Duck for Thanksgiving

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

Our good friend Walken (Husband’s BFF from the hippie farm days) lives several blocks from us here in Winona. Since the three of us are having Thanksgiving together, Walken suggested the other day that we look through his chest freezer for the Thanksgiving fowl, as he has a wealth of meat and poultry stashed there: some lamb, couple of chickens, and… a DUCK! So as I write this, sitting on a platter in my fridge is 6 ½  pounds of water fowl, begging the question:  what does one do with a duck?

First I go to the Joy of Cooking – on page 475 I read “About Wild Birds”, although there is no indication that this bird is wild-caught, being encased as it is in shrink wrap. At any rate I don’t need instructions for dry plucking or singeing it, but I did find these useful tidbits:

  • Duckling Rouennaise – “Unless you choke your duck, pluck the down on its breast immediately afterward and cook it within 24 hours, you cannot lay claim to having produced an authentic Rouen duck… If, as is likely, duck-strangling will bring you into local disrepute, you may waive the sturdy peasant preliminaries and serve a modified version, garnished with quotation marks.” (p. 474)   I had no idea Irma Rombauer et al. could be so tongue-in-cheek!
  • Roast Domestic Duck – “Most duck on the American market is not descended from wild native variety, but from a type bred in China where, of course, this bird is held in high esteem.” (p. 473)
  • Besides duck, turkey, and goose; there are recipes for guinea or cornish hen, pigeon, grouse, ptarmigan, prairie chicken, dove or wood pigeon, pheasant, partridge, quail, and snipe or woodcock, just in case you come upon any of these. (Before cooking, you must read “About Small Game Birds”.)

There are recipes for Roast Duck Bigarade and Apricot Honey Glazed Duck (involving brandy and Cointreau, both of which we have!).  Or there is, on p. 326, a nice Orange Sauce for Duck or Goose. I have also found a couple of things on line, including Julia Child’s Duck L’Orange, which looks like a lot of bother and will probably lose out to the Roast Duck L’Orange recipe at

Whatever I decide upon, it will be fun to try something out of the ordinary.

What, if anything, do you eat during the Holidays that veers away from the Traditional?


39 thoughts on “Duck for Thanksgiving”

  1. I usually am blessed with invitations for traditional turkey dinners, but this year…a different blessing. Friends are coming to my house, bearing a venison roast…one he the man of the house “harvested” himself. Somehow seems more in keeping with the original thanksgiving feast than turkey….perhaps some wild rice to accompany it…oh, and cranberries. I am so lucky!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. i am amazed at the wealth of food that comes around at the these holiday meals . the turkey is a hit but i am always amazed at the side dishes. the taters sweetr potatoes green bean cassarole corn wild rice green salad frozen fruit salad bread desert and beverages are enough to make the turkey and stuffing moot, i used to think a veggie thanksgiving was the challange now i add dairy free and gluten free and i have to dig a bit. i dont have the hang of soy milk and fake cheese yet but im getting there, an extra helping of wild rice, a gluten free spinich roulade and some cranberries with pineapla=e and orange should do the trick. off to the kitchen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They performed a whole set of Thanksgiving carols. I cannot find them but I remember something like “O Gravy Boat” (O Christmas Tree) and “We Three Beans” (We Three Kings). I’d enjoy hearing them again. Dale?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Here: let’s just copy it here:

        A Thanksgiving Carol.
        To the tune of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
        Some of you might remember that Jim Ed and Dale did this long ago. I tried to recall the exact lyric but may have missed a bit of it.
        Gandolph The Thanksgiving Turkey
        Had a day with many woes.
        And if you ever saw him,
        you’d say, “Delicious! Head to toes.”
        All of the other turkeys
        used to laugh and call him names (like Drumstick)
        They ALWAYS let poor Gandolph
        eat the final bits of grain.
        Then one dark Thanksgiving Eve
        the farmer came to say,
        “Gandolph, with your meat so white,
        won’t you be my guest tonight?”
        Then how the turkeys loved him
        And they shouted out with glee
        “Gandolph The Thanksgiving Turkey,
        It was better you than me!”
        Merry Thanksgiving to all!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your story reminds me, BiR, of the first time we ate wild duck. I wasn’t raised hunting waterfowl. I was married and in my thirties when a friend invited us to hunt ducks on some flooded timber he owned.

    I was dismayed when we ate the first duck from that trip. The flavor was far stronger than domestic duck. I could barely finish my meal. I told my erstwife that I might never hunt ducks again.

