Chef Ric Rosser plies his local-sourced, field-to-table culinary art among sprawling live oaks at the impressive Spread Oaks Ranch in coastal Texas. Rosser covers a variety of interesting topics to include charcuterie, cooking coots, aging ducks, organ meats, hunting, simple recipes. Whether meticulously tending his garden or curing meats in an on-premises 15th-century style smoke house, and whether cooking for his family or guests, his approach to food and to cooking remains the same. It’s all about keeping it real.
Dining @ Spread Oaks Ranch in Matagorda, Texas
Oh, I cleaned my place, I did.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I am at the magnificent Spread Oaks Ranch down in Matagorda, Texas. It’s a part of Texas, one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, I’m going to guess we’re within 5 or 10 miles of the Gulf and just belly button high, beautiful grass out over the ranch and just magnificent live oaks everywhere you look. I like to come down here and hunt with a friend, Robert Sawyer, always invites me down for a teal hunt, we have a great hunt, beautiful lodge, they do a heck of a commercial business that I’m not related to, but I get to meet with today’s guest and I get to enjoy his specialty, which is food. Today’s guest is Ric Rosser, Spread Oaks Ranch, head chef and bottle washer. Ric, how are you?
Chef Ric Rosser: I’m outstanding today, sir. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: I’m good. I’m going to lead off our conversation like this. Tell me what I ate last night? You were busy, you usually come out and explain what it was, the provenance and how you cooked it. I want to hear about last night’s dinner because it was magnificent.
Chef Ric Rosser: We had a double bone heirloom pork chop grown from a friend of ours who loves raising pigs for us with a goat cheese, sun dried tomato butter with a Brussels sprout and pork fat slaw.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what that was on top of that potato.
Chef Ric Rosser: You ate healthy last night, you just didn’t know.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I cleaned my place, I did. And tell me about the salad because that was a different salad.
Chef Ric Rosser: The asparagus salad is a new one for us, that’s one of the few items we don’t raise on the ranch, but it comes with the tomato cone feet. We go through so much pork here because of our smokehouse and charcuterie program that we have this, back fat, the caul fat from the different animals or the cod fat from the different animals, so we process that, we render it, then add it to the tomatoes and herbs, so it’s a warm and then we give you a roasted garlic bulb. So from a visceral standpoint, you grab it and you just squeeze that warm garlic over the top of it and it’s almost like, when you want to eat it with your hands because they’re asparagus, but you’re in polite society and you have to eat it with a fork and a knife.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I knew exactly what to do with that roasted garlic, that is one thing I do at home a lot and I love roasted garlic, I could stick my tongue out and squeeze it on there like toothpaste, I love roasted garlic. Last night’s appetizer, I could have grabbed one of them foot long bones and just come up here to the room and enjoyed it, talk about last night’s appetizer.
Chef Ric Rosser: The appetizer was cool. I mean, it’s a tomahawk, certified Angus beef tomahawk pork chop or Tomahawk chop. But what was really interesting, I mean, we sear it, grill it, everybody has their own way to grill a steak. But again, it sounds so much like we do so much with pork fat, but we made smoked rendered pork fat candles. So basically melted pork fat, put them in little muffin tins, dropped a wick inside of it and then at that point once you’re done, you put it in the freezer solidifies and you can warm the outside of that little muffin tin and it pops right out burns just like a tea candle.
Ramsey Russell: I thought there were tea candles at first.
Chef Ric Rosser: I know, my wife was so proud of me until I told her what they were.
Becoming a Duck Hunting Ranch Chef
So we would be done duck hunting, daddy’s a chef, he would pull out the wok, heat something up and if you’re lucky enough to hunt with me, I probably did a catering that week, we might have lamb chops or crab cakes right outside of a goose spread.
Ramsey Russell: I’m assuming you’re formally trained.
