DU Podcast Transcript: Ep. 27 – Scott Leysath Shares his Five Favorite Waterfowl Recipes

Scott Leysath, DU Magazine cooking columnist joins host Chris Jennings on this episode to share his five favorite waterfowl recipes

© Michael Furtman

Clay Baird: Welcome to the Ducks Unlimited Podcast, the only podcast about all things waterfowl from hunting insights to science-based discussions about ducks, geese, and issues affecting waterfowl and wetlands conservation in North America. We bring the resource to you. The DU podcast with your host Chris Jennings.

Chris Jennings: Today I've got Ducks Unlimited Magazine cooking columnist, and sporting chef, and host of Dead Meat, Scott Leysath. Scott, thanks for joining us today.

Scott Leysath: Good to be here, man.

Chris Jennings: Awesome. Well, we're going to go ahead and kick this off. We're going to get right into it because this is going to be a little bit of a longer one than we've done in the past. Your five favorite waterfowl recipes. You did this as a feature in Ducks Unlimited Magazine a few years back. It has just been wildly popular. People are always interested to see your favorite waterfowl recipes. Most of them have become theirs, I'm assuming, but yeah. Can you kind of explain where you came up with this list of five, these specific recipes?

Scott Leysath: I'm not a real foodie. I'm not trying to out-chef anybody. I really like recipes that everybody will enjoy. I kind of lean towards Southwestern when it's personal. These are my five favorite waterfowl recipes. I think the number one one on there, there's one that I started out with and they're really in no particular order is tamales. A lot of people, their only experience with tamales is the one that comes in the can that's wrapped with a piece of paper around it.

Chris Jennings: Yeah

Scott Leysath: That's about the size of a cigar. They're kind of like tamales. They have a little masa in there, but what's cool about tamales is you can take snow geese, big Canada geese, some of the lesser ducks and braise them. However you want to get them soft and tender, so by that, let's say you take the ducks, split them in half, put them into a roasting pan with some celery, carrot, onion, a little bit of liquid in there, cover them up with foil. In several hours, that's all going to come right off the bone.

Scott Leysath: You're going to season it with whatever you like to put in your tamales. I like little onion, chili powder, the seasoning. I put some enchilada sauce in there, and the thing about tamales, the masa flour is what is kind of mysterious for people. It's basically masa flour, which for $3 you can buy a giant bag that'll last forever. A little warm lard or some other kind of shortening, you can use any kind of liquid shortening, some chicken broth and salt. All you're going to do is turn that into something that's about the consistency of wet cookie dough. Take a corn husk that you've soaked in water for 30 minutes and you can do anything.

Scott Leysath: You can pack anything into that tamale. If you get an assembly line going, well, you've got the guys starting with the wet corn husk. Then you put a little of the tamale filling. Wrap it up, put it over in the next [inaudible 00:03:16]. You steam it. Then what I like to do is if I'm going to spoon them, let them cool, and then I'm going to vacuum seal them and put them in the freezer so that I've got them. They're a big, big gift at the holiday season.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, that's great. Then you can just pop them right out if you have guests coming over and you're serving duck or goose tamales. That's awesome.

Scott Leysath: Right? The same thing with the duck tostadas. It's that shredded meat. What's good about doing the low and slow method whether it's in the crack pot, or it's sous vide, or the shredded meat, is that you get a really good yield. You're not just doing what a lot of people do and dressing up their ducks, and throwing the rest away. You've set up a tostada bar. You've got your seasoned shredded meat. Let everybody put their own toppings on there and you get a crunchy corn tortilla to build it on. Man. It's very, very simple. I think we did the mango and prosciutto duck poppers, which is my take on the standard duck popper.

Scott Leysath: What a lot of people do that, that I've found with wild game is they'll put their ducks, geese, deer, whatever into little strips and marinate it for a long time, wrap it with jalapeno, dunk it in cream cheese. It tastes really good. At a duck [inaudible 00:04:40], it's easily the first thing to go, but for a lot of people the victory is that it doesn't taste like duck. I like my duck to taste like duck, so mine is not marinated for more than a couple of hours. It's not 48 hours in teriyaki. The mango gets a little better of a sweet bite. Then the prosciutto on the outside, you get that nice and crispy. You've got the jalapeno in the center to give it some heat, so you've got sweet from the mango. You've got heat from the jalapeno, and smoke from the prosciutto. It's really, really good.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, that's one of our top right. I think you've done that as a column in the past years ago.

Scott Leysath: We did.

Chris Jennings: It's wildly popular.

Scott Leysath: It was worth repeating, so that's why I wanted to put it. It's always been one of my favorites. The sweet jalapeno duck is a really, really good marinade. It gives you, you've got orange juice concentrate, which is one of the things that I use in place of sugar as a sweetener in a recipe. Basically orange juice concentrate is sugar anyway, but it just was flavor. For the marinade, it's water, orange juice concentrate, a little vinegar for sour. There's some vegetable oil in there.

Scott Leysath: What's good about putting oil into your marinade is that if you've got a lot of acidic ingredients like vinegar and orange juice, what'll often happen with a piece of meat is that the marinade will start to cook it. If you've ever soaked chicken, or pheasant, or whatever in an acidic marinade, it gets it kind of mushy. that's why the oil will help protect that. It's going to give it flavor. The jalapeno lime, and I prefer to put this one on a grill. Again, you've got sweet. You've got spicy and then throwing it on a grill makes it that much better. That recipe, the marinade works on just about any anything.

