The Boyfriend and I celebrated a great waterfowl season last night with our first-ever Duck Hunters Dinner. The concept was simple: A bunch of our hunting buddies and their spouses joined us - with ducks and wine in hand - for a veritable orgy of fine duck dining.
It was amazing.
I knew it was going to be a great evening when Hellen and I stood on our back porch and watched a mallard pair circle our neighborhood several times. Hellen's not hunting yet, but she had the classic post-season hunter's reaction - the little gasp, then freeze to watch 'em work.
If only those ducks knew what was going on inside. The first course was my brainchild: a mallard tasting.
Boyfriend roasted four different mallards: an acorn-fed duck from Amador County, a rice-fed duck from the Sacramento Valley, a grass-fed duck from the San Joaquin Valley and a corn-fed Delta duck from boyfriend's colleague Pete - an outdoors writer who's taken Boyfriend out to his club a few times. Everyone grabbed a slice from each and chose favorites without being told which was which.
Our friend Evan - who'd contributed the acorn-fed mallard - couldn't be with us last night, and that's a shame. He'd sworn that acorn-fed mallards taste bitter, but this one was really good. Strong, yes, but really good.
But the hands-down favorite? The grass-fed mallard I got in December on my first girls-only duck hunt with my friend Dana down in the San Joaquin Valley.
That was just the beginning - Boyfriend really got cooking after that. We feasted on some fantastic duck-liver ravioli he made 100 percent from scratch - the payoff from our painstaking dressing of every bird we get, collecting every usable part.
Then there was homemade duck sausage with sauerkraut and homemade mustard. And the piece de la resistance? A whole grilled teal for each of us. I've got no pictures of that, though, because quite frankly, we all just fell on our plates like savages, biting and tearing and licking our lips as our enormous cat Paka circled the table like a shark. She ended up well-fed for her troubles, and I'm quite certain she was a pound heavier this morning.
One of the coolest things about the whole evening was just bringing together friends who hunt to enjoy the food they hunted. We had Matt, our buddy who joined us on many occasions at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area; Tom, who joined us on the last day of season, and his wife Ann Marie, Boyfriend's colleague Pete and his wife Lexie; and huntress-in-training Hellen and her husband Derek.
It's really easy to let your hunting friendships lie fallow when the season ends, and this was a great way to keep that from happening. I'm quite certain that we all had just as much fun together at the dinner table as we've had in the marsh.
Oh, no, I'm not doing the recipes. That's Boyfriend's gig. Check his blog - Hunter Angler Gardener Cook - Finding the Forgotten Feast - later today for his account of the evening. Give him a while though - he's busy tending to the garden that we both ignored for the whole duck season. And me? I've got to go wash all that marsh mud off our cars. Finally.
Postscript: For Hellen's take on the dinner, click here.© Holly A. Heyser 2008