Recipe: Pickled Duck, Creamed Collards

One of the greatest recipes for wild game—that would be whole roasted duck—just got even more delicious.

Photograph by John Miller. Food Styling by Roscoe Betsill

​An old Swedish treat, pickled duck isn't exactly pickled—the meat just takes an overnight soak in a sweet-and-sour marinade that yields some of the most unctuous, flavorful waterfowl you'll ever eat. The Huntsville, Ala., chef James Boyce, of Cotton Row restaurant fame, is behind the creamed collard greens that accompany the duck, and they're about as rib-sticking as greens can get, with the garlic-spiked collards bubbling beneath a molten crust of
breadcrumbs and mozzarella.

Ingredients

2 whole ducks, cleaned, about 3 lb. each
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup salt
2 cups sugar
11⁄2 lb. collard greens, washed and trimmed

11⁄2 cups plus 2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
4 Tbsp. butter
1⁄4 cup flour
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese

3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
1⁄2 cup shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1 large bunch parsley, divided
2 bay leaves
10 juniper berries
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

1. Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar along with 2⁄3 cup cold water, and stir until partially dissolved into sort of a slurry. In a large bowl or zip-seal bag, marinate the ducks in this mixture in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

2. Make the creamed collards: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 11⁄2-quart baking dish. Wash and trim the collard greens, removing and discarding the thick stems, and chop into thin ribbons. Allow the greens to drain in a sieve or colander. Bring 1 cup chicken stock to a boil in a large sauté pan over high heat, then add the greens and the garlic along with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, covered. Drain the mixture into a bowl, to reserve the cooking liquid, and transfer the greens into another bowl.

3. Wipe out the sauté pan and return it to the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, to make a light roux. Add 1⁄2 cup stock, cream, and the reserved cooking liquid from the greens, and continue to cook for about a minute longer, or until the mixture thickens. Stir in the Parmesan and ricotta cheeses and cook for another minute. Transfer this to the bowl with the reserved greens. Mix well, then pour it into the buttered baking dish and top evenly with the breadcrumbs and mozzarella. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Remove from the heat and cover with foil to keep warm.

4. Raise the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the ducks thoroughly, discarding the marinade, then stuff each cavity with half the parsley, a bay leaf, and five juniper berries. Season generously with salt and pepper, inside and out. Put the ducks in a roasting pan and into the oven.

5. After 15 minutes, add the 2 cups chicken stock to the roasting pan, lifting the ducks to let the stock run underneath. You should have about 1⁄4 inch of stock in the pan; depending on its size, you may need to add more. Continue to cook for 30 minutes.

6. Rest the ducks, tented in foil, for 15 minutes. (During this time, return the collards to the oven to reheat, removing when the top is sizzling brown.) Slice the meat and serve alongside the greens. Serves 4

Drink Pairing: Fine With Fowl

Austin Hope, the winemaker for Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles, ­Calif., is a devoted waterfowler, so it comes as no surprise that his wines pair brilliantly with wild duck. His 2012 Austin Hope Syrah ($42) contains layers of earthy elegance, and enough acidity and pepper notes to complement the rich depths of this dish. His Troublemaker blend ($20) is another stellar waterfowl wine, with a mix of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, and zinfandel grapes yielding luscious complexity.