From egg to plate Ontario ducks are hatching exciting dining trends. It seems that this flavourful bird, once a super niche product, is now fast becoming the most versatile and popular protein in Ontario.
From Peking duck at QJD to duck chaufa at Baro; and from pan-roasted breast with Saskatoon berry gastrique at Antler to crispy duck leg with beer foam at Terre Rouge, King Cole Ducks Ltd. is popping up on hip menus everywhere. Through King Cole, this high quality Ontario product is also now gaining attention around the world, and being sold in Japan, the Philippines, across the Middle East and California.
Why do we love duck?
Its tender dark meat with crispy skin is so flavourful and contains more iron and less sodium than chicken. On patios, we pair meaty duck tacos with a Riesling or a Pinot Noir, and when we chance upon Caesar salad elevated with sliced smoked duck meat, we know that restaurant’s got game (no pun intended.)
Upon leaving the King Cole Farm Fresh Store in Stouffville with a cart full of product, my mind is racing toward the dishes I’ll be cooking for my family.
For breakfast, I slice duck breast and layer it on toasted crumpets beneath poached free-range duck eggs for a special Eggs Beneduckt. When watching “the game” with my friends, I’ve served a spread of duck wings with ramekins of hoisin and bbq sauce; and smothered a bowl of fries with duck jus, cheese curds and lean, tender pulled duck for a home-made poutine. The Confit Duck Legs are so easy to make, and so easily make me look like a pro. They dispel the myth that duck is too expensive or too difficult. These meaty legs are already cooked. I need only boil them in their bag to seal in their juices, and then set them in the oven to crisp for ten minutes. It’s economical, restaurant quality and totally filling.
I had never considered so many different ways of using duck meat in my cooking until I visited the Farm Fresh Store and stocked up on King Cole Duck sausages; burgers; smoked breasts; legs; wings; duck pizza; spadini; duck fat for making extra crispy potatoes; and even a savoury Korean style duck—wine marinated, smoked and completely de-boned, which my family loved!
Located in Stouffville along Newmarket’s culinary route in the lush green and hilly Oak Ridges Moraine, King Cole’s wholesale store also houses a one-month Duck School where chefs prepare demos for appetizers, entrées, and desserts. Everything we would cook with a chicken egg we can substitute with a duck egg. Since the yolks are larger, there is more nutrition and thicker consistency. Already a mecca for cyclists who stop by to top up on their duck needs, King Cole really comes alive during Duck Fest (September 22, 2019) when chefs are invited to cook whatever they want. (Pro Tip: if you love duck, Duck Fest is THE place to be.)
Why do chefs love duck?
Chefs have easy access to this local product and know and trust its source. Ontario environmental and health standards ensure top quality. The ducks, 2.5 million per year, raised across fourteen farms, are corn-fed, without any antibiotics, and nothing is wasted. All parts of the bird are sold. Even the feathers are used for pillows, duvets and jackets. Sustainable practices include composting and responsible recycling of water.
There is pride in serving good quality product. “We’re really good farmers,” I’m told, while touring the Stouffville location. After four generations, this family-run business has earned respect and increasing support and visibility from chefs and retailers, because they’re local farmers, farming sustainably, and creating very high quality product that people love. No longer just for high end, special occasions or Asian dishes; they’re making duck more accessible, more fun to cook and even more delicious.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.