I was fortunate enough to cross a “bucket-list” hunt off my list this past November when I went on a layout boat duck hunt near Long Point on Lake Erie. Big water diving ducks were birds that I had not had a chance to hunt in the thirty years that I’d been waterfowling, and I snapped at the chance when a friend proposed and organized the opportunity.
Being run out to the layout boats at the crack of dawn, I was literally vibrating with nervous energy. Our guide gestured to huge rafts of redheads in the outer bay as we settled into the UFO boats, and despite warning us that a potentially slow, calm, bluebird day was in the cards, I only heard “huge rafts of redheads”. I had always wanted to take a stud drake redhead, and that day looked like the chance to do so. The first group decoyed perfectly just after dawn broke, and we scratched down a drake apiece, and throughout the day we whittled our way through a two-person limit, finishing the hunt as the sun slipped below the horizon behind us and a near-full moon rose in front of us. As we took some photos and packed up back at the wharf, I was already thinking of how to prepare the birds we had on hand.
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Since I had a handful of redheads, I decided to make one of my favourite “red” dishes; a wild game take on General Tso’s chicken. Diver ducks can be dogged by a reputation as tasting “fishy” or “muddy” but I experienced none of that. Instead, I found myself devouring crispy, tender duck bites in a sticky sauce that perfectly balances sweet, salty, and spicy. This dish was immediately addictive, with the duck adding a pleasantly rich, and might I say, more aggressive flavour than just bland old chicken.
Serve this with sesame seeds, over rice and stir-fried broccoli, and try not to eat it all by yourself.
General Tso’s Redhead DuckCourse: Wild Recipes
2lbs of duck breast, diced into roughly 1” chunks
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cornstarch
- Stir Fry Ingredients
6tbsp vegetable oil
20 dried chili peppers
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp ginger, minced
- General Tso’s Sauce
½ cup vegetable broth (if using store-bought, get the reduced-sodium version)
4tbsp rice wine vinegar
4tbsp soy sauce
½ cup granulated sugar
- Using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, gently bash the raw duck pieces a few times to tenderize and thin the meat slightly.
- Toss the duck with the salt, beaten eggs, and cornstarch and let sit.
- Add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, oil, vegetable broth, sugar, and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside
- Spread the duck in a pan with the oil and fry until crispy. Allow space between pieces and do this in batches if needed, replenishing the oil as necessary.
- Remove duck and set aside on paper towels and wipe out pan. Heat the oil in the pan, and add the chili peppers, ginger and garlic and cook for a minute until the ginger and garlic are fragrant.
- Stir the sauce mixture again to ensure it is combined and to the pan with the garlic, garlic ginger, and peppers. Stir for until thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon).
- Turn off the heat, add the duck to the sauce and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately with broccoli and rice