    We still had some ducks in the freezer from that hunt. I consulted some books about cooking wild game. One had a suggestion that caught my eye. The author advised cooking wild duck so lightly that it could only be served at a table lit by one or two candles because in bright light the meat would look under-cooked . . . bloody and almost raw. My erstwife, an excellent cook in general, had been nervous about cooking wild duck. She cooked that bird so hard that the meat was far too strong to be enjoyed.

    We followed that tip with the next wild duck we cooked, cooking it very lightly and serving it on a nearly dark table. It was wonderful.

    Our most memorable Thanksgiving meal featured Canada goose from Manitoba. We baked it with a sauce made from dark red wine and pungent berries. And we didn’t over-cook it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i saw who is the cook of chiuce today bobby flay or some such and he said that he gives p on attempting goose. he has tried it every way possible and ut simply never comes out edible. ill bet he hasnt tried do it lightly. i am that way with asperagus.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That would have been well before the switch to steel shot. Remember also the care with which you would have to chew each bite so as not to ingest any lead pellets. When I think of the extreme measures they go to now when dealing with any potential presence of lead in paint, etc., it boggles the mind a little to think of biting down on or potentially swallowing bits of lead, but that was just the price you paid for a dinner of duck or pheasant.


  4. If there’s one meal I hate cooking, it’s the traditional Thanksgiving meal. If it was a potluck where you just had to do a dish or two, that would be fine, but to be responsible for the whole shebang is a pain. And the thing is you’re never done when the meal is eaten; it’s almost as much work to put away all the leftovers and to make soup.

    So several years ago I decided I was done with trying to please people who wanted a traditional meal. In fact, youngest daughter did the meal a couple times (before she went off to Seattle for college). I’ve tried things like soup and homemade bread and vegetable or salad sides, but most often it’s a meat pie (like pasties but in pie form) and one or two side dishes (this year it’s a cabbage-y salad). Then for dessert various pies or something like a cranberry-apple-pear crisp. This year I’ve got two pumpkin pies and a very good chocolate tart, both to be served with whipped cream (the real stuff, not the stuff from a can and never cool whip). To have this many pies makes it special enough to be holiday-ish – and adds enough work that it feels like a holiday – but isn’t as exhausting as doing a full-blown turkey dinner. Today, I stayed in bed until 9:00 and I would never be able to do that if I was making a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We usually have pretty traditional fare. Sometimes an unusual vegetable, like mashed parsnips. And the rolls have parmesan cheese on top. But otherwise, pretty much the same thing you see on everyone else’s table. That’s fine with me. Happy Thanksgiving, Baboons!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I arrived in the states two days before Thanksgiving in 1965, so this is my 51st Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday with which I was not familiar. My first one – at my new in-laws’ house in Greenport, Long Island – was memorable for a lot of reasons. I was completely overwhelmed by what I have come to appreciate is a fairly traditional American feast, not to mention the noisy, squabbling Italian family I had married into.

    The following year – in Cheyenne, Wyoming – we were invited to spend Thanksgiving with my boss, Earl Armstrong and his family. A fun, warm and memorable celebration that included watching a lot of football on TV.

    Each subsequent Thanksgiving has been spent as the guest at someone’s house, and has often been a pot-luck affair. In 51 years, I have cooked exactly one turkey!

    Hans left this morning to drive to Will Steger’s homestead near Ely. I declined the invitation to go along, preferring instead to spend Thanksgiving with friends in St. Paul. (The thought of using an outhouse – a good hike from the cabin we’d be staying in – perhaps a couple of times in the middle of the night, made this an easy decision.)

    My contribution to the feast in St. Paul: Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish, and a melange of roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, & onion. Someone else is responsible for the turkey. I’m sure there will be pies, but since I don’t care about those, I’m focusing on the “real” food. I hope there’s good gravy.

    I suspect the feast at the homestead will be less traditional, depending who is attending. Just to be on the safe side, I cooked up the Silver Palate’s recipe for Chili for a Crowd for Hans to take along. They’ll be fine, turkey or no.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. squash brussel sprouts ad onion sounds interesting.
      what was the cranberry sauce? i whipped up a cranberry pineapple orange version that is chiling on the patio and tasty


  7. Thanksgiving has always been special for me. Because I’m not religious, Christmas and Easter don’t connect with me in quite the way they do with people who have faith. But I treasure the act of gratitude. I have always felt grateful for my many blessings. And now some folks are doing research on gratitude. I wasn’t surprised to read that being grateful conveys many significant health benefits.

