DU Podcast Transcript: Ep. 38 – Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois Shares a Must-Try Duck Recipe

Learn to cook to your audience

© 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 a special guest, Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois, he is a renowned chef. He's actually a celebrity chef. Jean-Paul, welcome to the show.

Chef Jean-Paul: Thank you.

Chris Jennings: I'm going to give you one mallard, a whole mallard, plucked. Where are you going with it?

Chef Jean-Paul: Lately, I've been doing a lot of Duck A L'Orange.

Chris Jennings: All right.

Chef Jean-Paul: All right? So in south Louisiana, the best time for duck hunting is the best time for citrus season.

Chris Jennings: Okay.

Chef Jean-Paul: So there's a little adage I like to go by, if it grows together, it goes together.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, that's cool.

Chef Jean-Paul: So citrus and duck. The French have been knowing this for 300 years, that Duck A L'Orange, it's a classic French dish. They've been knowing that orange and duck go great together. So I've been doing a camp style Duck A L'Orange that I really like, which is made from local citrus, mostly naval oranges and satsumas, just right off the trees in south Louisiana and whatever duck we're lucky enough to kill that day.

Chris Jennings: Yeah. It doesn't have to be a mallard, whatever it is.

Chef Jean-Paul: Yeah.

Chris Jennings: That's cool.

Chef Jean-Paul: But I'll take a couple mallards in a nice dutch oven, enamel pot, something like that, and make some Duck A L'Orange, but I love that camp style, rustic, lacquered, savory, and sweet, and sour kind of component with duck. And again, the two growing together and being cooked together in that one pot, I don't know, you just kind of can't beat it.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, no. That sounds fantastic. And we kind of talked off-air about this a little bit too, but how are you preparing ducks if you have an audience of people, like, half the people that are showing up in your backyard don't want to try duck because they think it's too gamey or they're just kind of hesitant to even try it, is there something that you do, anything special that you'd say, "Hey, here's what I'm going to do. You try it, you're going to like it."? What's that? What's the secret there?

Chef Jean-Paul: Well, I think it's ... you know the whole cliché, know your audience, right? In New York, I think one of the best dishes I cooked in New York recently with wild duck is a saltimbocca, which is basically, I took country ham from North Carolina, and I pounded the duck really, really thin, and I took the country ham and I laid it over the top of the duck, and I took a toothpick and just wove it through so the country ham stuck on the duck, and then, in a hot cast iron skillet with butter, thyme, garlic, and shallots, I just browned that country ham and let the butter just foam over the duck. Now saltimbocca is probably on every Italian menu in New York, on every corner Italian spot, from high end places to just low end Italian joints, red sauce joints. saltimbocca exists, so when I'm cooking for New Yorkers, especially that I know that go out to eat and like Italian food, saltimbocca is always a good option because they're easily able to connect that dot. And usually you eat it with veal, sometimes chicken, something like that-

Chris Jennings: It's not outside their comfort zone. They see it and they're just like, "Oh yeah."

Chef Jean-Paul: I mean, and if I said duck fricassee, which is, when I grew up eating duck, it was duck and wild mushroom fricassee because we would harvest oyster mushrooms from the side of fallen cypress trees on the way back from the duck blind to the lunch.

Chef Jean-Paul: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: So we'd harvest those, and we'd cook a wild duck and mushroom fricassee. It's one of my dad's most famous dishes. But I knew I just couldn't say ... no one knows what fricassee is in New York, but they know what saltimbocca is, and now, I'm able to introduce people to duck, and also talk about country ham, which is something that doesn't exist in New York.

Chris Jennings: Oh, really?

Chef Jean-Paul: No. I mean, prosciutto does.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: Another Italian ingredient, which is commonly used for saltimbocca.

Chris Jennings: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chef Jean-Paul: So yeah. I really love that little dish.

Chris Jennings: That's a good one. And with that, as you're cooking the ham on the ham side, that duck still stays at a medium rare?

