Other than attending virtual conferences and visiting a few of my climbers in some secluded haunts, about the only public places I have been frequenting are the local grocers. I am doing my best to avoid exposure to the ongoing virus crisis, but truthfully, I don’t see how we’re all not going to be exposed, if we already haven’t been. It sure seems like the “normal” flu news is non-existent. In years past, the evening news would focus on influenza outbreaks across the state. All I hear is crickets. Of course this may be due in part to me not watching the news anymore. Wow, it didn’t take but my first paragraph to get off my subject at hand. Funny, how this happens sometimes. So back to the grocery, and what I have been noticing.
Gluten free, no preservatives, no artificial coloring, free from additives, totally organic, best describes many of the aisles of the markets we frequent these days. More and more, this phenomenal marketing tool fetches astronomical prices for the suppliers and hammers the consumer. I know, I know, everyone wants to protect themselves, our children, and even pets from “harsh” residues that create two-handed kids and dogs and cats with tails. Before I ruffle your feathers though, just keep in mind, I am “setting the table” for my topic.
One of the more common hashtags I hear now is “from farm to table” or something like “fresh from our farm to your home.” Again, these are wonderful marketing tools that promote local produce and insinuate that each, and every, product delivered is so healthy that it’s the best thing since Ponce de Leon discovered our fountain of youth. I have recently seen advertisements, though I can’t recall the name, of an entity that “humanely” raises beef, pork, and poultry, before processing. Surely, they don’t have a hand full of treats in one hand and a bat in the other when Gertrude, the hen, goes to market. All kidding aside, we have many local producers of succulent greens, brassica, and steaks, that are not only nutritious, but downright delicious. But let’s visit deeper into a totally “organic” and “natural” diet. What do you think of my new hashtag, “from field to table?” I’ll explain!
With Christmas dinner just around the corner, why don’t you consider a “natural” menu and deviate just a bit from what we all consider a “traditional” setting. What could be more organic than a feast made up of wild collected morsels? Instead of a “store bought” turkey and a Grinch, “roast beast”, how does a braised venison loin or roasted wood ducks fit your motif? Why not create a salad of pecans, hickory nuts, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, and toss it in locally grown butternut lettuce and arugula? I’m not certain how many of us grow our own sweet potatoes, but “fresh dug” sure adds more to the experience than stuffing them into a plastic bag among a crowded produce section. Did you freeze any blackberries or sun dry any apples this summer? Homemade pies are quite the hit when cooling in the kitchen. Can you envision and detect the aroma sifting down our quaint, serpentine streets? I hope I am providing “food” for thought for your upcoming dinners. In fact, I will provide one of my favorites that you may find savoring.
Here's a simple recipe for ducks that will be a hit at your table. I prefer teal and wood ducks, but other puddlers will do. The key is to “pick” the ducks. Filets, in my opinion, won’t cut it. Pick them, singe them, and make them look like a magazine picture. Don’t forget to remove the lungs along the backbone as well. Did that make someone cringe? Remember the hens and turkeys you buy have the same anatomy. After thoroughly dressing your birds, soak them over-night in brine in the fridge. The next day, remove and wash the fowl again and you are now ready to begin.
You will need two pieces of cookware for the finished product. We’ll take them one at a time. For the first one, I prefer to use a seasoned, black iron skillet. Salt and pepper the picked ducks, making sure to “massage” the simple seasoning into the skin. I emphasize the pepper. This is key. With a stick of butter melted, brown the ducks in your skillet. Brown them well. You will know when your skillet is hot enough by the aroma, sizzle, and popping, that will be created during this step. Frequently turn them until all sides are somewhat “crusted”.
The other piece of cookware you will need is a large crock pot. Dutch ovens work also, but it seems to me the crock pots do a better job of “maulding” down the birds. I’m not even sure this is a word, but I bet you get the gist of it. Anyway, in your crock pot, add cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, chicken broth, and a clove of crushed garlic. More pepper is appropriate at this time as well. I don’t specify quantities, but fill the pot to about one half capacity with these ingredients. Also, add chunks of honeycrisp apples, peeled orange slices, and 1 boulion cube. The last secret is a shot or two of a dry sherry. Of course, tasting the sherry as you prepare your creation is an added benefit. You can also stuff the cavities of the birds with apples and oranges to ensure they absorb the fruit medley. Now, take a sip of the sherry.
Place your birds, breast down into the concoction. Don’t be timid, submerge them so they will feel the full effect. Place your setting on low for 10 hours and go about your business of making “Texas trash”, fudge with plenty of pecans, and pour your egg nog. If you would really like to top off the production, add a dozen doves to the pot 5 hours into the cooking process. You can add them from the beginning, but after 10 hours, only the skeletons will remain. Don’t panic, for the succulent morsels will be somewhere in the mix. By the way, I lightly dust my doves in flour and brown them as well before adding them to the crock pot. I don’t dust the ducks in flour, they were “dusted” from the blind. Take another sip of sherry now.
A big pot of rice will be needed for the end of the show. Dirty rice, or plain, is a matter of taste. Heck, make a pot of both, and let me know which you prefer. Any other side dishes like roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or bundled green beans make for a nice compliment. A friendly cabernet always goes well with waterfowl too.
When you can pull a duck leg and the bone slips away, voila, you’re ready. Gently lift the ducks from the pot and place them on top of your choice of rice. Make sure to add extra gravy from the pot and cover the birds. Now, ask the blessing and Bon Appetit!
I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but I promise the finished product is well worth the endeavor. I think you will find this recipe quite superior to a bacon-wrapped duck breast on the grill. No one cares for liver tasting ducks, do they?
This is the epitome of a natural, Non-GMO dish. Harvesting a “crop” straight from flooded timber doesn’t get much more organic, don’t you agree? I will always remember my grandfather’s words when the topic of “healthy” came up. In his words he said, “used to, bacon and eggs, hard work, and sunshine, was good for you, that stuff will kill you, nowadays.” Though his words are comical, they are fittingly true as well. Please, try this dish from the field. I am confident you and your family will enjoy it. Until next time, enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it. Merry Christmas!