It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Will on the Grill but when I heard about the Brome Lac Duck Festival I knew it was time. After all the best duck is the one you get yourself. But a close second would have to be the Brome Lac ducks for sheer goodness.
I looked into the festival and found the community of Knowlton, Quebec offering all sorts of goodies and interesting things for the week of September 20-28. The festival includes culinary demonstrations where you can see a duck cooked to perfection and eat it too.
Tasting a new recipe is certainly something that will have you coming back for more and perhaps trying your hand at it too. Of course, all the recipes are made with the world-renowned Brome Lake duck. Other features include a farmer’s market, musicians, artists and artisans, and games for children.
For those with a sweet tooth I always recommend honey over sugar so I was happy to see natural honeys at the festival. I sampled two and found the wild-flower honey beat out the blueberry one but only by a thin margin. Natural honey is where there is no processing beyond what the bees do. So this type of honey is nature’s goodness and when you deserve a treat use a natural honey.
There are about 14 wineries in the area that also participated. A strawberry wine was my personal favourite. It was done by Ferme Nord-vie Enr. I think this is a winery to keep an eye out for in the future.
One of my fellow travelers, Marek brought a bottle of the dry Frasil strawberry for him and his girlfriend to enjoy. It was recommended that in the summer you could make this into a nice sangria-style drink. It was dry and delicate. Something I would enjoy with a foie gras.
A favourite of mine was the port strawberry wine called Fragaria. It had the subtleties of a grape port with a hint of strawberry that made it truly something crafted for the well-seasoned tastebud. I found it to be quite unbelievable that a port-styled product this nice could come from Quebec. It just goes to show how far Quebec wineries have come. It would be used for desert and I tried it in a chocolate cup.
A third strawberry rhubarb wine was recommended as going with a cheese fondue. After tasting it I agreed with that assessment fully.
A nice apple ice cider was made by Domaine Pinacle. They have really put themselves on the map in Quebec. It was a nice dry cider that tickles the tongue in just the right ways.
I couldn’t resist the chocolates by Les p’tits peches de Madeleine. They were a tasty treat and something that made you wish they would last forever.
Perhaps the best surprise of the show was Les tresors de l’Erable. They made a variety of maple-based vinaigrettes. While great for salads they were wonderful in marinating and cooking your duck. I kept going back for more samples.
If you do one thing this year to add to your culinary-delights recipe book, order one of their vinaigrettes. You will not regret it. I personally guarantee you a flavour explosion in your mouth you won’t soon forget. For those looking for something healthy there is no sugar used in these vinaigrettes. They are healthy beyond initial belief.
Also in the show were these great cheeses. I bought two after sampling all the varieties. I really enjoyed the cheese with a subtle hazelnut flavour as well as a wine-dipped cheese. Both were reasonably priced.
Unfortunately I missed the great duck race. Each plastic ducky is numbered and set afloat and there are many prizes to be won, including a Swiss vacation I was hoping to have a chance at.
I would recommend this festival as it is more than just a duck festival. It is an experience in a picturesque town that is overwhelmingly friendly to the weary and not-so-weary traveller.
I brought back two duck recipes to share.
Seasoned boneless duck breasts with scalloped potatoes
4 Dijon mustard and honey boneless Brome Lake duck half breasts (2 packages of 400g each) or substitute 2 full wild duck breasts and halve.
Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with two of Dijon mustard and brush on both sides of duck breasts
4 large potatoes (about 450g in all)
250ml poultry or duck stock (duck stock can be prepared with a roasted duck carcass and aromatic garnish such as carrots, onions, bay leaves and thyme)
2 twigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat or any other fat (to sauté the breasts)
salt and pepper
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes.
Place the potatoes in a roasting pan, cover with poultry or duck stock, add fresh thyme and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 35 to 45 minutes.
Check the potatoes with a fine blade. To enhance the potatoe flavour, you may add a minced onion to the mixture. 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, sauté the duck breasts in a skillet until nicely browned. Add over the potatoes and complete baking in the oven, at 180°C (350°F) for 8 minutes.
Duck Sao Mai
300g (approx. 10 oz) Brome Lake duck breast (or wild duck), chopped
125ml (1/2 cup) bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
15ml (1 tablespoon) water
2 drops of sesame oil
1 ml (1/3 teaspoon) sugar
Pinch of salt or substitute
Pinch of pepper
24 wonton wrappers
Mix all ingredients except wonton wrappers in large bowl.
Stir in one direction to form a sticky paste. Divide into 24 portions.
Place one portion on each wonton wrapper. Brush edges of wrappers with water and seal.
Steam over high heat for 8 minutes.