Chef Ric Rosser: I am. I had a reverse kind of – my entrance into the chef world was different because I was a young man and started in fine dining, but came from a country background, hunter background, so butchery was in there, I knew what cuts of meat, where things came from, how they grew, what they were supposed to taste like. So I think that helped me a lot in the beginning, plus that small town work ethic, I mean, it’s just different. And I mean, my first three chefs, I’m from Bryan College Station and my first three chefs did not speak English as their first language. One was German, one was Swiss, so I learned regionals and all from just this little kid who probably 3 months before was with my grandparents or family in the country someplace, shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing from where I was raised, so to speak.
Ramsey Russell: But how did you go from there to here?
Chef Ric Rosser: I needed a job and I was hungry.
Ramsey Russell: What did you think you wanted to be when you were in high school?
Chef Ric Rosser: A policeman, architectural design, no clue, I was lost at 18. I mean, I was a good kid but I had no idea. I know I needed to make money, I needed to be a stand-up person in society, do the right thing, what am I supposed to do? How do I do that?
Ramsey Russell: But you went to college or two.
Chef Ric Rosser: I attended several universities that did not – obviously it didn’t go well, it didn’t go well, but I found cooking and I went from somebody who didn’t do good in college to, hey mom, what’s the dean’s list? I don’t know what that is. Am I in trouble, again? But just really did great in culinary school, found it and haven’t looked back since,
Ramsey Russell: So, like when you were in high school or did you started off in some other vocations in college? Some other fields of study?
Chef Ric Rosser: Not really and truthfully cooking was from my dad. He cooked as the family and his family, both sides of my family, we ate as a family, so that matters. Sitting around the table, you can’t be angry if there’s good food on the table, you just can’t be angry at each other. I think I started from that and it went and then when you have the ability to go so big in that high end society or I guess maybe, it doesn’t matter what dish you’re given or what protein you’re given, you’re a normal person, we’re just trying to pull out what’s great about that dish and talk about it.
Ramsey Russell: There’s a lot of different directions a chef can go. So you go to culinary art school, you start cooking, how did you find your path, your niche within that broad field? Were you exposed to, like here’s how the French do it? Here’s how somebody else does it. I mean, were you exposed to all that?
Chef Ric Rosser: I think, I always wanted to learn, I went to school and wanted to learn. I just didn’t know what I wanted to be educated on. So then I went to culinary school, met my wife in culinary school who let me do whatever we wanted from a business standpoint, married, moved to Colorado, I mean, we moved from my profession, so I got better with every move. Was a chef at a bakery for 3 years, most chefs don’t do odd things like that, they stay in there just as person. But I think the cooking, where I’m at now and even if you ask 5 or 10 years ago, the chefs that I worked with would have said, yeah, he’s an outdoor guy, this makes perfect sense for him to do what I’m doing and was moving. I mean, we would duck hunt because I had two sons, one would be 12 and one’s like 9, they’re hungry. So we would be done duck hunting, daddy’s a chef, he would pull out the wok, heat something up and if you’re lucky enough to hunt with me, I probably did a catering that week, we might have lamb chops or crab cakes right outside of a goose spread. I mean, that was normal for us and all because it was just, like when I was growing up, my dad said, hey, hold this pack of gum, when you’re out of gum, you’re out of luck. We just had it a little differently. We ate things like that.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up, talk about your childhood and your hunting origin.
Chef Ric Rosser: We bow hunted and duck hunted a lot more bow hunted, didn’t really become a duck hunter till about 15, 16 years ago because my oldest shot skeet moved to Houston. Somebody’s like, hey, your son should skeet. Well, we duck hunted and deer hunted, but around Bryan, you either hunted Lake Somerville, you hunted the Brazos River bottom someplace. So, I wouldn’t say we’re the hardcore duck hunters like I became where, hey, there’s 16 days of teal season, how many days are you going to make it? Yeah, I can’t make it that one Monday, but I’m going to hit every others, we weren’t those kind of guys, but it was the outdoor stuff.
