Duck - a distinguished classic of culinary professionals

When preparing meat delicacies, duck dishes are certainly held in high regard by professional chefs. Hardly any head chef hasn’t given a go at coming up with an original duck meat dish. But good preparation requires knowledge and experience, and duck allows you to get creative because this is an ingredient that goes well with all kinds of flavours. Duck meat has a particular taste and its darker earth colour complements more cheerful and brighter fruity shades when served on a plate.

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Even though duck falls under the category of the fattiest poultry, its flavour and quality are most akin to game animal thanks to feeding and rearing. The popularity of duck meat is evidenced by numerous recipes that have left their mark on almost every national cuisine from North America through Europe and Asia. Duck with mlinci is the main traditional dish of northern Croatia, duck roast is always prepared to celebrate the most important holidays, whereas duck foie gras represents a culinary classic that’s frequently served as an appetizer to mark special occasions. Duck meat terrine is yet another culinary exclusive that will knock even the most demanding foodies off their feet.

Given that duck meat is rougher and fattier, it’s vital that it be marinated prior to preparation. Knowing how to roast the meat properly is also very much important. Most commonly it’s roasted at lower temperatures. When it comes to summer renditions, the duck can be roasted with fruit such as apples, plums, figs or with a more stronger wine, be it a red or white one.Image author: Thinkstock

The rolling hills of Zagorje hide true gourmet realms that, apart from phenomenal local wines, offer menus made from local produce. Very often you find yourself tasting ingredients reared or grown at the surrounding farms or even by restaurants themselves. The hills in the vicinity of Sveti Križ Začretje is where the idyllic family-run Klet Kozjak has found its place under the sun. In addition to running a restaurant and making homemade wine, they’ve also specialised in rearing ducks (locally called “raca”). Traditional Zagorje classic dishes made from Sveti Križ duck make the best invitation to start you culinary exploration of the region and even the French guide Gault & Millau has been blown away by the quality. We discussed duck and family specialties with head chef and owner Marko Radovečki and his sister Irena Sčuric who’s in charge of duck production.

- The menu includes dishes made from our home-reared duck throughout the year. We prepare duck breast in blackberry wine sauce with nettle noodles. Duck with mlinci, by far the most popular classic dish in Zagorje, also features prominently in our menu. As far as the first specialty is concerned, it’s vital that the meat be marinated for three to four days prior to preparation. We season the duck breast with salt and pepper, we add some Vegeta and white wine and leave it to stand. Considering we have thicker meat at hand, marinating is required for it to turn tender. After that we grill the meat and it can be medium or well done, depending on the guest’s preference. The sauce is prepared separately. We fry some red onion in butter. When it’s done, we pour some blackberry wine, a bit of honey, we thicken it with organic starch and season only with salt, pepper and Vegeta. This dish is served with homemade nettle pasta.

They also let us in on the secret of a good duck roast.

- One needs to be careful when roasting a duck. Duck has to be roasted at low temperatures. We roast it covered with aluminium foil at 180 °C pouring it over with stock and sunflower oil all along. It’s important that roasted duck be salted at least one night prior to preparation.Image author: Thinkstock

The charming restaurant Filippi has won over Michelin’s committee with its phenomenal Mediterranean cuisine, which is why they’ve been listed in Michelin’s map of Croatia. Young and talented head chef Tomislav Nikolić has showcased his know-how by preparing an interesting duck breast dish paired with apple and orange flavours.

- Duck breast confit in duck fat is served with sour apple cream, candies orange zest and orange syrup. First we dice the duck breast and add quite a lot of salt. We place the meat in a cold pan that’s heated gradually. Once we get a crunchy crust, we place the meat in a convection oven for five minutes. The sour apple cream is prepared as a compote. We start cooking the sliced apples, sour varieties work best, water and duck fat. Once the apples are done, we blend it all and pass it so as to get a thick creamy sauce. When it comes to the orange syrup, we need to squeeze the oranges, then pass the juice to remove the pulp and reduce it a bit in order for it to become thicker.

Restaurant Kaštel, that will blow you away with its phenomenal atmosphere and fine dining rendition of the best ingredients in Zadar and the surrounding region, is definitely one of the best destinations for foodies in Zadar. The menu at this new face of Zadar’s gastronomy offers Parmentier with duck confit or potato casserole with duck roasted in its own fat. Head restaurant manager Marko Bošković talked us through the original creation of Bruno Cesar Lerzundi, a Croatian of Peruvian descent.

- Duck leg and drumstick are first marinated in red wine, thyme, onion, garlic, carrot, tomato, leek, celery and parsley. The meat should stand in the marinade for at least 24 hours. The meat is drained prior to preparation, while the remaining marinade is cooked. Once the alcohol evaporated during cooking, the sauce is burned so as to make sure that all alcohol has evaporated. The sauce is reduced for a short while, then it’s blended and passed. The duck meat is cooked at 80°C in duck fat and vegetable oil in a 50:50 ratio. The meat is left to cook for 10 hours. Once the meat is done, we debone it and sauté it in purple onion. Then we cook some potatoes, make a purée and add rucola pesto, Grana Padano cheese and grated garlic. We take a mould and layer the potatoes, then the duck and oven-bake it at 220 °C. We pour the marinade over the casserole when serving it.Image author: Thinkstock

You can try duck meat specialties in restaurants throughout the year. The only things that change are their renditions depending on the season of their preparation. Given that duck meat is ideally paired with numerous ingredients ranging from fruit, vegetables, aromatic herbs, honey to different wines, you can really unleash your culinary imagination.