These Duck Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers or “Duck Poppers” are a family favorite!
I recently read The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale (my review) which is a fictional novel about a kidnapping in turn of the century East Texas. If you read this blog, you know that East Texas is my happy place, so in honor of this book (which I absolutely loved), I was inspired to share this recipe which includes (drumroll): wild game from East Texas!
Full disclosure: This is my sweet brother-in-law, Trevor McCarley’s, recipe. He’s the main duck hunter of the family, and he gave me permission to share this duck recipe here. While these stuffed jalapenos, or (we sometimes call them “duck tornados”) are not a new way to consume the delicious dark meat of wild wood ducks, he did come up with a different ingredient that I think makes these duck-stuffed jalapenos really special.
What is the special ingredient you ask? Hoisin Sauce. Don’t worry, I will explain.
Note: If you don’t have duck meat on hand, steak, shrimp or chicken would work nicely in its place.
A Word about the Ingredients
You can cut the duck meat into strips as thick or as thin as you like, depending on the size of your jalapenos. If you cut them smaller, you won’t have to worry about them not completely cooking. Also, the bacon (on the very outside) won’t get as black if you are trying to leave them on the grill for a really long time to ensure the duck meat is well done. If you don’t have duck meat, these would also be good with steak, shrimp or even chicken.
I like using pretty large jalapenos although it does not really matter the size. If you are serving as an appetizer, sometimes it is nicer for people to have more of a bite-sized “popper.” You can also rinse them with cold water after slicing out the seeds and veins (I don’t typically). CAUTION: You may want to use gloves when preparing the jalapenos as the oils from the seeds and veins get on your skin and don’t wash off really easily. It won’t burn your skin or anything, but if you rub your eyes or nose with some of the residues still there, that WILL burn. (This is inevitably what happens to me, as I never take the time to put on gloves.)
To Brine or Not to Brine
Brining the meat adds tenderness and can also reduce the “gamy” taste that sometimes occurs with wild game. It should be noted that this can be skipped in the interest of speed but it does add a nice tenderness and help with flavor. Be sure to soak them in plain, cold water for at least a couple hours once removed from the brine. Also, be sure not add extra salt as the brine contains plenty.
Grill or bake?
I have almost always had these grilled but you can bake them at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes (flipping halfway). Finish under the broiler set to high for 3-5 minutes (or until browned w/ few black edges). Another option is smoking them which you have to do for about 45 minutes (indirect heat/smoke).
Directions for Making Duck-Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
First, you need to brine the duck breasts. (As noted above, you may decide to skip this step in the interest of speed. That is ok but might affect the tenderness and flavor.)
Next, slice each duck breast in strips. You can do thirds for a hearty helping of duck or you can slice them thinner. Both ways are delicious and the latter ensures the meat cooks throughly without causing the outer layers to blacken so much (this is my preferred method).
For the jalapenos, cut them in half and scrape out the white veins and seeds. Rinse with water. (You can skip the water rinsing if desired.)
Then, season the duck meat with garlic powder and black pepper. (Only add salt if you skipped the brining step.)
Cut the cream cheese block into chunks or use a spoon to scoop out (about a tablespoon each) and spread into each half of jalapeno.
Then, place the raw sliver of duck breast on top of the cream cheese. Finally, cut the back strips in halves and wrap them around each jalapeno. Sometimes, you might need two bacon pieces, depending on how long the jalapenos are. You want to be sure and wrap the bacon so that it covers the cream cheese as much as possible to hold it in during grilling/baking.
You can use a toothpick to hold the bacon onto the peppers or you can just wrap them and tuck the ends underneath. Once the bacon starts cooking, it will stay in place pretty well so it is not totally necessary. Note: I am oddly phobic about a guest (or one of my kids) accidentally ingesting a toothpick, so I typically leave them out.
Finally, and this is the step you should NOT skip. It is what makes these duck-stuffed jalapenos so ridiculously good and special. Pour your hoisin sauce into a small bowl, and brush or spoon it all over the outside of each one (covering the bacon with hoisin sauce). You can be liberal with it if you are grilling and if you are baking, you won’t need as much.
Then, it’s just a matter of grilling them to oozey, gooey perfection. Grill on medium high to high heat about 6-8 minutes with open (duck meat) side down first. Then, flip and cook for 5-6 more minutes. If you cut the duck in larger chunks, you can use medium-high heat and cook for longer (8-10 minutes meat side down) and 5-8 minutes on the other side. And a basting a little with extra hoisin sauce while they are on the grill never hurts either.
Happy Eating (and Reading)!
Duck Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers or “Duck Poppers”
- sharp knife
- gloves (for handling jalapenos)
- grill or oven
- 6 jalapeno peppers
- 4-6 slices bacon
- 6-8 ozs cream cheese
- 2 duck breasts
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt (only if NOT brining. If brining the meat, leave this out)
- 1/4 tsp pepper, coarse
Duck Meat Brine
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- Combine all brine ingredients and stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Pour over duck meat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. (Can skip this step if needed.)
- Remove from brine and soak duck breasts in cold water for 2-3 hours. (Can skip this step if needed.)
- Pre-heat gas (or prep charcoal grill) to medium high heat.
- Slice jalapenos in half and scrape out white veins and seeds. Rinse.
- Slice duck breasts into strips.
- Season duck meat slices with garlic and pepper. (If NOT brining, also add salt here).
- Fill each half of jalepeno with cream cheese and lay duck breast strip on top.
- Cut bacon strips in half and wrap around jalapenos, duck and cream cheese, tucking ends underneath (or can use toothpicks to hold together).
- Brush or spoon hoisin sauce liberally on both sides.
- Grill duck meat side down on gas grill set to medium high for 8 minutes. Then, flip and cook 5 more minutes. Baste with remaining hoisin sauce while grilling.
- If baking in oven (instead of grilling), put on sheet pan with edges and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping halfway. Finish last 3-5 minutes/side with broiler on high (to crisp outside of bacon).
- Can also cook in smoker/indirect heat for 45 minutes.
- If don’t have duck meat on hand, can use steak, shrimp or chicken.