Food & Drink

Duck Camp Tacos

An approachable appetizer from Arkansas’s Strait Lake Lodge, plus a chef’s tip for prepping wild game meat


When it comes to classic Mississippi Flyway duck hunting, Strait Lake Lodge ticks off all the icons. Vast bottoms of flooded timber. Agriculture fields. Moist soil impoundments. A seven-hundred-acre dedicated rest area that remains untouched throughout the hunting season. Every square foot is part of a plan of conservation and recreation.

This duck taco appetizer is similarly deliberate. It’s a simple recipe, chef John Fearrington says, but the strategy behind it is more layered. “Tacos are an easy transition for someone who is not used to eating wild game, and they help connect our hunters to this place and to what it stands for.”

Fearrington’s résumé is eclectic. He spent three years as executive chef of the pioneering French restaurant La Residence in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, then signed on with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway as a chef for VIP travelers and company executives. He now splits time between the ten-thousand-acre Cotton Mesa Ranch in Colorado, Strait Lake Lodge, and other private sporting camps. One trick he employs at all his venues is to soak wild game meat in a cold-water bath for twenty-four hours to pull out as much blood as possible. “I swear you can taste the difference,” he says.


  • DUCK CAMP DUCK TACOS (Yield: 8 appetizer servings)

  • For the cold-water bath:

    • ½ gallon cold water

    • 1 cup whole milk

    • 2 bay leaves

    • Sprig of rosemary

    • Sprig of thyme

  • For the tacos:

    • 6 to 8 duck breast fillets, skin on

    • 8 oz. Claude’s Fajita Marinating Sauce

    • 2 to 3 tbsp. rendered bacon fat

    • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic

    • 1 tsp. Louisiana brand hot sauce

    • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

    • Corn tortillas

    • Pico de gallo (recipe follows)

    • Sour cream

    • Fresh-chopped cilantro

    • Lime wedges

  • For the pico de gallo:

    • 3 medium to large Roma tomatoes, chopped

    • ½ small red onion, finely chopped

    • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped

    • Juice of 1 lime

    • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

    • Louisiana brand hot sauce, to taste


  1. If using wild duck, mix ingredients for the cold-water bath in a large pot and soak duck breasts in the refrigerator for 24 hours, changing the bath mixture a time or two.

  2. Remove duck from the bath and pat dry. Tenderize duck breasts with a Jaccard meat tenderizer or a meat mallet. Place breasts in a zippered plastic bag and add Claude’s Fajita Marinating Sauce to cover. Squeeze air out of bag and place in refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

  3. Cut duck breasts into ½-inch cubes. Place rendered bacon fat in a large hot skillet. Sauté duck meat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Add garlic, and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add hot sauce. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste, and serve on warm tortillas with pico de gallo, sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges.

  4. For the pico de gallo: Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.