Best Wild Game Recipes
I remember I ate 5 smothered quail with some kind of rice she made and if you ask me as a chef, what my first holy cow, this is amazing, that’s that right there.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And your dad was the primary wild game cook at home? What were some of the recipes you remember him cooking?
Chef Ric Rosser: He was. I’ll tell you my first culinary recipe that I remember ever was from my grandmother and she cooked smothered quail. I wasn’t a small kid, I mean, I’m not a large fella now, but I was a chunky kid man and I ate that like I was starving. I remember I ate 5 smothered quail with some kind of rice she made and if you ask me as a chef, what my first holy cow, this is amazing, that’s that right there.
Ramsey Russell: In general terms, how did she cook that smothered quail?
Chef Ric Rosser: You can do teal the same way. She takes it, would dust it with flour and then almost fry it, pull it out, make a brown gravy, onions, peppers, things like that and then she would throw it back in there and smother it for 30 to 50, 60 minutes maybe low and serve it over some kind of rice and just know that your fingers are going to be dirty and there’s going to be stuff on your mouth because you’re going to pick that up, eat it, you’re just going to grab the bones and try and get that cartilage off because it’s amazing. To this day I can remember everything about that meal.
Ramsey Russell: That’s one of my favorite ways to cook hardly anything. My wife who is not a, she says she doesn’t eat waterfowl and it goes back to shame on me, we were 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 beers into it, me and some buddies cooking grilling duck breast with a one light bulb garage and we severed the meat, it went from tartar to overdone, she got tartar and lost her flavor for duck and years later we had shot a bunch of snow geese “sky carp” people don’t like. And when I dropped them off, get some sausage made and stuff I got them double tender, I’m just going to take them home and cook them, I don’t know where she was at the time. Chicken fried them, put them on the side, made a gravy, put them back in, covered it just like you said and when she came in, she ate an entire goose worth of breast and she said, you’ve got to start cooking venison like that again. I said, really? She goes, yeah, I loved it. I goes, that was snow goose that nobody really likes, that’s a great recipe.
Chef Ric Rosser: It really covers a multitude of sins and some bad, if people don’t like things, it’s rice and smothered. I hate to belittle it, but it’s home cooking.
Ramsey Russell: It’s just simple home cooking. How does a recipe like that your grandmother’s simple recipe, how did that influence your style of cooking now that we’ll get into it a little bit?
Chef Ric Rosser: I don’t necessarily know the style of cooking, I think it made me realize I have a cousin that’s a chef as well. Well, two cousins, actually – I have 2 cousins that are chefs and my oldest cousin is the one who kind of got me into this field, brought up that, you’re cooking for what you think is who you are or what you’re doing at the moment, right? But the style of cooking kind of goes back to what it is and for where I’m from and maybe what I do now, the style of cooking right now is pumpkins. I mean, what we’re going to do with that? Because we grow our own stuff here. We think more, I don’t necessarily want to use farm to table or sustainable we grow or we eat what we’re growing so we can really enjoy what we’re growing, a story if you don’t mind. I’m in a dove field in Uvalde with Bobby Buff, he’s an amazing man, I’ve known him since I was 5 or 6 years old and we’re talking about shooting doves and I’m not doing great, I’m not a great dove hunter, I talk at dove camp a lot and we’re sitting there having a chat about the size of corn meal and how it’s important. And we went from talking about tomatoes and when you go to a summer garden and you pick a tomato and you put it on the plate and you put salt and pepper, it’s different. You can’t get that flavor anywhere. So I automatically thought this guy was kind of cool because here we are in the middle of the dove field and immediately we go to vegetables. Then the conversation changes to corn meal size and I’m getting to the story, but he starts talking about coarse ground versus medium and I’m like, I’m a chef and I don’t know what he’s talking about. What is this guy talking about? And he starts telling me about, he’s educating on how you grind corn in the middle of a dove field. Like puts the gun down, tell him about the grinder this whole thing. And I start understanding again in a dove field about what that feels like in my mouth because he was explaining it to me. And I thought how important that was to a guest that maybe I can bring to and how it doesn’t matter where I cook, I think I would be good at cooking anything simply because of the passion of the food, not the arrogance of the plate. I care more about the farmer that raised that and how they’re doing than the diner themselves, I don’t mean that to be arrogant. That diner could be my mother or it could be a foreign dignitary, it could be some guy who duck hunts all over the world, you’re all the same to me. The food is great. Yes, it is because it’s been growing for 3 months. I know it’s great because I picked it two days ago, so it would do what we wanted it to do. People that come and hang out and eat here or talk to us, get that experience, not because we’re not building rockets, I’m not a rocket scientist, I’m just really passionate about the food that you eat and making sure whatever it is wherever it is, wherever you are, that’s an amazing experience.
