Food & Drink
Eye-Opening Duck Recipes from Five Top Hunting Lodges
Whether a rubbed-and-roasted centerpiece, a rum-infused appetizer, or real-deal duck soup, these five recipes—from five of the South’s top hunting lodges—showcase wild waterfowl in all its flavorful beauty
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Chef John Fearrington runs the kitchens at some of the finest sporting lodges in America, and he blew it the first time he cooked wild duck. “I treated it like the farm-raised duck I had been used to cooking in restaurants,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t realize that this is a lean animal that’s been fighting for its life. It has a different muscle structure. A different fat content. After I cooked that first wild duck, I served it to the trash can. But that only happened once.”
As Fearrington learned, mastering waterfowl cookery requires some shifts in approach and technique. Wild duck is notoriously lean, save for the delicious fat layer found on many birds during the winter. Plucking ducks can be a pain, although aging the birds will make the process quicker and smoother. None of this is difficult, necessarily. It’s just different.
Still, many home cooks lack confidence when it comes to wild waterfowl, falling back on the old standbys, like duck poppers. These dishes from five Southern sporting lodges should change that. The recipes range from the simple and straightforward to the slightly elevated, and all rank among the favorite meals offered to hunting clients after a morning or full day in the marsh or flooded timber.
For recipes that call for duck breast fillets, note that one duck provides two breast fillets. Also, one thing you’ll notice with these five recipes is a duck cooking truism: It’s either low and slow, or hot and fast. Lean duck meat can handle three hundred degrees Fahrenheit for several hours, but anything more than several minutes over a hot flame or in a sizzling skillet will turn duck meat as tough as a cattail stalk and impart a livery taste. And there’s no question that aging waterfowl makes a big difference in the quality of a final dish. Every duck I shoot spends three or four days in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper drawer. If a bird is particularly shot up, especially in the belly, I’ll gut it before aging. Otherwise, the birds enjoy a long cooling-off period, breast side up, straight from the game bag to the fridge. From there, they’re bound for the plate, ready to change minds about the gastronomic value of wild duck.
Grosse Savanne Lodge, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Roasted coffee-rubbed duck in red wine and cane syrup with pomegranate gastrique. Read more and get the recipe.
Mallard Estates Outfitter, Brownsville, Tennessee
A duck and brisket patty melt paired with a tangy sauce. Read more and get the recipe.
Strait Lake Lodge, Pumpkin Bend, Arkansas
Duck camp duck tacos with pico de gallo. Read more and get the recipe.
The Elms Lodge, Altheimer, Arkansas
Rum-seared duck appetizer with mango chutney. Read more and get the recipe.
Bay Flats Lodge, Seadrift, Texas
A warming duck soup passed down through three generations of family. Read more and get the recipe.