Your Neighbor’s Kitchen: Duck Delicious
Colusa's Melissa Yerxa's grilled wild duck plates well on wood platters
April 09, 2008
By Michael Reed/Appeal-Democrat
Link to Article
Today's recipe stands for that entrepreneurial spirit and drive to not only be successful, but the desire to give back to the community and keep small-town, country living traditions and values alive and well.
Last fall, my good friend Ed Coutts of Yuba City and I attended a shotgun shooting exhibition in Colusa. More than 1,000 hunting and gun enthusiasts gathered to watch Tom Knapp, who is recognized as the greatest exhibition shooter of modern times, give a really cool demonstration.
As Ed and I were wandering through the vendor tent, there were the usual scruffy, wind-blown faces hocking their wares for hunters.
I'm always looking for Your Neighbor's Favorite Recipe kitchen hosts. But this was one event where I had never considered finding someone who would share a recipe with me — except for maybe a 100-year-old concoction for beef jerky that pulls your teeth out while you chew.
As Ed and I rounded a set of display tables, I was taken aback to the point where I actually stopped in my tracks and just stared. Yes, I know, my mother did teach me that it was rude to stare. But in midst of all these grungy, almost mangy, hunter-types stood a beautiful, young blond woman who stood out from this pack like day stands out from night.
Melissa Yerxa is the 26-year-old founder/owner of Living Legends, a company she started in June 2004 with the idea of bottling wild game marinades. By June 2005, she was offering samples of her wild game marinade.
As I approached her display, she extended a plate filled with bite-sized samples of marinated duck. As I bit into the meat, the flavor was so unique and so good that I had to ask her how she came up with the idea of making wild game marinades.
"These marinades were developed especially for wild game by hunters, for hunters, from wild game recipes that have been kept secret for generations," Melissa said.
As Ed pulled me further into the exhibition area, I quickly grabbed one of Melissa's business cards and promised I would call her.
So last week, while I was at the Yerxas' Colusa home, I not only met Melissa, but I also got to meet her mom and brother — Kathy and Mitchell Yerxa. Her dad, Woody Yerxa, was not home at the time.
Living in San Francisco, Melissa's day job is working for Gallup Consulting, but she returns to Colusa most weekends to keep very close hands on her Living Legends venture.
As Melissa, Kathy and Mitchell were grilling the wild duck for this recipe, I asked Melissa, with all she does and her background, how does she see herself? "I am a total country girl. I love the smell of a tomato field, a walk along the edge of a field of sunflowers and wakeboarding in the Sacramento River after a hot day of working on the farm. After working in the city all week, driving home and finally seeing the Sutter Buttes and County Line Road, I know 'I'm home,'" Melissa said.
While Melissa is the driving force behind Local Legends, she is surrounded by her family and friends who support her 100 percent.
Helping her formulate the recipes for her products is Don Litchfield of Colusa who is a trained and experienced chef and is an active community volunteer.
"Don has brought his incredible knowledge of our community and culinary skills ... to not only help develop many of the recipes, but make sure our quality is second to none," Melissa said.
Asking what has been one of her greatest achievements in building Local Legends, Melissa said, "In October 2006, Local Legends became the official marinade of the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) ... and a portion of all sales are donated to CWA to help protect hunting land and habitat."
After tasting the grilled duck, and as I was preparing to head back to the office, I said: "All that was missing was a nice glass of vino." With a sparkle in her eye, Melissa smiled and replied, "Just wait — it's coming."
Melissa Yerxa's 'Grilled Duck with Local Legends Waterfowl Marinade Ingredients
• One half duck per person
• Local Legends Waterfowl wild game marinade * or a favorite marinade of your choice
• Salt and pepper to taste
Putting it together
• Rinse the duck and pat dry with paper towels.
• Cut uncooked duck in half lengthwise.
• Marinate 2-12 hours in Local Legends Waterfowl Marinade.*
• BBQ on medium heat, cavity side down, for five minutes.
• Flip and grill for five minutes, then flip again and grill for five more minutes for a total of 15 minutes.
• Keep a glass of water next to barbecue to put fire out in case ducks flame up.
• Serve with wild rice blend, seasonal, local vegetables and/or fruit and a green salad. You can also serve with sourdough bread and a good merlot.
• Fresh duck needs a shorter time in the marinade
• Duck meat contains very little marbling. As a result, the meat gets tough if overcooked and can be easily dried out if not careful. Cooked properly, it is tender and delicious.
• While the recipe calls for whole duck, remember that duck is dark meat because the muscles must store energy to sustain long-distance flight. Chickens don't fly, but walk; therefore, only their legs are dark meat.
• Accordingly, marinate chicken for a shorter amount of time — from one to five hours — if you choose to substitute chicken for duck.
There will be free full-color recipe cards of Melissa Yerxa's "Grilled Duck with Local Legends Waterfowl Marinade" recipe in the lobbies of the Yuba City and Marysville Appeal-Democrat offices today.
If you or someone you know has a favorite recipe and would be willing to share it, give Michael Reed a call at 749-4720 or e-mail mreed@ appeal-democrat.com. He would love to come to your kitchen and meet you.
Until then, hope to see you in your neighbor's kitchen.