Hunt to Table Cuisine
…here, the way you cook a lot of the meals we eat is grown right here, smoked right here. I mean, you’re connected to it and it transfers to me on the plate, does that make sense?
Ramsey Russell: See, that don’t make good sense to me and you’re a hunter, I’m a hunter and we source our foods intuitively, it’s just what we do. And I’ve always felt, the reason I like to interview people like yourself and restaurant owners is, I think that food gives a really nice context to place and it’s about that connection. I feel like eating a venison or waterfowl or whatever I’m eating, I’m more connected to that meal emotionally and spiritually than I would be a rib eye steak from Kroger and I don’t know what you call it, field to table, farm to plate, but I know that here, the way you cook a lot of the meals we eat is grown right here, smoked right here. I mean, you’re connected to it and it transfers to me on the plate, does that make sense?
Chef Ric Rosser: Passion, passionate people, I think. I appreciate it.
Ramsey Russell: Do you think there’s a connection between your hunting background and skinning those deer and eating your grandmama’s quail to kind of this connection now for these pigs and beef stuff like that you do.
Chef Ric Rosser: It’s amazing. Everybody that’s listening to this podcast will find this comical. So when I would get to go hunt, shoot deer or ducks, I would come back into the chef community and people were like, hey, don’t skin those ducks, we’d love to experience that. Hey, man, I just shot 3 deer and a pig, you all come in on Saturday. So, the whole experience becomes an education and then you think you stop and everybody talks, it’s the easiest thing in the world to pull the trigger when you start processing and figuring out what to do with that animal, the challenge starts and my world turns that into a family activity just talking about what we’re about to do.
The Misconceptions of Dining on Duck
I think people don’t like it because they’re scared of it and they think they don’t like it.
Ramsey Russell: Why do chefs like ducks and so many, even duck hunters, let alone the American public, not like duck. Why is that, do you think?
Chef Ric Rosser: Maybe a misperception of what duck is. The normal person thinks a duck is a Peking duck, this massive fat and it might be big. I think people don’t like it because they’re scared of it and they think they don’t like it. I mean, once you –
Ramsey Russell: They’ve had a strong piece of liver taste, something or another, the tough and livery and I don’t like that either. I love liver, but I don’t like livery tasting duck.
Chef Ric Rosser: I mean, we do this silly thing that a pot of black-eyed peas with dove breast, smother dove breast on it or just thrown in is amazing, but it’s not great with teal. You talk about that mineral flavor, right? Teal isn’t as mineral flavored as dove, so with black-eyed peas, dove is amazing, dude. Roasted cumin or regular cumin, but teal or regular duck doesn’t go in there. I think people have a bad a misperception, this is duck, it’s not duck, duck is what we’re talking about. It’s not duck fajitas or dove poppers. Everybody loves dove poppers because it’s the bacon and again, I go back to, once you cook it, you’re around a bunch of people talking about it. You take duck home and it’s probably one on one and the husband that’s cooking it probably doesn’t know what he’s doing. I got sent this picture one time from a gentleman, I took duck hunting and he barbecued, the whole thing intact, in trails and everything. No idea what he was doing, how do you educate that? Took him hunting, he knew how to hunt but couldn’t cook the food. He’s like, hey, in my culture, this is what we do.
