Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Feb 17, 2013
01:02 PM
Small Dishes

Duck Redux

Duck Redux

Living in Wisconsin in the early '60s, duck appeared more prominently on supper club menus. It would have been unthinkable to go to Ishnala and order anything other than the roast duck à la orange, or at The Duck Inn near Delavan. (Well, occasionally I would opt for the lobster tail Thermidor instead.) Moving here from Kentucky unveiled heretofore unknown delicacies such as summer sausage, fried lake perch, herring in sour cream and roast duck. I also have fond memories from the first time I went to Paris and enjoyed canard de barbarie aux petis pois—braised duck with peas. I’ve always liked duck. 

By the time I returned to Wisconsin in the late '70s, for whatever reason, duck seemed to have fallen out of favor. I’m not sure why, but then most restaurant menus seemed to be suffering from a bad case of the blahs. But the globalization of food soon launched the never-ending culinary quest for the new and different. The consumption of duck has increased by 21 percent since 1996. Today, Wisconsin and Indiana lead the nation in duck farming.

There are many species of duck, wild and domestic, and for a long time the most commonly raised commercially was the Pekin, sometimes called “Long Island” duck despite its Chinese origins. Also popular is the Muscovy, a large breed originally native to Latin America. One of the oddest is the Runner, a lanky duck that took on the role of Ferdinand in the movie Babe.

Duck—roasted whole, breast grilled, confit and rendered fat—once again stars on many menus around the area, and a welcome addition it is.

Cooking in duck fat adds a unique richness. At A Pig in a Fur Coat the duck fat fries served with aioli are addictive and worth every single calorie. 

Sardine serves a modern version of the old favorite, duck à la orange, that’s paired with a creamy celeriac and potato purée and crunchy baby bok choy.

Pickled plums, crisp frisee and aromatic fennel dress up a duck confit—a French specialty where the leg is preserved in salt—at Harvest.

It may be mostly about beef, but at Tornado Steakhouse the sautéed duck breast served medium rare with a pan reduction sauce of port wine and currants is sure to satisfy any carnivore.

For almost three decades Imperial Garden in Middleton has wooed diners with its extensive selection of Chinese specialties, including the classic Peking duck served in three courses.

After 60 years, duck is still on the menu at Ishnala and served as it always has been, roasted with sage stuffing and glazed with orange sauce.

Owners have come and gone at The Duck Inn and alas the lobster Thermidor is no more, but duck comes five ways, including “drunken” duck breast marinated in Gray’s Rathskeller Amber Ale.

RECIPE: Caramelized Sweet Onion and Duck Quesadillas

2 whole boneless skinless duck breasts
1 lime, juiced
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup barbeque sauce
8 flour tortillas, buttered on one side
1 sweet onion, sliced thin and sautéed to golden brown
1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 roasted Poblano chili, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, cut into thin rings and grilled
1 cup grated pepper Jack cheese
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Garnish: 4 sprigs fresh cilantro

In a small bowl add fresh lime juice to sour cream and stir. Season with salt, to taste, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the duck breasts in an ovenproof sauté pan and place in the oven. Roast duck for 10 minutes or until medium rare. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Using a sharp knife, dice the duck breast into 1/2-inch pieces. Place the canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add diced duck and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the barbeque sauce and bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat.

Place 4 flour tortillas, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board. Divide the duck mixture among the tortillas. Sprinkle the sautéed onion, mango, Poblano chili, red onion, cheese and cilantro evenly over the duck. Top each with the remaining tortillas, buttered side up. Bring a large sauté pan or griddle to medium heat. Place 1 tortilla stack in the pan or griddle and cook until golden brown or about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, flip tortilla over to cook the other side. Remove from pan and place on cutting board and cut into 6 wedges. Place on a warm plate and dab lime sour cream on each wedge and garnish with a cilantro sprig. Repeat with the remaining tortilla stacks.

Serves 4.

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About This Blog

Dan CurdI found my interest in writing by accident. My training and first job was as a graphic designer. Unemployed, the only employment I could find in advertising at that time was as a copywriter. Somehow, I convinced Richard Newman & Associates to hire me. Later I learned they were desperate. Madison has been my home off and on since 1957 (nonstop for the past 31 years). I write about food, which I love. – Dan Curd

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