Amy Thielen's take on traditional teriyaki uses a bit of birch syrup in addition to mirin (sweet rice wine). Compared with maple syrup, birch is more feral—darker, less sweet, and more acidic—and she prefers it for cooking. It also doesn't hurt that she can harvest it at home: Every spring she taps the silver birch trees in her yard and boils down the syrup over a wood fire. You can find birch syrup online, or use maple. (If doing so, omit the teaspoon of sugar.)
Each year, deep in Minnesota's northwoods, Amy Thielen invites a close-knit band of friends to hunt her land, and fortifies them with lusty, late-fall dishes like venison and sauerkraut that rival any turkey and stuffing
- 1⁄2 cup soy sauce
- 1⁄4 cup birch syrup
- 1⁄4 cup mirin
- One 2-inch piece ginger, finely grated (2 Tbsp.)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Two 3- to 4-lb. ducks, or substitute chickens
- Freshly ground black pepper
Rub the ducks lightly with salt and pepper. In a large resealable plastic bag or two, combine the soy sauce, syrup, mirin, ginger, and sugar. Add the birds and refrigerate for at least 12 hours but preferably 1 day, turning occasionally.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325° and set a rack in the center. Remove the ducks, reserving the marinade.
In a small skillet, add the marinade and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 1⁄4 cup, about 12 minutes.
Add the ducks and marinade to a roasting pan (you can tie the feet with twine if desired). Roast for 10 minutes. Baste the ducks, then raise the heat to 425° and roast, basting every 10 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 130° and the ducks are well browned, 20–25 minutes. (Tent feet as needed to prevent overdarkening.) Remove and let rest 5 minutes; carve and serve.