This is one of three recipes featured from Canadian wild game chef Michael Hunter’s upcoming The Hunter Chef Cookbook. You can pre-order your copy here, and check out his recipes for Venison Bolognese and Vension and Wild Boar Ribs.
This dish was inspired by a friend’s dad at duck camp one fall. We came back to camp after a successful hunt and had a meal of freshly harvested duck breast with eggs and a side of baked beans mixed with raisins and cut-up hotdogs. It may sound pedestrian to you but it’s an amazing meal to come home to when you have been freezing out on the marsh.
In this recipe I’ve replaced the hotdogs with duck legs, but sometimes I’ll use a spicy chorizo sausage and serve it over these smoked cheddar grits with braised kale.
Serves 4 to 6
MAKE THE GRITS
2 cups (500 mL) grits
8 cups (2 L) water
½ cup (125 mL) grated smoked cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons (30 mL) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (15 mL) kosher salt
In a medium pot, combine the grits and water. Cover with a lid and soak overnight at room temperature.
Bring the grits and water to a boil over high heat. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula to prevent sticking and burning, for 2 to 3 hours. (Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker, but the grits will take longer to cook.) When the grits are soft and have the texture and appearance of porridge, stir in the smoked cheddar, butter, and salt. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
MEANWHILE, MAKE THE MAPLE BAKED BEANS
Maple Baked Beans Ingredients
- 6 mallard duck legs (about
- 6 ounces/170 g each; use 8 to 10 legs if smaller)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grapeseed oil or vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 can (28 ounces/796 mL) crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups (1.5 L) water
- 3 cups (750 mL) dried kidney beans (soaked overnight in water and drained)
- 1½ cups (375 mL) pure maple syrup
- ½ cup (125 mL) fancy molasses
- 1 cup (250 mL) raisins (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red chili flakes
- 1½ teaspoons (7 mL) smoked paprika
- 1½ teaspoons (7 mL) dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground allspice
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) kosher salt, more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) black pepper, more for seasoning
Maple Baked Beans Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Season the duck legs with salt and pepper. Heat a large pot over high heat. Add the grapeseed oil, then sear the duck legs on both sides, working in batches if necessary. Add the tomatoes, water, kidney beans, maple syrup, molasses, raisins (if using), chili flakes, paprika, oregano, allspice, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven, and bake until the beans and the duck legs are tender, 2½ to 3 hours.
Remove the duck legs from the beans and pull the meat from the bones. Discard the bones. Return the duck meat to the pot and, if needed, simmer the beans over medium-low heat to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Keep warm.
ROAST THE DUCK BREASTS
Roast Duck Breasts Ingredients
- 6 boneless duck breasts (4 to
- 6 ounces/115 to 170 g each)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
Roast Duck Breasts Directions
Score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife, making long, shallow incisions first lengthwise, then horizontally. Be careful not to cut into the meat. This will allow the fat to escape and result in a crispier skin. Season both sides of the breasts with the salt and pepper.
Heat 2 large cast-iron skillets (or cook in batches in one pan) over medium heat. Place the duck breasts in the pan skin side down. The heat will render the fat out of the skin. Gently cook the duck until the skin caramelizes to a golden brown and is crispy to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes. If you notice the meat curl, you can place a pan on top of the duck to gently press down. Turn the breasts and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the pan and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
Thinly slice the duck breasts against the grain and serve with the maple baked beans and grits.