Teal Time!

Fingers crossed that tonight’s Comanche moon will help me see better in tomorrow’s pre-dawn when miniature fighter squadrons of bluewings buzz my dekes! Biologists who measure such things say that teal don’t fly any faster than larger ducks, which leaves those of us who’ve shot and missed (more than once) scratching our heads. (OK, I’m ducking my head in humiliation!) But mama’s hungry for teal, and I seem to shoot better on an empty stomach.

Try this speedy, super-easy recipe for these super-delicious ducks …

Jerk-Rubbed Orange Blue-Winged Teal

This is a simple, no-fail method for perfectly cooked, juicy teal every time; the sweet and spicy rub with the large raw sugar crystals caramelizes into a crispy skin, while the steaming orange juice bastes the teal from the inside out. You’ll need to start your preparation two days ahead to allow the ducks time to dry-age.

6 whole teal, plucked and cleaned (for plucking instructions, see sidebar on page 90 of The Field to Table Cookbook).

For the jerk rub:

3 tablespoons organic cane sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile

Grated zest of 1 large navel orange, dried for 10 to 15 minutes in a 200° F oven

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For cooking:

6 (6-ounce) cans orange or mango juice

Two days before cooking, dry-age the teal: Pat the teal dry inside and out with paper towels. Set them on a rack in the refrigerator with a cookie sheet under it to catch the drippings, and let them dry-age, uncovered, for 24 hours.

Make the jerk rub: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

After the teal have aged for 24 hours, pat the rub over all the birds, reserving 2 tablespoons for “touch-ups” just before grilling. Return the teal to the rack in the refrigerator and let them age for another 24 hours.

Open your six orange juice cans and remove half the contents from each can, reserving the juice for another use. With your fingers, very gently pry open the rear cavity of each teal and work it down over the top of an orange juice can until the bird sits upright and stable. Touch up any places where you’ve dislodged the rub with the reserved 2 tablespoons rub. Let the teal sit out until they come to room temperature.

Heat a gas grill, or a charcoal grill with a lid, to a very hot (500° F) temperature. Use indirect heat: On a gas grill, use only the burners on one side; on a charcoal grill, build your fire with plenty of charcoal only on one side of the grill. Close the lid, and use an oven thermometer (if your grill doesn’t have one built in) to make sure you get the temperature to 500° F.

When it’s hot enough, set the six teal-on-juice-cans on the side of the grill farthest from the fire and close the lid immediately. Open the grill 10 minutes later. Using tongs, grab each juice can with its crown of perfectly done teal, and place on a baking sheet under loosely tented foil to rest for 5 minutes before serving.