By Scott Leysath
A warm fire, dry clothes, and a hot bowl of hearty stew is a just reward after a cold, wet day of slogging through a wetland obstacle course. No need to wait for the simmering chunks of duck and goose breasts to get spoon tender. This stew was prepared a day ahead. And of course it's always better the next day. Since it looks like the cold weather is not likely to change any time soon, make a double batch that you can load into a thermos and share with your hunting partners.
By definition, a stew is slowly cooked at lower temperatures than a soup. It's thicker, richer, and should support an upright fork. Slow cooking in liquid transforms lean, dense waterfowl meat into tender morsels that have absorbed the flavor of the surrounding broth. It's stick-to-your-ribs comfort chow that pairs well with a glass of red wine or a frosty cold beer and the inevitable nap. Why fight it? Curl up on the couch and dream of huge flights of mallards with their feet down.
Any recipe for stew should be used as an outline that can be adjusted to suit individual tastes. Like it hot? Add a hot pepper or two. Got a beef bone or shank? Throw it in the stew pot early to add richness and flavor not found in a can of beef broth.
Preparation Time: 20–25 minutes
Marinating Time: 1–2 hours
Cooking Time: 20 minutes browning, plus 2–3 hours simmering
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 cups skinless duck and/or goose breast fillets, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 cups beef broth or game stock
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
- 1/2 cup pearled barley (uncooked)
- 2 cups celery, roughly chopped
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 8–10 whole peeled garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups fresh green beans, stem ends removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups whole pearl onions, skins removed
- Salt to taste
- In a bowl, combine first 5 ingredients and toss well to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Heat a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat and marinade, and brown meat evenly. Add stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add barley, celery, carrots, and garlic cloves and simmer for 25 minutes more.
- Stir in tomato paste, add green beans and onions, and cook for 10 minutes. Add salt and additional pepper to taste.
To prepare this recipe using a slow cooker:
First brown the meat and add the remaining ingredients, reducing the stock by one-half. Cook on medium-low for 4 to 5 hours or until the meat is tender. This recipe can also be prepared in a dutch oven over white-hot coals. Serve with croutons or crusty bread.
Peeling Pearl Onions When a recipe calls for pearl onions, I look for them already cooked in a jar or can to avoid the annoying task of peeling a pile of tight-skinned onions. If you insist on using fresh ingredients, plunge the onions into boiling water for a few minutes, drain them in a colander, and plunge them into an ice-water bath to cool. Cut off the stem end and give the onion a squeeze from the other end. It will pop right out.