A Crowd-Pleasing Rum-Seared Duck Appetizer

Sweet mango chutney and duck come together over crispy bread for a bite-size snack


Anchored by a 156-year-old manor house, the Elms Lodge offers hunts on five thousand acres of Arkansas duck country, including rice fields, moist soil impoundments, and green timber, hunted from pit blinds and skid blinds. The Elms’ general manager, Bob Edwards, has led teams at lauded sporting properties around the country, and he modified this rum-inflected citrusy appetizer from an old Bahamian dish served by local cooks at Deep Water Cay, which he managed for several years. There, it highlighted local lobster and conch, but Edwards has prepared it with venison, elk, pheasant, buffalo, and now his favorite, duck. “The mango chutney injects a bit of sweetness to the rich, dark meat of duck,” he says. “It really blends all the flavors together.”

Edwards points out two factors critical to this dish’s success. First, make sure the duck skin is cooked to a crispy texture. And, he cautions, “do not substitute a cheap brand of clear rum for a high-quality golden or light brown rum.” Duck hunters work hard for every bird. Don’t torpedo the appetizer’s rich flavors by saving a few bucks at the liquor store.


  • RUM-SEARED DUCK APPETIZER WITH MANGO CHUTNEY (Yield: 15 appetizer servings)

    • 8 to 10 large wild duck breast fillets, such as mallard, skin on (or 4 to 6 store-bought Pekin duck breast fillets, skin on)

    • ¾ cup Barbadian or Jamaican rum (Mount Gay or Appleton Estate)

    • ¼ cup cane syrup, or substitute orange blossom honey

    • ¼ cup olive oil

    • ½ cup chicken broth

    • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • Juice of 1 medium-sized orange

    • 1 tbsp. lime juice

    • 1 tbsp. fresh-grated ginger

    • ½ tsp. fresh-minced garlic

    • ½ tsp. fresh-minced onion

    • ¼ tsp. salt

    • ¼ tsp. fresh-ground pepper

    • ¼ tsp. or 2 dashes liquid hickory smoke

    • 1 or 2 bags fresh, thin-sliced crostini or bruschetta bread

    • 2 (9 oz.) containers Crosse & Blackwell mango chutney

    • 8 oz. fine-shredded mild cheddar cheese


  1. In a small saucepan, mix rum, cane syrup, olive oil, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, orange juice, lime juice, ginger, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Place on the stove and heat just short of boiling to release the marinade’s flavors. Remove and let completely cool.

  2. Rinse duck breasts and pat dry. Place breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and lightly pound to tenderize the meat. Use a sharp knife to score ¾-inch diamond-shaped cuts just into the fat on the skin side of each breast, making sure not to cut into the meat.

  3. Place the cooled marinade into a marinating container or a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Add duck breasts to the marinade, and shake or massage into the breasts for full saturation. Seal the container or bag and place in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours, turning occasionally to recoat the duck breasts.

  4. Heat your grill until very hot and place the duck on it skin side down. For wild ducks, cook 4 to 5 minutes, watching for flare-ups, then turn the breasts over and cook for another 4 minutes. Pekin duck breasts are larger, so adjust time as needed. Cook the duck rare to medium rare, keeping in mind that it will continue cooking for a short period once pulled off the grill. It’s okay to cut into the nonskin side of a breast to monitor cooking. Make sure the skin is brown and crispy.

  5. Alternately, you can cook the duck breasts in a hot ovenproof frying pan. Oil the pan lightly and heat until very hot. Place the breasts skin side down for 1 minute to crisp the skin and render some of the fat, then flip and cook the other side for 1 minute. Transfer pan into a 350°F oven. Cooking times can vary from 8 to 10 minutes for wild duck to 15 to 20 minutes for Pekin duck. Internal temperature for medium-rare duck is approximately 135°F.

  6. Let duck breasts rest at least 10 minutes while you prepare the remaining portion of the appetizer.

  7. Arrange the crostini or bruschetta bread pieces evenly spaced on a large cookie sheet. Slice duck breasts as thinly as possible and cut into bite-size pieces. Place one or two pieces of duck (depending on bread size) on each piece of bread.

  8. Sufficiently cover the duck meat with a dollop of mango chutney, and sprinkle a light amount of cheddar cheese on top. Just before serving, place the sheet of appetizers into a warm oven until the cheese slightly melts.

  9. Serve on platters and pass around with napkins. This is finger food!