Ramsey Russell: I wonder when America transitioned from that because recently with some discussions with Rob, ducks, wild duck here in Texas, nationwide, everybody, it was a high demand food product and an expensive food product by the time it made it to the restaurants to where now a lot of people –
Chef Ric Rosser: I can’t comprehend as a chef, the thought of market hunting. Like you guys talk about what it did to the duck population, I get all that. But I would have been the gentleman who was causing the devastation right. Now, I need 30 canvasbacks and I can’t imagine in the 50s or 60s or maybe a little bit earlier, teal being on the menu and not – you think about that, you would go to Perry’s or whatever high-end restaurant and they would have a duck that Boudreaux shot, I can’t even comprehend that.
Ramsey Russell: I have been to of all places, Netherlands where hunting is politically incorrect, goose hunting is forbidden and yet the hunters that are hunting on a permit, they go out and shoot the geese, sell them to the market for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the hypocrisy, that it’s crazy, they still eat them and they still want them and have walked into restaurants after shooting pheasants over sugar beets, literally just stood there and held up the pheasants and while the patrons of the restaurant pointed and bought them from my host and had them sent to the back for their dinner. So it still exist in places and it’s not necessarily detrimental to populations, maybe it’s just a regulated form nowadays. But isn’t that interesting? How important is the fat, the duck fat to properly cooking duck or the way you would cook ducks?
Chef Ric Rosser: We take our duck breasts and make it like a duck prosciutto or duck bacon out of ours. If we don’t turn the whole thing into a product or an eating product, at the end of season, we’ll process all our bigger late season duck breasts and line them out, salt them, 6 days, throw them in our charcuterie chamber and then we’re using last year’s duck breasts for some of our stuff this year.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the charcuterie Chamber?
Chef Ric Rosser: Our smokehouse. We have a smokehouse program, we’re lucky enough, I built a 16th century smokehouse that holds all of our hams, whole ducks that we play with. Well, personally as a chef, I age my ducks.
Tips for Aging Duck
So you go to 9 days age for waterfowl
Ramsey Russell: I want you to talk about that, I want to see if I’m doing it right. Talk about aging duck.
Chef Ric Rosser: USDA standards state one thing, I would tell you a couple of years ago, I shot every duck I could shoot on the Texas coast from all – I didn’t shoot a Canadian goose, but we shot canvasbacks, teal, coots, I love shooting coots, I’m not against it at all, love them. Actually, I think it’s one of the reasons a smoked coot is an amazing thing to eat. But you can age those, even like your blue bills, you can put those shoot them make, you shoot them 2 hours, 30-45 minutes later you put them in your cooler, take them back to your house, put them in the refrigerator, 9 days.
Ramsey Russell: Not 8 days, not 10 days.
Chef Ric Rosser: You can push them, I’ve pushed some of my duck as far as 10 or 12 only because I’m trying, I’ve never made myself sick. I mean, disclaimer, whole ducks, guts and all.
Ramsey Russell: Lay them on their back?
Chef Ric Rosser: I don’t hang them because I never had enough space. My wife made me buy a new refrigerator, my sons and I shot 35 snow geese one morning and she came in and the whole refrigerator looked like a filing cabinet of geese, it’s just awesome. I mean, 9 days. I push most of my ducks 9 days in trails and all.
Ramsey Russell: And what does that do?
Chef Ric Rosser: It’ll take those coastal ducks or those ducks that have been eaten mud and it smooths that flavor out, it takes that mineral flavor out, not 100%, I’m not saying it can make a ruddy duck taste amazing, it does change the flavor though. It totally changes it.