Chef Jean-Paul: Nice rosy medium at most.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: Because yeah, the country ham, it acts as a slight little barrier, but just keeping it on that side gets the country ham crisp, and just enough butter to where you can foam it over and just baste that duck, and it turns ... that country ham gets nice and crisp and it just gets that little sheen on top from that foamy butter, and then that internal meat just stays nice and rosy.

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Chef Jean-Paul: One of the biggest mistakes in cooking wild game, and you hear this a lot with things like octopus, things like wild game especially, you cook it for a very short time, or you cook it so long that it starts to fall apart.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: Anything in the middle is tough and gamey and doesn't eat right, right?

Chris Jennings: That's when you can turn people off to it-

Chef Jean-Paul: Yeah. That's when you turn people off.

Chris Jennings: Yeah. We've had that conversation several times. Lots of people around the building here cook, and some of us, even myself, make mistakes. Come back, like, "I'm cooking this duck this weekend." And it's just like, "Oh man, I overcooked them." It was just a complete loss of-

Chef Jean-Paul: Yeah. I can remember getting tuna steaks when I was a little boy. So my dad, we hunted so much ducks, so my point is my dad traded other species for duck, because we always had so much, he wasn't a big venison eater, venison was too slow-

Chris Jennings: Yeah. You needed ducks.

Chef Jean-Paul: Yeah, if you needed ducks, you know where to come. You're coming to my house because my dad needed venison, wild boar, rabbits, and squirrels, while I had a friend, his friend went tuna fishing, now, I had never seen tuna in my life. I was, I don't know, 10 years old, these big red steaks of fish. In Louisiana, you're frying redfish, you're frying speckled trout, you're putting it on the broiler and making amandine, so on and so forth, but you certainly weren't searing tuna steaks rare and then eating rare food. So I remember the first time my dad cooked them, he cooked them until they were gray. Those suckers were gray all the way through, and I would never eat tuna again for another decade until I was like, "Wait."

Chris Jennings: Until you learned that that's not how you're supposed to cook it.

Chef Jean-Paul: That's not how you were supposed to cook it. My dad knew how to cook a duck, but he couldn't cook a tuna steak.

Chris Jennings: That's hilarious. Talk to me about hashtag eat like a southerner because honestly, I'm a Yankee, but I feel like I eat like a southerner most of the time, but talk about that, I think that's pretty cool.

Chef Jean-Paul: So eat like a southerner you can take very literally, and to a lot of people, that may mean fried chicken, it may mean wild game to some, it may mean collard greens or gumbo where I'm from, but really what it means to me is what I remember growing up.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: And that was a backdoor to our house growing up, which led to the kitchen, was always open, and there was always something cooking. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there was always something on the stove. And that backdoor being open was symbolic that everybody is welcome in this house and at this table and to share what is cooking on this stove.

Chris Jennings: Yeah.

Chef Jean-Paul: And for me, it doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter if you're from Japan, or you're from India, you're from south Louisiana, everybody can eat like a southerner if you are welcoming everybody to your table to enjoy that food and share that community.

Chris Jennings: Cool.

Chef Jean-Paul: And for me, that is what eat like a southerner means.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, that's awesome. Chef Jean-Paul, thanks again, man. I really appreciate it. Hey, if people want to find you, find some of the recipes that you're doing, where can they look you up?

Chef Jean-Paul: Well, you can definitely hit me on Instagram at ChefJean_Paul. Comment, like, whatever, slide into my DMs, I answer all my direct messages, and I'm happy to answer any question on recipes, or technique, or anything like that. I love sharing recipes. I'm not one of these guys that really covet recipes. I believe recipes are worth sharing, getting out there, and having people cook them.

Chris Jennings: That's awesome.

Chef Jean-Paul: So hit me up there.

Chris Jennings: Cool, man. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Chef Jean-Paul: Thank you.

Chris Jennings: I hope you all enjoyed the show today. Thanks to our guest, Jean-Paul Bourgeois, for joining us in the studio, and thanks to Clay Baird for producing the DU Podcast, he does a great job with it. I'm Chris Jennings. Thanks to all of you 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.