Stir Fry & Duck Lessons
Thanks to my good hunting buddies for giving me some duck and goose meat. I’ve been traveling this winter and have not had much time in the field. Of course I didn’t get the premium good eating waterfowl, I got the mudders and bottom feeders but that’s a-ok with me. As a matter of fact, I like the challenge of making something that does not taste the best, has a weird texture, or is extremely tough, into a tender and tasty final preparations.
Most hunters that eat duck or geese choose to breast their birds with no skin. Everyone has their reason for their specific approach of fabricating whether it be lack of time, too much work, or wanting to try a specific recipe or dish for the holidays. I’ve seen many hunters brine their waterfowl in a simple salt and/or sugar brine. I’ve used buttermilk in place of the salt brine. The buttermilks acid tenderizes and adds sweetness. Always wash any brine or cure before cooking. Citrus compliments waterfowl, so rubbing and/or stuffing with lemon or orange works well.
My choice of cooking method is always determined by the type meat, cut of meat, skin on or off, and ingredients on hand. The meat I received has no skin, breasts only. I’ve chosen to stir fry part of the duck and experiment with a new recipe by adding duck to an Italian Risotto dish.
Remember paring the correct cooking method with each cut is essential to a tender tasty result. As a general rule all tender cuts get dry cooking methods which include stir fry, sauté, pan fry, deep fry, broil, grill, and roast. My bottom feeder ducks are not the best eating meat, they have no skin so am going to rule out roasting, broiling, and grilling. I prefer stir fry because I can either brine (salt and/or sugar liquid) or marinate the breast to alter and enhance flavor and tenderness. If I had fish eating ducks, I would use the meat in a stir fry or Asian dish that used Oyster sauce and/or Thai fish sauce. Use ingredients that complement the flavor of the meat.
Stir Fry is fast, easy, and colorful with a bang of flavor. There is much history about this cooking method. Some say it was derived due to the lack of fuel, a hot fire that concentrates the heat source for a fast and efficient cooking method. The cooking utensil is designed for the flames and heat to come up the sides of the wok. Someone told me the original wok was a helmet from a warrior?
The wok is designed for fast cooking, high heat, and much action. The average wok for home use is not large, so they are designed for individual portion sizes. There are large commercial woks that can prepare large quantities but for the average household the normal wok prepares 1-4 servings at the most.
Cooking for larger numbers requires batch cooking, which is easy due to the fast cooking time of the final product. Woks are similar to cast iron pans, once seasoned they only need to be rinsed and washed and are ready to be used again. Keep dry and a very light coat of oil so they don’t rust, although there are many new style nonstick, no rust woks available on the market.
The key points of the stir fry cooking method include; starting with a tender cut of meat. If you choose to use a less tender cut it usually requires some type of marinade or rub on the meat.
The next key step is to cut the meat across the grain and cut very thin. One way to do this is to cut the meat while it is still partially frozen. Of course in the restaurant business this would be completed on the slicer.
The next step is to gather all your mise en place (everything in its place) When stir frying you need to have everything ready, there is no time to be looking for something once you start cooking. This includes having the accompaniments ready as well, such as rice, noodles, plates, sauces, garnishes, etc. It literally takes more time to gather your mise en place then it does to cook the preparation.
I prefer fresh vegetables, frozen have too much moisture and results in sweating the ingredients rather than stir-frying. If the vegetables are large or woody such as carrots, lower stem of asparagus, large pieces of broccoli, I like to blanch (par cook) to retain color and al dente (crisp bite). Always make sure all ingredients are cut consistent shapes for even cooking.
There are an endless array of sauces and marinades available on the supermarket shelves. These preparations make life very simple and easy. I’m always experimenting with different products and keep a good variety in the pantry. My go-to though is sesame oil, ginger, garlic, green onions, red or yellow peppers, soy, oyster, or hoisin sauces, and sesame seeds for garnish.
The key steps of stir fry are very similar to sauté. These preparations start with a tender cut, high heat, meat served rate, with exception of turkey/poultry, boar, and bear (cook thoroughly) fast, and served smothered in sauce.
The key steps of the stir fry cooking method are as follows:
Tender cut of meat
Choose the correct utensil, preferably a wok, if not, use a sauteuse. (beveled sided sauté pan)
Small amount of oil. (I prefer peanut and/or sesame oil)
Don’t overload the pan with too much cold meat (do in batches)
When using a wok, you want lots of action up the sides of the pan from high heat.
Keep rare with exception of poultry boar and bear
Remove the meat from pan, spread out to prevent the meat from sweating
Add garnish such as green onions, ginger, garlic, red & yellow peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, colorful vegetables that have been cut thin and/or blanched (partially cooked to retain color and lesson cooking time)
Deglaze with liquid such as wine, broth, and various soy based sauces
Bring to boil
Adjust flavor and consistency
Add meat back to sauce (this way meat was not boiling and overcooking while you finish the sauce/glaze)
Add fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, chives, or your favorite!
Top with green onion, chives, toasted sesame seeds.
Plate smothered in sauce
These are the basic guidelines for stir fry, there are always exceptions to the rules but this is the foundation to success. Follow these rules and you should be able to create many wonderful game preparations.
Remember you must have quality meat at the cutting board to start with. Don’t try to salvage bloodshot or inedible meat. You cannot make poorly handled meat in the field better at the cutting board or in the pan. Try substituting venison in place of the duck.
Let us know what recipes you’ve tried and or invented with your harvest.
Good Cooking Chef Wutsch
Here are a couple of our stir fry recipes for you to try.