Travis Rathbone

Photo by Travis Rathbone

A salmi is an oldfangled, richly flavored game stew—often served, like chipped beef, over toast—that was a delicacy popular in the 1890s. This modern version is a luscious, soul-satisfying use for whole ducks.
Salmi of Wild Duck Recipe

– 2 large ducks (mallard, pintail, gadwall) or 4 small ones (shoveler, wigeon, teal)
– 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
– 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
– 3 onions, chopped
– 1 large carrot, chopped
– 2 stalks celery, chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
– 2 whole cloves
– 2 cups chicken stock or broth
– 1 cup dry red wine
– 3 Tbsp. butter
– 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
– 4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
– 1/3 cup cognac, sherry, or Madeira
– 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
– Buttered, toasted slices of baguette or other crusty bread, for serving
– Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Dry the ducks, inside and out, and salt and pepper generously. Spread tine softened butter over each bird and place ducks, breast side down, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast until the meat is barely rare; it will finish cooking later. The cooking time will depend on size, but start checking as early as 8 or 10 minutes in. Go ahead and cut into the meat to check, as you’ll be hashing it all up soon anyway. Remove from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, chop the meat into medium-size pieces, reserving the bones, skin, and trimmings.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and cloves, along with more salt and pepper, and cook for another minute. Add the trimmings, bones, and skin, and cook for an additional minute, stirring. Pour in the stock and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours, or until the mixture is reduced to about 2 cups. Occasionally skim fat from the surface. Strain the sauce, discarding the vegetables and trimmings, and return the sauce to a gentle simmer.

3. Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour. Stir or whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and slightly beige, about 6 minutes. Ladle some of the sauce into the pan and whisk to combine, then add a little more sauce. Add this flour-sauce mixture to the sauce, whisking until well incorporated. It should resemble a thin gravy. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

4. Wipe out the small saucepan, and over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter. When it bubbles, stir in the mushrooms, until wilted and brown. Add the cognac, and bring to a quick boil. (Be careful. If you tilt the pan, it may erupt in flames. That’s O.K., and actually quite preferable. Just don’t singe your eyebrows.) Put the mushrooms in the sauce, along with the reserved meat. Let the mixture simmer until the duck is just heated through; the heat of the liquid will bring it to medium-rare. Stir in the parsley. Serve with the toasted bread, either on top, like chipped beef, or with the bread on the side for scooping and dipping. Serves 4 to 6.