Love a Duck

Those rascals in the Greater Belhaven “There Goes the Neighborhood” Association plan on holding their annual White Trash Bash as soon as it gets warm enough to wear a wife beater, so before long the middle stretch of Poplar Boulevard will fill with the odors of heart-hindering foods cooking over carbon footprints.

Billed as a Pothole Primary in a nod to the election year, this, the third Bash, is the successor to last year’s celebrated “Low Rent Luau,” which caught the attention of a slew of sleepy neighbors as well as a few law enforcement professionals. This year word has it that the boys have plans to convert Mona (the avocado Frigidaire who made a big splash last year in her coconut brassiere) into a four by six version of Wonder Woman if they can’t steal enough chicken wire and a tiki torch to make her into an appliance replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Any successful gathering includes food, and the Bashes are no exception. This year’s patriotic party will feature that most American of foodstuffs, the hot dog. Those at last year’s luau enjoyed spiced rice with pork and chicken, which would have passed as an excellent jambalaya in most local circles, but the best dish served so far at a Bash has been the Dirty Rice Duck Hunting Club’s grilled stuffed breast of duck.

If you don’t know a duck hunter, befriend one; they always have extra ducks in the freezer, and they’re more than happy to give you a couple. They also can be insistent when it comes to telling you how to cook them. After all, they shot the damn thing, and they’re going to make sure you don’t treat it like target practice. Most hunters are good cooks. Those hunters and fishermen who can cook really well – like Billy Joe Cross, bless his soul – should be designated national treasures. Heck, if the Japanese can festoon a tofu maker, we ought to be able to buy Billy Joe a Cadillac.

Culinary skills aside, hunters and fishers in general endear themselves to me by playing an important role in environmental protection. Sure, they have a vested interest in the preservation of forests and wetlands, but the fact that they want to protect these areas so that they can go into them and kill selected species should not detract from their efforts. The income states derive from hunting and fishing licensures not only helps preserve natural areas, but also helps protect critters nobody would put on their grill: Salamanders spring to mind. As a matter of fact, because fewer and fewer people are taking to fields and streams these days, these declining states’ revenues from hunting and fishing licenses mean that many programs initialized to preserve and protect wildernesses and wildlife are now in danger themselves.

Brad Norsworthy and Ken “Sugar Bear” Carver came up with this recipe. Brad, like his quarry, is a bird of passage, shuttling between his home in Jackson and his job in Louisiana. Both he and Sugar Bear grew up in the metro area, and though Sugar Bear now makes his living in Florida, they still get together every year to hunt in Arkansas.

Like many game recipes, this one involves a marinade. Some marinades, especially those involving acidic ingredients such as citrus juice or vinegar, act as a tenderizer, and are primarily reserved for use with larger game such as deer or boar, but since this recipe uses only duck breast, the marinade is for flavoring. It’s also very simple: one cup of soy sauce, one half-cup of brown sugar, two tablespoons olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, finely minced, and a dash of black pepper. (While the boys didn’t specify their ingredients, let me be so bold as to suggest  using “lite” (low sodium) soy sauce and light brown sugar in this recipe; if I’m in error, they can keelhaul me later.)

Marinate the split, boned breasts of duck in this mixture for three hours. Then comes the fun part; slather each individual breast with cream cheese, and wrap it around a one-inch square piece of onion and a slice of jalapeno. Wrap each stuffed breast in bacon, secure with a toothpick and grill over a steady, low heat for about an hour.

These morsels are succulent, perfect for any outdoor gathering where folks meet and greet, rant and rave and try to rise above their raising.