idea to slip a knife under the little bit of silver skin on the back of the breasts (that is the side without the skin on) and remove that particular piece of sinew – this will really help to keep the breasts extra tender in the cooking process. Duck meat, and particularly mallard is rather dense and very rich in minerals, so over cook it and it will have a flavour profile somewhat akin to school dinner liver – not to everyone’s liking. Aim for medium rather than medium rare though as it’s density makes it somewhat less than perfect as anything other then blue or medium – I often marinate skinless mallard breasts in a little mix of miso and water for around two hours before searing and serving raw, like wild duck sashimi – so in this instance medium is the way to go. Last general tip on mallard is to score the skin with a sharp knife, this helps to render out a little of the fat and will lead to a crisper, more refined finish to the meat.
For this recipe you will need a few Ceps, Porcini or penny bun mushrooms, these should not be too tricky to come by at this time of the year, but if you struggle to find any then the King Oyster mushrooms they now sell in many UK supermarkets will do at a push, perhaps with the addition of some soaked and dried ceps, which most supermarkets sell.
I have assumed in the recipe below that you have been able to acquire fresh ceps, if not, you will just have to cobble something together that feels about right.
2 room temperature, well-trimmed mallard breasts
A sprig of thyme
2 cloves of garlic
As many ceps as you can hold in one hand (Or a combination of dried, soaked ceps and king oyster mushrooms.
As many of the tomato glut as you can fit in two hands
Salt and pepper
A splosh of good sweet cider
This is a one pan wonder, but you need to be prepped so get the mushrooms et al sorted before you start cooking the duck.
Dice your ceps into rough 1 cm cubes, chop the garlic and a little thyme. Heat a robust and trustworthy smallish frying pan to moderately hot. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and drop the tomatoes in, for roughly 10 seconds, then pop them in a bowl of cold water and peel off the skins – roughly dice these as well and you should be set to start thinking about the duck.
Season the duck breasts and rub with a little good olive oil. Place them skin side down in the pan and just allow them a few minutes to crisp up the skin and let the heat permeate the flesh. Once they start to change colour about halfway up the sides, flip them and give them roughly half the same amount of time. Remove them to a well warmed plate and return the pan to the stove.
Place the mushrooms, plenty more olive oil and the garlic and thyme in the pan, try not to move everything around too much, at least to start with, so the mushrooms take some colour. Add more oil of needs be. After a few minutes the mushrooms should start to give up a bit and start to cook down somewhat – at this point turn up the heat and add the cider. Reduce the cider almost completely away and then add the tomatoes, more thyme, salt and pepper and turn the heat back down to a sort of low moderate.
Cook for a minute or two, taste, re season, and spoon onto a serving platter. Slice the duck breasts. Quite thinly and on an angle and scatter these on top – if you are feeling fancy a few roasted hazelnuts, crushed and scattered across the top is a fine way to finish the dish.