Wild Duck: The Other Red Meat

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Best way to deal with freezing weather is complete gluttony with good friends. Or at least that’s my working theory, and it worked great this week. In this case, it was a massive duck feed at Smarty’s house. And when I say “massive,” I’m referring only to the amount of ducks we ate, not the size of the gathering. Above, just a few of the dozen or so birds we consumed, ready for the oven.

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While we were waiting for the oven to heat up, we ate six ducks’ worth of barbecued-rare, thinly sliced breasts dipped in hot mustard and sesame seeds. Awesome appetizer. The main course went into a very hot oven for a short time, unstuffed, of course, and was served blood rare with crisped skin and a very Russell Chatham-esque sauce that included current jelly, worcestershire and wine. If you’ve ever read Chatham’s “The Great Duck Misunderstanding” (perhaps my favorite piece of  outdoor writing ever) you’ll have a pretty good idea of the meal and its preparation. That’s Smarty starting the carving process.

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But since Smarty is a vegetables are what food eats kind of guy, when he said “duck dinner,” he meant it literally.We had duck and more duck. With a little duck. And for dessert, duck. Those are a few carcasses shortly before I dove in to gnaw all the drumsticks down to the bone. I could barely walk back to my car, but I went to sleep dreaming of more ducks. Sometime during the night, a front rolled in and broke our arctic chill. I woke to 50 degrees and light rain. See…duck dinner, perfect cure for freezing weather. Thanks, Smarty.


Big Chill

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This is probably proof to all the Mid-Westers and East Coasters out there that those of us living in the Maritime Northwest are soft, but here goes: I’m freezing! The backyard hasn’t thawed in a week now, and each day, the frost just keeps getting thicker. From a distance, it looks like snow, only without all the fun. The upside is clear blue skies and these amazing frost crystals.

Downside? It’s been averaging about 38 degrees in my unheated office, and even with a space heater blowing directly on me, my fingers keep getting too stiff to type.

That and the alarming rate at which we’re burning through an already light wood supply. This time of year, this side of the shed should have four full rows, and we’re already down to three. Yikes! But the stove feels so good…

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Whatever The Weather

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The last few weeks a convergence of factors has kept us indoors more than usual. Weather, for starters. When I was going to put the boat in the water and fish, it was blowing 35. When we were going to pick mushrooms, the rain came down in black sheets. Etc, etc. But it isn’t just rain and wind…usually we can work around those.

The windows of opportunity have been squeezed tighter than usual this year, with work, kid sports, school and homework, some travel, and for full disclosure, a little laziness as well.

So it’s good to have the option of an indoor climbing gym here on the Island. The kids love it, and I love watching them climb. It’s not exactly getting outdoors, but when a window of time opens and it’s blowing and spitting rain, we still have something to get excited about. Good stuff.


School Lunch

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Weston came home from school the other day, saying he wished he could take smoked salmon for lunch. So I dug around in the freezer and came up with a pack of nice Willapa Bay coho we smoked and vac-sealed in September. Next morning, I stuffed a few chunks–along with a bit of cream cheese–into these little plastic boxes, added a bag of crackers and a honeycrisp apple and called it good. Both kids report it was “best school lunch ever.”

It felt great to have them want and enjoy the salmon we made. But then I realized we don’t have nearly enough. Normally I horde the smoked salmon packs and just break ‘em out for special occasions or when we’re craving it at home. This is the first time withdrawals from our homemade food stash have included school lunches, and I’m completely unprepared. It won’t last long.

Guess we just eat until it’s gone, and remember that we have to fish more next season. I’m good with that.


Scary Good

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Well, this isn’t exactly foraged food, but we did dig around inside pumpkin guts to find ‘em. And once brined and roasted to a crispy, golden brown, I couldn’t stop eating these things. Every time I walked past the kitchen, I had to grab a handful, and then another, and another. Nature’s version of Lay’s potato chips? You can’t eat just one.

It was very nostalgic, too, as each time I popped one in my mouth I had a little twinge of memory about the pumpkin seeds my parents used to make when I was a kid. For our current version, we soaked them in a mix of straight sea salt and water for a couple of days, tossed them with a bit of olive oil, and roasted the seeds until they started to brown on the edges. So good.

And, just for reference, here’s the source. The kids and I had big fun carving these up, but the seeds really made it all worthwhile. Unfortunately, both Skyla and Weston really liked the seeds, too. Now I need another excuse to forage up some more–perhaps pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving?

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