What are you cooking this Thanksgiving? I’m making dishes using something “old” (turkey) and something “new” (duck). Indeed, what would the holidays be without a challenge? For me this year, the challenge has been exploring ways to serve duck to my family. Cooking duck has involved research, precision and dedication, and these have kept me busy instead of worrying relentlessly. And for these joyful activities, I must thank Maple Leaf Farms 🙂
Maple Leaf Farms is an Indiana-based company with a focus on providing “the tastiest duck in the most sustainable and humane way possible.” The company has been operating for over 60 years, and it prides itself with being “the first duck company in North America to implement a detailed duck well-being program.” I was happy to discover while doing my research that their ducks eat a balance of grains and veggies and are free to roam in cage free barns. Maple Leaf Farms developed their duck well-being guidelines in collaboration with veterinarians and poultry scientists from all around the country. The end result was the Trident Stewardship Program, which includes standards on animal care and handling, biosecurity, and environmental management.
Maple Leaf Farms sent me their Holiday Duck Package to try out, which included four duck breasts (8oz each) and 1 huge tub of duck fat (3.5 lb!). I was anxious to experiment and to put a twist on traditional holiday favorites with duck, but at the same time a bit unsure of what I should make. I took cues from seasons and beloved childhood memories, and I came up with… quince.
My fall-related childhood memories revolve around my mother and my aunt making delicious quince jam, which would last us the entire winter. Sadly, quince is not very popular and/or easy to find around here, and this has made my recipe a challenge. Still, just when I thought I was out of luck, I found quince at a grocery store in my area. Such a wonderful surprise!
I thought the sweetness of seasonal quince and apples would go great with the duck and would tone down its gaminess. I also used my go-to mix of veggies for roasting (fingerling potatoes, parsnip, onion and peppers), which I sprinkled with dried oregano and harissa seasoning. I had some kohlrabi left over from my kohlrabi soup – off it went into the pan too 🙂 I massaged the veggies in duck fat, spread liberally.
In a separate pan I placed the sliced quince and apples, which I coated in pomegranate molasses for a delightfully tart seasonal touch.
Both pans went in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes.
While the fruits and veggies were in the oven, I seared the duck breast in a nonstick pan, which I placed in the oven too, to cook the meat for 6-8 minutes. (I used Chef Gordon Ramsay’s duck breast cooking tutorial)
When done, I took the fruits and veggies out of the oven and I arranged them neatly on several plates. I placed slices of duck breast on top. Lastly, I used the liquid in the pan where I had cooked the veggies to make a light sauce using cornstarch as a thickener.
I served my seasonal duck dish with a salad which featured watercress, parsnip, and pomegranate arils soaked in a fresh herb vinaigrette.
This dish was glorious! Not only was the vibrancy of the ingredients used inviting and mouthwatering, but each element made perfect sense on its own and in combination with the others. The sweetness of the fruits worked beautifully with the duck fat-coated veggies and with the meat. The latter was unbelievably tender and buttery. Despite my constant worries and concerns (panic is my middle name, after all, lol), the duck was super moist and packed with flavor.
Such a happy moment of foodie bliss!
To counterbalance the decadent duck and sweet fruits, the salad provided crunchy freshness, and the watercress reigned supreme with its peppery undertones. I thought this was a good way to incorporate nutritious watercress in our holiday menu, while also balancing out the other ingredients.
Maple Leaf Farms will offer a special sale on the Holiday Duck Package beginning Black Friday and ending on Cyber Monday. This is the perfect time to stock up if you’re a foodie – the price cuts on their website are significant.
Cooking with duck breast and duck fat from Maple Leaf Farms has been an amazing experience. Little did I know when I embarked on it that I would learn so much about these birds and about good stewardship of the Earth and its resources. I was impressed with Maple Leaf Farms’ commitment to sustainability, and I look forward to staying informed in this respect. The products I tried were perfect to enjoy this time of year, and the duck breast and duck fat-coated veggies were absolutely delicious. I am thankful for learning so much throughout the process – and for cooking, and thinking, and many random acts of delicious duck sampling 🙂
Happy safe Thanksgiving, everyone!
*Disclaimer: While I received complimentary products to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.
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