by Jay Ducote
Fall brings many of my favorite seasons in Louisiana, most notably football and hunting. When the air begins to get crisp, it brings flocks of migratory waterfowl. From rice fields in southwest Louisiana to flooded timber in the piney woods, duck hunting is a rite of passage for many of us.
My father’s 12-gauge shotgun filled with steel shot would sit across my lap as day broke on the horizon. I’d be listening to the sounds of nature while bunkered down in a trench with family and friends and usually somebody’s trusty black Lab or golden retriever. As the sun rose, the birds would start flying and the steel would start singing.
Wild duck meat makes for a great gumbo. I remember duck and andouille gumbos being a staple meal for my family after a good hunt. Gumbos, though, aren’t the quickest meal to cook, and sometimes we wanted to taste our wood duck, mallard, or pintail right away. That’s where these Camp-Style Duck Poppers come into play, breasting the ducks, slicing them thin, and grilling them over open flames.
I’ve been cooking these tasty morsels at hunting camps and tailgate parties for years. I even brought them with me as passed hors d’oeuvres for a Louisiana State University tailgate-themed dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. There are lots of different interpretations that people do with duck breasts like this, but I found that this version gives a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, creamy, and savory.
Jalapeño, Creole cream cheese, bacon, and cane syrup are all you need in addition to the duck breasts. Roll them up, secure them with a toothpick, light up your grill, and enjoy!
- 8 slices bacon
- 3 skinless duck breasts
- 2 jalapeños
- ¼ cup Creole cream cheese*
- 24 wooden picks, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons cane syrup
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Cut each bacon slice crosswise into three pieces. Place on prepared pan.
- Bake until bacon has released some fat but isn’t yet crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool.
- Spray grill rack with nonflammable cooking spray. Preheat grill to high heat (400° to 450°).
- Slice duck breasts lengthwise into 8 pieces each. Slice each jalapeño crosswise into 12 rounds. Lay out bacon. On top of each bacon slice, place a slice of duck breast. Place a jalapeño piece in center, and place a scoop of Creole cream cheese on top. Roll up bacon and duck around cream cheese and jalapeño, and secure with a wooden pick.
- Grill duck poppers, turning occasionally, until bacon is crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove poppers from grill, and place in a large stainless-steel bowl. Drizzle with cane syrup, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Jay Ducote writes the blog Bite and Booze (biteandbooze.com) and hosts the Bite and Booze Radio Show on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. Find him online @biteandbooze on Twitter and Instagram and at facebook.com/biteandbooze.