For me, duck hunting has been one of the most difficult types of hunt to wrap my head around. As a beginner, I learn about the tactics needed to find and pursue animals and also the habits of the animals, and then I apply that knowledge to my hunts. Sometimes the tactics work and I am successful, other times they don’t and I fail. I learn and adjust from both situations. I start to build comfort in the knowledge I am acquiring as I progress. It is the same process used to become successful at anything. Duck hunting still just feels like a mess to me.
I have tried everything when it comes to duck hunting. I have watched the videos, read the articles, watched the ducks! And yet I still find myself standing on the edge of a pond, the ducks socially meandering through the reeds without even acknowledging my presence, and when I make even the slightest motion or even thought of motion in their direction off they go in the opposite direction. I’ve tried sitting and waiting in the bushes, hoping they will eventually make the mistake of landing on the pond I am watching. I have tried spotting them from a mile away and actually crawling on my belly, shot gun dragging beside me, to them. I’ve tried jumping out of the bushes in a surprise attack, which always results in me popping up to an empty pond with no idea where the ducks disappeared to. And don’t even get me started on trying to use my bird dogs. That is probably the biggest disaster of all.
All I can say is I am not much of a duck hunter, yet! But I somehow miraculously obtained these three ducks this past season. I can’t offer much up on how to get one, but I can share with you an amazingly simple and delicious recipe that will make even the worst duck hunter, such as myself, brave another cold winter morning in hopes of somehow bagging some birds!
I have had duck prepared several ways. Some were okay, some were amazing, and some I wanted to act like a small child and insist I needed to get the duck out of my mouth or I was going to hurl, childish fake puking sounds included! I rarely order duck in restaurants, and I think that is mainly because the ducks are farm raised and tend to have a lot of fat on them, which in my opinion makes the meat too greasy. Unfortunately, I think the restaurant and store offerings for duck have created a stigma for duck meat. Wild duck is not like a corn-fed, farm-raised duck. The flavor and texture of the wild duck meat is very different from what you can buy at the local grocery store. I am not saying that store bought duck is horrible. I am just saying that this is a very different bird you are working with and if you find yourself shying away because of store bought duck, you are making a mistake! I like this duck skewer recipe because I think it is a great way to ease in to eating duck, especially for the picky eaters who insist they do not like the flavor of duck. The recipe is very simple to execute, takes very little preparation or time, and the flavors are simple but very delicious.
So, to start things off, mix up the meat marinade. As with all marinades, the longer you let the meat sit in it the better. For this recipe, I suggest letting it sit over night, but I will be the first to admit that I often make this dinner when I need something quick, which does not match with creating a meal with a mandatory overnight marinade. If you are a planner, let the meat sit overnight in the fridge and really soak up the goodness. If you are not a planner, guilty as charged here, then let it sit for an hour. Trust me, it will still be amazing! The marinade is quite simple. Mince up a few cloves of garlic, I tend to do about three or four, depending on the size. Next, mince up about an inch to two inches of fresh ginger. Add those to a cup of soy sauce and a half cup of red wine, your choice on the wine here. Squeeze a fresh lime into the bowl, give everything a good whisk, and you are ready to rock and roll. As with any marinade, which is part of what makes them so great, you can add whatever other flavors you are craving. Want a little heat? Add a few teaspoons of red pepper flakes. Do you crave a little bit of sweetness? Drop in a tablespoon of honey or a little brown sugar. You have a blank canvas to work with here and marinades are a great opportunity to experiment a little outside of your comfort zone.
Next, slice the duck breasts into about an inch and half wide blocks. You want them thin, but they have to be thick enough so you can thread them onto the skewers and they won’t just rip and fall off. Remove any excess fat, if there even is any. To marinade the slices, you can either drop them in the bowl you mixed the marinade in or pour everything into a plastic Ziploc bag. I tend to go the Ziploc bag route because whenever I don’t it never fails that someone spills my bowl. I also like the bag because I can give the meat a quick massage every now and then to work the flavors into the meat.
While the duck gets all delicious in its marinade, start mixing up the sauces. So, for sauce I am going to make things really simple here. Step one: go to the grocery store and purchase a jar of hoisin or plum sauce, or if you are feeling adventurous get both. Step two: open hoisin sauce. Step three: pour into bowl. And that is sauce one. Pretty simple, right?
Sauce two is also simple, but not quite as simple as the first one. In a small sauce pan or sautee pan add two tablespoons of olive oil. Allow the oil to heat up a bit and drop in two minced cloves of garlic and a minced hot pepper. This sauce is designed to allow some play with the heat. The first time I made this, I used a fresno chili pepper, which didn’t really add much punch. The next time, I dropped in a Serrano chili pepper, which kicked up the heat quite a bit. So, if you are someone who likes it so hot you can’t feel your mouth afterwards then add a habanero. If you are less adventurous in the heat world, add a fresno. You can really shape the flavor of the sauce however you would like, which makes it a great little sauce. I can’t ever remember which peppers are hot and the order of the heat scale, so here is a link that I often reference when cooking: Chili Pepper Heat Scale.
Cook the garlic and pepper for a minute or two. Once the garlic is heated through, add a quarter cup of soy sauce, two tablespoons of water, the juice of half a lime, a tablespoon of brown sugar, and a third of a cup of peanut butter. I like to use the crunchy peanut butter, but if all you have sitting around is creamy that will work as well. Bring the mixture to a brief boil and then turn the heat down a bit and allow the mixture to thicken. You can play with the thickness a bit if you want here by adding more peanut butter to make it thicker or more water to thin it out. Pretty simple little sauce, right?
For the duck, thread the marinated slices onto a skewer. If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for a while in some cold water so they don’t catch fire on the barbeque grill. On the grill, create an area of indirect heat for the duck. Duck meat is best when it is not overcooked, so you want to slowly cook it over an indirect heat source. This can be created by piling the charcoal briquettes on one side of grill, allowing for a very hot area, and then leaving a very thin layer of briquettes under the other half. Cook the duck until it is just pink in the middle, which can take up to ten minutes if your heat is low enough. I find it best to actually stay by the grill while the duck cooks so I can check it often.
And that’s all there is to this simple delicious duck meal. The skewers make a great appetizer, but are also filling enough to be a meal of their own. They would pair great with a side of rice or roasted red potatoes. Give these skewers a try!