Benny Cenac, Houma, Louisiana, businessman, philanthropist, and CEO of Cenac Marine Services, is something of an impressive Cajun chef. He’s found a passion in whipping up meals that make use of rich, unique Cajun flavors and has even adopted certain recipes into his own family cookbook. One of Benny’s favorite family meals to prepare is his famous duck recipe.
Louisianans are blessed with an abundance of wild duck, and duck hunting is a favorite local pastime in the fall. This combined with their tender, decadent meat has made duck one of the most favored dishes in Cajun cooking.
Benny’s famous duck recipe is simple but delicious. Just a few basic ingredients will make for a wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth duck dish.
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 white onions, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 2 12-14 oz. packs duck breasts
- 1 8 oz. can fruit cocktail (optional)
- 1½ cups Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder or chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chicken bouillon base
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until translucent. Add 1 cup water, and cook until liquid is evaporated. Next, add the duck breasts after covering them in the rest of the ingredients. Cook over low heat until duck is tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F°, adding water as needed so gravy doesn’t cook out.
Duck Hunting and Cooking in Benny’s hometown of Houma, Louisiana
Duck hunting season in Louisiana lasts from September to January. The wetlands support more than 9 million migrating and wintering ducks on average, making it one of the best places in the country for duck hunting. Louisianans have taken pride in living off the land for centuries.
“We’re so lucky to have such an abundance of delicious and unique food here in Louisiana,” says Benny. “Aside from the fish and wild game, Louisiana has such rich soil and fresh produce. You can cook just about anything from local ingredients here.”
Cooking for Benny Cenac is about more than just enjoying a delicious meal—it’s also about community and spending time with loved ones. Benny is grateful that cooking allows him and friends and family to take time out of their day, sit down, and exchange laughs over a shared meal.
“Eating meals together ensures that we have time in our day to stop working and just enjoy each other’s company,” Benny says. “Even on some of my busiest days, maybe I don’t have time to cook a big meal, but I make sure I sit down with my friends and family to eat and hear about everyone’s day, even if only for a few minutes.”
Cooking is so important to Benny that several years ago, he made a generous donation to Nicholls State University to be put toward their culinary arts building. The university is now home to the Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building, a 33,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility, named in honor of a former employee and friend of Benny’s.
“The new culinary arts building at Nicholls helps ensure that the tradition of cooking in Louisiana is passed on for generations,” Benny says. “I’m glad I could help contribute to that legacy. Not to mention the program produces some incredibly talented chefs.”
Honoring the tradition of Cajun cooking in Louisiana is part of what drove Benny’s family effort to produce their own cookbook. From the Pot to the Paper Plate is the name of the Cenac family cookbook, which includes more than 200 family recipes, including appetizers, breads, soups, entrées and desserts. The cookbook totals at a staggering 521 pages, demonstrating the Cenac family’s devotion to the tradition of cooking.
“Our cookbook is really something special,” Benny says. “Those recipes have been passed down for generations, and almost all of them are true, authentic Cajun meals.”
While the cookbook includes recipes for many Cajun staples like seafood gumbo, grilled oysters, and king cake, the duck recipe has been one of Benny’s favorites since he was a little boy. Over the years, he has learned to prepare the recipe to near perfection.
“I really love making my duck,” Benny says. “It’s a simple recipe but so delicious, and it really captures the essence of Cajun cooking in my opinion.”