Deep-Fried Lawyer Duck

My buddy Eric’s son, Caleb, is a typical 10-year-old kid. He’s a product of his Louisiana environment and loves duck blinds, duck calls, guns, 4-wheelers, gumbo, mud, and frogs. He also has the culinary preferences of a 10-year-old, meaning he’ll eat cheese pizza, but not much else, and only then if he’s not busy with something else.

The three of us had enjoyed a decent shoot in Eric’s pit blind one morning late last season, and were piddling around camp that afternoon, watching snow geese trade back and forth, and smiling as ducks funneled into the flooded millet field next to us, many of them near Eric’s blind.

Eric was working with Caleb to get duck sounds through the double-reed Wench he had dangling around his neck. I was thinking about food. “What do you guys think about duck nuggets for supper?” I asked. Eric shot me a skeptical eye, afraid that cooking them would be a waste of time for Caleb’s dinner, especially given that the quick-stop up the road sold pizza. But soon, we were washing breast halves from birds we’d shot that morning. We had some mallards and teal, but we also had several shovelers.

I’ve never really agreed with the shoveler stigma. They decoy in a lot like teal. I’ve eaten a bunch of them, and while they’re not my first choice for the table, none have been especially wretched. But few game animals suffer from poorer reputations or have a longer list of ridiculing nicknames.

My favorite of these nicknames isn’t a mainstream one. It came from my dad, who was an attorney for 30 years, and had no qualms about shooting shovelers during a trip to south Louisiana he was invited on 15 years ago. Dad hunts and fishes for about everything in North America, but has never really cared for duck hunting. Quail captivated him in the wintertime. He attended this trip to be with his buddies and catch redfish in the afternoons as much as anything.

So, when Dad was hunting the first morning and saw ducks coming to the decoys he did what he assumed he was supposed to do and shot them, despite protests and laughing from the young guide with him (who had such a thick accent Dad could barely understand him). Dad knew the faster he killed his limit, after all, the faster he could quit duck hunting and go catch redfish. The head guide at the club was quick to create a new moniker for the birds when he saw Dad’s full limit of shovelers—lawyer ducks. I’ve used it ever since.

Eric and I began trimming the lawyer duck breast halves into small strips, free of sinew and fat. Once we were done, I mixed up a bowl of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, a little garlic, some Tony’s (that’s short for Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, which is basically salt in Louisiana) and soaked the pieces down.

An hour later, after they’d been rolled in seasoned flour, the pieces were dropped into a skillet of hot grease and fried for a few minutes, just long enough to turn them golden brown and crispy.

Caleb stood next to us, avoiding the popping grease and continuing to practice his call until Eric gently suggested it was time to put it away for the evening. I had four or five nuggets cooling on a paper towel draped over a paper plate. “Try this,” I told Caleb, swinging the plate down to him. He did. And smiled.

“He never eats like that,” Eric said later as we sat outside, picking at the dwindling stack of duck. Caleb was on his third pile. He’d procured a bottle of ranch dressing at some point, and seemed to especially enjoy sopping his duck nuggets in that. Stars were out now, and we could hear a raspy suzie out-talking everything else in the field, even with a melody of peeps, quacks and whistles in the background.

There are many good recipes for cooking duck, and most of them require more skill and effort than our camp recipe that evening. But those deep-fried lawyer ducks, notorious for their “foul” taste, did an admirable job of filling a picky 10-year-old’s belly. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

—Will

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7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Brittany Dunham said,

    Hey Will,

    The article was great, I always like to read them when mom calls and tells us you’ve wrote again…Maybe y’all can make some more memories this coming up session…Tell Michelle I said hey…See you both soon hopefully…

    Britt

  2. 2

    B Carleton said,

    Will,

    I’ve been reading your drivel for the last few months and can say that, from one outdoor writer to another, I’ve enjoyed your mix of humility with prose…

    Thank you. I look forward to more of the same.

    Bradley

  3. 3

    Bryan said,

    Try making a goose and duck gumbo, it is very good and will make a lot of food. We like making it here in Bridge City Texas. We have a lot of mallards and spoon bills and till. Goose hunting further east in Winnie, Annauc and Katy Texas is real good. If you have time stop by and hunt some ducks and geese. Pleanty of area to choose from.

  4. 4

    Bryan said,

    Sorry it is west going to Winnie and Katy. Not east.

  5. 5

    Aubrey said,

    Will,

    I am from South Louisiana, and know exactly what you are talking about. I get joked on by my hunting buddies for shooting ’em but once they are cooked it is hard to tell the difference.

  6. 6

    Gator said,

    Hey Will,

    As someone who can attest to your prowess at frying duck, the story made my mouth water. If only you had a son to corrupt with such notions of frying shovelers in Louisiana.

  7. 7

    Big Al said,

    Mmmmm … shoveler nuggets.

    They’re almost as good as sardines or herring with saltines and a cold Coke.


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