When my brother got married in Singapore more than two decades ago, the wedding banquet included a braised wild duck dish. As a city state Singapore does not produce much of its food, never mind finding wild ducks. So the banquet chef at the restaurant provisioned imported wild ducks from Germany. In order to show evidence that the ducks were in fact wild, I remembered the chef showing us bullets left in the duck before butchering and cooking them. That was my first encounter with wild fowl.
I am not the outdoorsmen type and I have neither the aspiration nor the skill to hunt. But I do occasionally like to cook wild ducks or turkeys when available in markets. Since discovering Hank Shaw’s incredible blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook three years ago I’ve been an armchair hunter and forager. I love reading his hunting adventures on Catalina Island, cod fishing expeditions off Massachusetts coast, and porcini foraging trips in the Sierra Nevada. His narratives are so vivid that I can imagine myself next to him experiencing all the excitement of the hunt.
Since then I’ve met Hank and kept in touch. Two months ago Hank invited me to a book-signing event for his latest cookbook Duck, Duck, Goose. The event was held at the Berreta Gallery on Madison Avenue. Although I was thrilled with the prospect of seeing Hank again, the idea of going into a gun shop for a book signing was slightly disturbing. I have mixed feelings about private gun ownership, and do believe strong control of gun licensing is essential. But I also understand that responsible gun use for recreational hunting does not necessarily pose danger to society.
So it was with this slight hesitation that I went to the book signing. I was quite surprised when I entered the shop. It was more like walking into a fashion boutique. The first floor was beautifully appointed like a gentlemen’s library with a decidedly country gentry look. It wasn’t until after chatting with Hank and getting a signed copy of his book that I ventured into the inner sanctum of the store. On the third floor I discovered the gun gallery. There I learned from a shop assistant that New York City law bans display of guns in store windows, and allows their sale only beyond the first floor.
Experiencing my first visit to a gun retailer aside, the main purpose of course is to see Hank and obtain a copy of his new cookbook. Can I be candid with you? Duck, Duck, Goose truly inspired me to explore the many variations of cooking duck. Not only are the recipes well constructed, there is plenty of background on duck species and instructions on breaking down and processing ducks, wild or otherwise, for cooking. The book is a treasure trove of information about and how to cook them.
But Hank did not stop at just cooking duck. He also took the mystery out of cooking goose. The number of times I’ve cooked goose can be counted on one hand. So needless to say reading the many varieties of ways I can cook this other game bird stirred that culinary adventurous streak in me. I can see goose dishes in my very near future. But before venturing off to cook a goose I made a red-cooked duck during New Year using the recipe in Duck, Duck, Goose. I made the duck intending to serve it for a simple after New Year dinner at home. But a neighbor invited me to their “After the New Year’s Eve Hangover Party” on New Year’s Day. At the last minute I decided to make canapés with this incredibly flavorful duck. So I made some mini bao, or steamed buns, and served Hank’s red-cooked duck on top. People swooned over them and I gladly shared the secret that was Duck, Duck, Goose.
Mini Bao (小蒸包)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water (warm)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Proof the yeast by combining it with 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let the mixture sit for about two minutes or until bubbles appear on top.
- Combine the yeast mixture with the flour and the rest of the ingredients. The dough will be slightly sticky. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth. This may take about five to eight minutes.
- Put the dough in a bowl, greased with vegetable oil, that is big enough to accommodate twice the size of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and prick a few small holes in it. Let the dough rise for about one and a half hours or until the dough has doubled.
- Roll the dough out into large square on a floured surface. Cut into small rounds using a cookie cutter. Repeat the rolling and cutting with the remnant dough until it is all used up. Place the rounds on a floured baking tray and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Line a steamer with greased parchment paper. Arrange the dough rounds in the steamer and steam over slowly boiling water for 8 minutes.