Asking a hunter about the best thing he ever ate at camp is a contentious question. At the Bayou Club, in south Louisiana, it could be smoked teal and oyster gumbo. At Rudder Hill in rural Alabama, it’s our take on Italian Wedding Soup made out of Southern ingredients. We call it Divorce Soup. But this dish is good for camp because there’s little to clean up and it’s about cooking the whole animal, which is what hunters are all about.
—John Besh, Restaurant August, New Orleans
We tried our best to use a knife and fork for this dish, which Besh adapted from the less “wild” version in his new cookbook, My Family Table, but the duck is just too good. So we got in there with our hands and didn’t stop until the bones were clean. If you’re a regular at duck camp, this meal should become a staple. Just take our advice: Save the leftovers for lunch—the duck is almost as delicious cold the next day as it is hot out of the pot.
2 mallards, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery root, diced
1 lb. turnips, peeled and diced
5 Fuji apples, cored and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. chicken broth
2 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Season the duck pieces all over with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder. Dust with flour.
In a cast-iron pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the duck and brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. When the skin is crisp, remove the duck to a plate.
Add the onion, carrot, celery root, turnip, apple, and garlic to the pot with the rendered duck fat and lower the heat to medium. You want to soften the vegetables at this point, about 5 to 7 minutes. You’re not looking to brown them.
Add the chicken broth, cider vinegar, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Return the duck legs to the pot, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour.
Now, go join the guys in the other room and brag about that nice deer you shot today.
Add the duck breasts and cook for 15 to 30 minutes more, until the duck meat is fork-tender.
Stewed duck really must be served with rice. Besh is partial to Louisiana brown jasmine rice. This is a Southern dish, after all. Serves 4