As we continue our look into the best, easiest ways to prepare waterfowl, our search would not be complete without a thorough investigation of finger-foods. Whether served as a warm-up for a party, a killer contribution to a big tailgate event, or just something to stir the fire at hunting camp, “Quack-a-Tizers,” as I long-ago labeled them, are some of the best eats in the duck and goose world.
Preparation is easy, cook time is insignificant, and the ingredient list is often readily available without a special grocery run. Even more importantly, Quack-A-Tizers can be altered to fit nearly any palate—from distinguished duck fans to bar-food-hungry beer guzzlers.
For starters, let’s look into the basics of small starter dishes when using waterfowl as the primary meat. We’re talking about building small one-biters, or skewer-type dishes here, by paring a few simple ingredients for a delicious mouthful.
Know the proper pairings: While I would never bore you with how to choose a wine with dinner, I will give a run down of some of the basics to matching up your waterfowl. The key to these mini-dishes is to have a little crunch, a little heat, maybe a veggie, the primary meat, and a little something fatty. Examples would be cajun-grilled duck chunks with water-chestnuts and melted jalapeño cheese. Geese in a mushroom cap wrapped in bacon. Or grilled teal on a cored jalapeño, stuffed with cream cheese. Possibilities are endless, and most of the ingredients are likely already in your pantry or freezer.
Prep ahead of time: Another aspect to getting everyone involved in the eating is to reduce the bold tastes of waterfowl. Let’s face it: Other than serious hunters, most people like fairly bland foods, especially meats and seafood. Brining your birds ahead of time (as we discussed last week) will accomplish this, as will a simple water soak over a day or two. The more the water is changed and blood is removed from the birds, the milder the taste, and the fewer stinky looks from your mother-in-law at go-time. Also, do the cutting board work ahead of time; apps will be ready instantly, allowing more focus on football.
Always undercook: It’s nearly impossible to under-cook waterfowl cut into small pieces and grilled or oven-baked. Cook time is reduced to, literally, a few minutes in these instances. Over-cooking can nearly ruin the dish, so try to undercook. I challenge you to accomplish it.
Salt, and breathe: Nearly all wild-game apps can use a little salt, especially garlic salt, near the end of the cooking cycle. And, if I can only teach you one thing during this series, let it be to allow your game to sit out a bit after cooking, like 5-10 minutes, before serving. Doing so allows the juices to return throughout the meat and makes the dishes drastically better.
There are the basics. For the most part, when cooking, stick to high-heat, quick-cook methods for Quack-A-Tizers, like a hot grill or broiler. Again, don’t overcook: Hit ‘em fast, bring ‘em out, throw on a little Green Tabasco and salt, give it five, and serve. You won’t have any leftovers.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.