Holiday Feature


Breast of Mallard
with Morels and Pistachio-Encrusted Figs

by John Manikowski


The recommended cooking time for duck breasts is for medium-rare. You may add to or reduce the time, depending upon your preference. Many old-timers prefer their wild duck meat blood-rare. Serve with wild rice and a spinach salad with orange slices, apples and black olives.

  • 1/4 ounce dried morel mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 4 fresh figs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 mallard breasts, cleaned and trimmed of any fat or membrane (or substitute any large, meaty duck breasts)
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (or two bouillon cubes dissolved in 1/4 cup water)

Soak the dried mushrooms in sherry for about 30 minutes.

Crush pistachios with a mortar and pestle or grind in a small, clean coffee grinder until finely pulverized. Cut the figs into halves and flatten. with your thumb or the back of a spoon, firmly press the pistachios into the meaty part of the figs.

Heat the butter in a heavy, large skillet over medium-low heat and lay in the figs. Sauté the encrusted figs for only about 30 seconds on both sides until the nuts are browned. Remove quickly and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the duck breasts 6-8 minutes, uncovered. Turn duck breasts over, add the morels with the sherry, brandy (if using) and stock. Simmer for 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove pan from stove and set the figs into the pan to warm.

Transfer the breasts to a wooden platter and slice thinly. Fan 1/2 breast per person over a mound of wild rice and divide the morels and figs equally among each plate. Scrape any remaining browned bits and juices from the pan onto the meat.

Serves 4.

Wine Recommendation

A slightly tannic Bordeaux from Chateau Cheret-Pitres (from the Graves region) is a moderately priced red. Somewhat lean but some cherry flavors and a light earthiness makes this type of Bordeaux a good match with duck breast. I had the 1993 and this wine should hold up well enough through 1997-98.


The Chateau Larose-Trintaudon, an Haut Medoc would serve duck breast well. The 1990 would be a first choice but is nearly gone, however the 1993 or 1994 would also be fine.


John Manikowski's Game Recipes

Grilled Duck Breasts with Orange, Ginger and Balsamic Sauce
Upside-Down Roast Canada Goose
Roast Guinea Hens Stuffed with Mangos and Scallions
Smoked Mallard Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce Over Couscous
Breast of Mallard with Morels and Pistachio-Encrusted Figs
Calvados Pheasant
Pheasant with Olives and Fresh Plums
Smoked Breast Of Pheasant Salad with Pistachio and Date Dressing
Leeky Pheasant
Quail Sautéed with Melon, Thyme and Red Onion
Grilled, Butterflied Wood Duck with Dried Cherry Sauce
Sources for Wild Game
About John Manikowski
An Introduction to Turkey Alternatives

Thanksgiving Recipes
Christmas Recipes

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