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(Credit: John Ross)

Cut off the best parts of a couple of roasted wild ducks, and put the rest of the meat into a mortar, with six shallots, a little parsley, some pepper, and a bay leaf; pound all these ingredients well, and then put into a saucepan, with four ladlesful of stock, half a glass of white wine, the same of broth, and a little grated nutmeg; reduce these to half, strain them, and having laid the pieces on a dish, cover them with the above; keep the whole hot, not boiling, until wanted for table.   

Salmis of Wild Duck recipe from  ‘A Poetical Cookbook’ by Maria J. Moss, 1864   

This is really a pretty good recipe coming from a Civil War-era cookbook. It is actually a famous French method of cooking poultry in which the bird is roasted at high heat, the meat is removed and the carcass is crushed in order to make the sauce.   

In cooking today, we seem to embrace old ways of cooking just as we are embracing fresh, local ingredients. Nineteenth-century cooks didn’t have Weber grills in their backyards, but they cooked with wood and charcoal all the time.   

In the recipe for Salmis of Game Hen, I used a Cornish hen wrapped in bacon and placed in a cast-iron skillet on the grill. The other recipe, for Peking duck, has its origins in imperial China in the 15th century. I have eliminated the complex process of pumping air beneath the skin and hanging the duck in front of a fan for 24 hours, but have retained the rich flavor and crisp skin of this famous dish by both steaming and roasting on the barbecue grill.   


Rinse a local 5- to 6-pound local duck under cold water, saving the giblets for another use. Remove excess fat and trim off the flap around the neck. With the point of a sharp knife, score the entire duck with crosshatch marks.   

Make a seasoning rub by combining 2 teaspoons five spice powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Stir 1 tablespoon soy sauce into this to make a paste. Rub this mixture over the duck and in the cavity.   

Place 2 pieces of orange rind, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 green onions and a sprig of rosemary inside the cavity and tie the legs and wings close to the body with string.   

Prepare a glaze by whisking together the juice from 1 orange, 1/2 cup honey and 2 tablespoons soy sauce.   

Line a small roasting pan with foil and place a poultry V-rack in the bottom. Put the duck, breast side up, in the V-rack and pour 4 cups water into the pan. Cover the roasting pan with foil, sealing it as much as possible.   

Place the pan on the char-grill away from the coals, cover and cook for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the grill and empty out all the water and accumulated duck fat.   

Brush the duck with the glaze and put it back into the V-rack inside the roasting pan. Put the pan back on the grill, keeping the grill temperature as close to 400 degrees as you can. Cook for another 1 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes, making a total cooking time of 2 1/2 hours. Remove and cool before carving the duck.   

Serve with mandarin pancakes, hoisin sauce and scallions.   Serves 4-6.   


Remove the giblets from a 2-pound Cornish game hen and rinse under cold water.   

Stuff the cavity with half of a lemon, a sprig of rosemary, a clove of garlic, a shallot and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.   

Wrap the chicken in 4 strips of bacon and truss with string to hold the bacon and to keep the legs and wings close to the body. Spray a cast-iron skillet with no-stick and place the chicken in the skillet.   

Prepare the char-grill, waiting until the coals turn white. Put the pan with the chicken in the center of the grill and place the lid on top. Let the chicken cook for about 45 minutes and remove from the grill. Remove the bacon and set aside.   

When just cool enough to handle, cut the legs and thighs off the chicken and remove the wings and the breast meat with a sharp knife.   

Place the carcass on a cutting board and chop it up with a chef’s knife, cutting through the bones and including the cavity stuffing.   

Put the cast-iron skillet (with all the drippings) on the stove and add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped stalk of celery to the pan. Let the vegetables cook at medium heat for 5 minutes and add the chopped carcass, including all juices and stuffing. Cook another 10 minutes and transfer to a saucepan.    Add 1 cup red wine and 1 cup chicken stock and continue to cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain into a clean sauté pan, pressing out the juices with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and taste for seasoning. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in cold water and add to slightly thicken.   

Put the cooked chicken in the pan and simmer until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Serve with barley, farro or wild rice.   

Serves 2.

John Ross