    The talk today about great Thanksgiving meals reminds me of the time Jacque invited me to share her family Thanksgiving. I was impressed by her calm competence as she handled the complicated challenges of putting out a multi-course meal for her family. Thanks again, Jacque!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. i will be signing up for the art of happiness at on nov 30 to do a self paced course. i have signed up before but have not been able to keep up with the class but think a self paced version may be right for me right now. the little bit i know is that the art of happiness gives better health. same deal.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Is the picture of the turkey before or after it was cooked? I’ve never cooked a turkey in my life, so the question’s sincere. My family of 18 met last Saturday. My oldest grandson is the only out of stater in the family, and air fare doubled if he didn’t come home last Thursday. It’s very rare to have all 12 grand kids in one place at one time. The cousins love to be together. My annual contribution to the big meal is mashed potatoes. 10 lbs of them. I put them in a large crockpot to keep them warm.

    In our family, the person with the biggest home hosts. My small cottage lost that privilege some twelve years ago, two mansions, and 7 additional grand kids later. Sometimes, I’m melancholic sitting here by a fire remembering the 45 Xmases and Thanksgivings held here.

    One unfortunate thing happened this year. My family seems annoyed at me ever asking them to pose, so I scurry around taking candid shots with my iPhone. I took at least a dozen last Saturday and couldn’t wait to import them to my computer to send out to friends. Well, all but two were of my FACE!! Apparently, I’d aimed the lens at myself instead of the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey all – we just got back from our Thanksgiving festivities. 26 of us this year, 10 of us age 7 and under! Right now I’m at a perfect point – stuffed but not so stuffed that I’m uncomfortable.

    I brought my traditional vegetarian sage stuffing – it’s very popular so I make two dishes and leave one of them at home because there are never any leftovers after the meal. And I usually bring a dessert; this year I made Cinnamon Roll Crusted Apple Pie. Easy peasy and very popular!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We had six people, a small group this year. Turkey, stuffing with kale, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green beans with feta cheese, sweet potatoes with pumpkin spice marshmallows on top, a cranberry Jello molded fruit salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, a bottle of wine, pumpkin pie with whipped topping, and mock mince pie with ice cream. Also some good dark chocolates from Regina’s, and coffee.

    Couldn’t eat another bite.

    A couple of things didn’t turn out so well – I tried a new type of flour, something called Einkorn, and the rolls didn’t rise all that well. Perhaps I should’ve added some gluten. Also the whipping cream failed to thicken, so the pumpkin pie was topped with the non-dairy type topping instead of the real thing. Never had whipping cream that wouldn’t whip before.


      1. It was Trader Joe’s that failed for us, but the “best by” date was still in the future, so that wasn’t the problem.

        It used to be the shelf-stable stuff would start to thicken in the carton before you whipped it. This time it was more the consistency of half ‘n half, and didn’t get thicker.


      1. Vinegar Pastry
        from Bette Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet (Revised ed.)

        1 C. white rice flour
        ¾ C. tapioca flour
        ¾ C. cornstarch
        1 rounded teaspoon xanthan gum
        ¾ tsp. salt
        1 Tbsp. sugar

        ¾ C. shortening (or butter)

        1 egg, lightly beaten
        1 Tbsp. vinegar
        2 to 3 Tbsps. ice water

        1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.

        2. Cut in shortening

        3. Blend together last three ingredients;
        Stir into flour mixture, holding back some, until the pastry holds together and forms a ball. (Kneading will not toughen this pastry.)

        4. Form two balls and place in a bowl; cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove and roll one ball at a time between 2 sheets of plastic wrap that have been dusted with sweet rice flour. To place in a pie tin: remove top sheet and, using the other for ease of handling, invert the dough and drop it into the pan. Shape it into the curves before removing the second piece of plastic wrap. For a crust to be used later, bake in a preheated 450˚ oven for 10-12 minutes. For a filled pie, follow directions for that pie.
        Makes two 9” crusts or a double crusted pie.

        [BiR’s edits: I used butter instead of shortening, and it seemed to work fine. And instead of the roll out method, I just flatten the ball of dough and press it with my fingers into the pie plate – takes a while to get it right, but so does all the malarkey with the plastic wrap…]


  11. I am in Iowa for Tgiving and my niece’s wedding tomorrow. We have a family pie tradition. She asked my sister and I to make pie in place of wedding cake. Wednesday we made 31 fruit pies ( 3 for Tgiving). Today we made the custard pies with meringue. Total if 42 pies. My feet hurt. My back hurts.

    We tasted. They are Goood. Especially the lemon meringue made with limoncella.

    Liked by 1 person

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