Hank Shaw’s “Duck, Duck, Goose” (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley) crossed my desk recently and contains everything a home chef needs to create dishes for family and friends. Shaw’s work wowed me within minutes, a superb cookbook with excellent recipes, ranging from simple home-style to gourmet to myriad choices between. It goes on sale Oct. 1.

This well-illustrated hardcover includes myriad, topnotch color photos of food, presentations and how-to tips that tastefully illustrate waterfowl cookery. The book also offers solid advice on pairing duck and goose with wine and beer, field care, storage, natural history, lore, history with mankind, and more. With all the color photos, it costs but $24.95.

Shaw starts the text with a bang, too. It begins with identification descriptions for various domestic and wild ducks and geese, tips for aging birds (crucial for deciding how to cook one…in my humble opinion) and a summary of the difficulty rating for each recipe in the book, based on a star-key, one star for easy and up to four and five stars for all-day affairs.

Color carving photos in “Duck, Duck, Geese” show how to deal with a cooked duck, and anyone who looks at this nine-photo illustration as well as other how-to images in the book can present a masterful dinner spread.

During summers of my 16th and 17th years, I worked in an inn at Ocean Point and learned the proper manner of carving meat for serving. A superb chef cooked there in summer and at Bowdoin College during the school year. More than once, he performed his presentation art with me hanging over his shoulder, as he explained the techniques.

For the rest of my life at family dinners — sometimes mass gatherings — my parents and uncles asked me carve turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef, salmon, etc. My father and one uncle could do it better, but they considered me adequate and didn’t have to do it themselves.


“Duck, Duck, Goose” came in the mail unsolicited, an inappropriate PR move. As I have said many times here, once recently, domestic ducks are OK, but in my book, wild ones are inedible, which needs an explanation:

After graduating from college, I bought a 12-gauge shotgun, chocolate Lab with an excellent hunting pedigree, decoys, duck call and camo clothing and went at it. Backwoods beaver ponds provided me with wood duck, teal, blacks and mallards, lakes with an even broader species range and coastal waters for sea ducks. In short, I’m no stranger to ducks or Canada geese.

It took no time to discover wild ducks tasted awful to me, particularly divers, and my recipes from serious duck-hunting friends ran the gamut. One method — sauteing dabbling-duck breasts to medium rare — proved tolerable, but even then, each mouthful made me grimace a little.

No one close to me would consider my eating habits as finicky, either, and I have chosen such strange dishes as snail, rattlesnake, alligator, ostrich and so forth in restaurants over one-third of the world,

Furthermore, I am a cookbook author, specializing in wild foods with a French slant. In fact, my book had the title “Country Cooking” with a subtitle “With a French Flair,” but that choice competed with another author at the publishing house, so the editor changed it to “Cooking Wild” — erroneous because a majority of my recipes were for domestic foods.

…My solution to disliking ducks? I bought an English setter and headed to the uplands for ruffed grouse, woodcock and ring-necked pheasant. However, a well-done baked woodcock tasted bad to me, so my early duck experiences influenced me to saute this migratory bird medium rare. With a St. Emilion, a savory rice dish and homemade French bread, woodcock was adequate for dinner, but grouse was a hundred times better in my opinion, which of course (like chicken) should be well-done.


Here’s one big disclaimer. I discourage anyone from eating wild meat that isn’t well done, even though I do it with duck, woodcock and venison.

When cooked right, domestic duck pleases me, and my yardstick for the dish is the Village Inn in downtown Belgrade Lakes Village. In the late 1970s, a cook at the Village Inn told me that the roasting method there involved a low, hours-long cooking time for tenderness.

I have dined on domestic duck on both sides of the Atlantic, and even domestic duck tastes livery and tough in some restaurants. It strikes me as surprising that such a storied duck restaurant lies close to my home.

Shaw gets into cooking domestic waterfowl and covers Pekin, Muscovy, Moulard and Rouen ducks and Embden goose, and he briefly summarizes the history of their domestication.

Shaw will be at Beale Street BBQ in Bath on Oct. 30 and at darn few places near Maine before or after that showing.

Even if you’re like me and don’t care for wild waterfowl, “Duck, Duck, Goose” offers intriguing information, stuff that serious cooks should know. And the domestic waterfowl recipes are top-draw.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at [email protected]

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