This recipe originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.

For our November 2018 “Feast Around the World” feature, we asked five of the state’s top chefs to create festive meals to serve this season. What we got was a cornucopia of global flavors. 

Steve McHugh, who opened Cured in San Antonio five years ago, created a feast built on memories from his days in Wisconsin and New Orleans but uses native ingredients for a true Texas twist. Below, find the centerpiece of McHugh’s “Hunting and Gathering” feast.

Vanilla Roast Duck With Pecan Cornbread Dressing

San Antonio chef Steve McHugh nods to his boyhood hunts with roast duck, the centerpiece of his “Hunting and Gathering” feast.
Servings 6 people


  • 3 brining bags
  • butcher’s twine



  • cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pan Cornbread, crumbled


  • cups light brown sugar
  • cups kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 5 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 whole ducks, about 4 pounds each, excess neck fat and giblets removed
  • Dressing



  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or baking pan and put it in the oven.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together, then mix with the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the batter into the heated skillet and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Set aside to use in Dressing.


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onion until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Add apple and pecans and cook briefly, just enough to combine with the butter and onion mixture.
  • Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with remaining ingredients.


  • In a large pot, add the first 6 ingredients to 2½ gallons of water and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool; refrigerate until completely chilled.
  • Brine the ducks in 3 brining bags for 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Remove the ducks from the brine, rinse inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
  • Fill cavity of each duck with Dressing (don’t pack it too tightly; extra dressing can be baked in a pan alongside the ducks).
  • Tie the legs of the ducks together with butcher’s twine and roast, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan until an internal thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh reads 180 degrees, about 1 hour (more for larger birds).
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.