Clay Baird: [ADVERTISEMENT] Be the first to know when ducks are on the move. Sign up for DU's waterfowl migration email alerts and receive ongoing in depth updates on the latest habitat conditions, weather changes, and hunting reports for your flyway. Visit ducks.org/migration alerts.

Chris Jennings: Now you lean towards a lot of spicy. You kind of add quite a bit more spice than what you see from other people. Is that something that you kind of came up with or is it just like a personal preference?

Scott Leysath: You know, my spice is usually a mild spice. For instance, I'll use jalapeno as opposed to habanero. The good thing about, if you're not into spice and you see one of my recipes that's got that peppers in it or hot peppers, leave it out. Leave it out or use less. Recipes are meant to be outlines. What I think tastes great, you can adjust at the end and make it your own. It kills me when you watch some of the stuff on the Food Network and it's all competition.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Scott Leysath: You've got these three or four annoying people that are giving it a thumbs up or the thumbs down in whether your recipe is worthy or not. Heck, it's your recipe. If you don't like garlic, don't put garlic in the recipe. I happen to like garlic, but if you leave it out, nobody's going to come and arrest you.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Scott Leysath: It's entirely your recipe. Really, here's a recipe that I learned, one of the top five when we were in South Africa. Every piece of meat for 24 hours was soaked in olive oil, garlic, sometimes rosemary, salt and pepper. Olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for the most part, some put a little splash of soy sauce in there. They marinate the meat for 24 hours, cook it over a hot smoky grill until it's rare to medium rare, and the stuff is incredible. It's buttery. It tastes just like it's supposed to taste. It doesn't taste gamey and if you just don't cook it so long, most of the game that you eat won't taste gamey at all.

Chris Jennings: Man, that olive oil, garlic, rosemary, I mean that's just basic. I mean everyone has that probably in their spice cabinets and cabinets. I mean that's just a basic marinade and very, very easy to do. Yeah. Before we let you go, I do want to touch on marinades real quick and mainly because I've heard you say this before. Most of the people you talk to or have talked to in the past, and people I know as well, their first step in the process of cooking ducks is to throw it in Italian dressing.

Scott Leysath: Well, really, the Italian dressing is really not a bad idea. It's not a bad place to start. The prepared bottle dressings to me are either too salty or they have ingredients in there for stability and those kinds of things. I would rather make my own Italian dressing like with olive oil, a good vinegar, some garlic, maybe a little red wine, and some herbs. I think you'll find that that tastes better than what you get out of the bottle and it'll probably be incidentally less salty. Marinade should enhance, not disguise what your game tastes like.

Chris Jennings: Exactly.

Scott Leysath: If you take, say, a half cup each lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and honey, half cup of each, throw in some red wine, a little soy sauce, I'll give it some salt, some garlic, rosemary. I like to put a little mustard in a marinade. If you want to put red pepper flakes in there for heat, that's cool. After that's all in there, while you're whisking, you add the olive oil in a really thin stream. That will emulsify it so that you have this really [inaudible 00:10:57] great marinade that you may have to shake up a little bit, but you'll notice that [inaudible 00:11:03] Italian dressing that you have, that bottle, nothing really separates in there because it's got all this other stuff in there like guar gum and xanthan gum.

Chris Jennings: The binders.

Scott Leysath: All the binders, yeah. Whereas if you just whisk it with olive oil, to me, it emulsifies that way. That's the better binder.

Chris Jennings: Can you marinate things too long?

Scott Leysath: You can. As I mentioned before, especially if you've got acidic ingredients in there, like vinegar, citric juice, wine, things like that, if you leave it in there too long, it's going to make the meat mushy. I highly recommend a brine first, a salt water brine. If you take a half gallon of water to a half cup each of kosher salt and brown sugar, do the brine first. After it's been brined, pat it dry and then put it in the marinade. Of course since the brine has salt in it, you want to cut back a little bit on the salt on the marinade or rub, but I start there. Then I do a marinade or just toss it right on the grill. Actually, always the first step that I do is I brine my duck or goose.

Chris Jennings: Well, hey, I appreciate it, Scott. Thanks for the insight. I'm sure everyone picked up a little bit of knowledge here. We'll be sure to have you back on. We'll probably get back into brines and marinades again, but I do appreciate you coming. Thank you.

Scott Leysath: Yeah, man.

Chris Jennings: I want to give a special thanks to Scott Leysath, our guest, for joining us. If you want to learn more about Scott, you can visit thesportingchef.com or check out his recipes on ducks.org. I also want to give a special thanks to Clay Baird, the Ducks Unlimited Podcast producer, who puts this awesome show together. I'm your host, Chris Jennings. Thanks for joining us and thanks for supporting Wetlands Conservation.

Clay Baird: Thank you for listening to this episode of the DU Podcast. Be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the show and visit www.ducks.org/dupodcast for resources based on today's topics, as well as access to more episodes. Opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect those of Ducks Unlimited. Until next time, stay tuned to the ducks.