Roasted Coffee-Rubbed Duck

Louisiana’s Grosse Savanne Lodge dresses up duck with tangy pomegranate sauce and a Cajun flair


Matthew Whitney had yet to graduate from culinary school when he was asked to audition for the chef position at the magnificent Grosse Savanne Lodge. He put on a show with sweet-and-sour alligator legs and deviled eggs topped with caviar and crabmeat. When he landed the job, he also scored permission from his teachers to count his real-world chef hours as a required internship. “So I interned at the lodge under myself,” he says, laughing.

Some twenty miles south of Lake Charles, Grosse Savanne is anchored by a twelve-thousand-square-foot “mansion in the marsh” surrounded by fifty thousand acres of fresh and brackish marsh, coastal prairie, and agricultural fields managed for waterfowl. For Whitney, the pace here compared with a hectic restaurant kitchen allows him the rare blessing of taking his time at the stove and experimenting with flavors. “Especially when it comes to sauces,” he says, “and I could make sauces all day long.”

This roasted duck with Steen’s cane syrup and a pomegranate gastrique is a perfect example. Steen’s is a classic Cajun ingredient, and the lodge had plenty in stock when Whitney arrived. He added pomegranate juice after spying the fruit at a small grocery store he often stops at on his way to work. “They just caught my eye,” he says, “and I thought: Huh, wonder what I could do with that?” The result is a tangy-sweet sauce that pairs beautifully with the smoky richness of the coffee-rubbed duck. The secret is to keep a careful eye on the sauce. “Once it comes to a boil, reduce and cook it down,” Whitney says. “As the bubbles begin to slow down, cut it off. You don’t want to risk burning it.”



    • 2 whole ducks, 4 to 6 lb. each

    • 3 cups dry red wine

    • 1 cup Steen’s pure cane syrup

    • Coffee rub (recipe follows)

    • Pomegranate gastrique (recipe follows)

  • For the coffee rub: 

    • ½ cup salt

    • 1 cup dark brown sugar

    • 1 cup coffee grounds, finely ground

    • ¼ cup black pepper

    • 3 tbsp. white pepper

    • ½ cup garlic powder

    • 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper

  • For the pomegranate gastrique:

    • ½ cup coffee rub

    • ½ cup pomegranate juice

    • ½ cup Steen’s cane vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. 

  2. For the coffee rub, if coffee grounds are coarse, place in food processor and pulse until fine. Add remaining ingredients and mix evenly. Place rub in a mixing bowl, reserving ½ cup for the gastrique.

  3. For each duck, remove any internal organs and discard. With the breast side up, cut down the middle to reveal the backbone. Take your knife, or a pair of kitchen shears, and cut through the bones on each side of the backbone and remove it. You will have 4 duck halves. Additionally, remove wing portion by cutting the second joint, leaving the drum portion of the duck attached.

  4. Roll duck in coffee rub to coat well.

  5. Place red wine and duck in a large roasting pan. Pour cane syrup over each duck half. Cover the pan in aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours.

  6. While duck is roasting, prepare gastrique. Mix all ingredients and place in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool. It should have the consistency of syrup.

  7. After 2 hours, turn the oven up to 425°F and remove duck from oven to check internal temperature. Thermometer should read at least 165°F. Baste duck with juice from bottom of the pan and place back in oven uncovered until skin crisps, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove duck from pan and serve immediately with gastrique. Gastrique can be served either completely cooled or warmed up, depending on the consistency you prefer.