Ramsey Russell: That used to be a big deal. I recently met down on Lavery Island and I asked the question because I had read this, that one of the McElhinneys had gotten into a longstanding debate with somebody in the UK about how to age a duck, how to properly age it and he said you hung him, I guess, down his cellar by the tail feathers and when they slipped they were ready, I don’t know how long many days that took, the guy in the UK, hung them by the head.
Chef Ric Rosser: Yeah, I like the head and I would tell you it’s weird things, like the skin comes off too, what I’ve noticed. I tried to look at some of the Europeans because that’s where we got the idea, I was trying to figure out how to skin that duck easier with the whole duck versus having to pluck and things like that. And once you age it, that fat or that skin comes off a lot easier, the feathers and everything come off easier too.
Ramsey Russell: So when you age a duck, 9 days, you don’t get to keep the fat and the skin on the meat, on the carcass?
Chef Ric Rosser: You can, remember I’m lazy. You can do that from a cleaning standpoint, if you were to pluck it and put it in there, the skin will tighten up. But I haven’t with the feathers and the moisture and all that, it doesn’t allow that skin to tighten up just yet.
Ramsey Russell: So you go to 9 days age for waterfowl.
Chef Ric Rosser: It’s safe, you’re not going to make yourself sick. And again, think about it, you can’t put one in that you’ve shot has got – be realistic about it, 2 or 3 BBs it had to sit in the back of your truck, you need to think about what you’re doing before you do it, so you can have a baseline. Now, some of them only need 4 or 5 days, it just depends. But a pintail, late season pintail like 8 or 9 days, it’s a totally different flavor in a great way, I don’t mean that in a bad, nothing in a bad way.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not a putrefied flavour or tender, the decomposition process has broke down the toughness.
Chef Ric Rosser: Everybody that’s listening has already thought during this one paragraph that we’ve talked about, yeah, man, you’re just making that rotten and there’s no way it works. You can look at the USDA guidelines. Even your deer, you can age 12 days.
Ramsey Russell: Do you age your deer?
Chef Ric Rosser: We do.
Ramsey Russell: Skin on or skin off?
Chef Ric Rosser: Skin off, we’ve done it both ways. An Axis deer we shot two years ago and like a 3.5 year old big axis buck 21 days aged, we just ate some of it like 6 months ago, it was amazing. Like it had a huge acorn flavor, nuttiness to it, not because of the deer. The deer didn’t eat something to do that, it was what the deer ate, but then the aging process or the flavor of that meat, I mean, look, I’m excited about it right now and I’m not going to get that again, it was great.
Ramsey Russell: It used to be a restaurant, it may still be there, I just hadn’t been through Winnipeg in years, it was an old steakhouse and their specialty was Chicago aged beef and I want to say 45 days, it was some extreme process. How long is beef normally aged?
Chef Ric Rosser: 45 is kind of what they used to do. Some of it is a 30 day aging process on all of our wet aging stuff. The dry age can go 90-100 days and what it does is, it really gets weird. There’s a lot of green and mold and you have to cut that stuff off, that’s started, what you ate with that Chicago style –
Ramsey Russell: It’s totally different, absolutely delicious.
Chef Ric Rosser: Absolutely. Got a little funk to it probably, not blue cheesy but not bloody, I’m trying to think, the term is kind of got a little funk too.
Ramsey Russell: That was their specialty. And it was amazing, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it anywhere else. You eat coots?
Chef Ric Rosser: I do. I’m not ashamed of it either. Our limit is 15, that’s one of the second things I look at every year on the duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: I read an article one time, it’s just a side bar and I believe a Delta Waterfowl magazine and it was like, it was two questions they surveyed, most overrated duck, most underrated duck out of the two questions and most overrated duck, first place was mallard, most underrated duck, it’s not a duck, but at duck hunter hunt them, the most underrated was coot, it’s a rail and I love to eat rail.
Chef Ric Rosser: I didn’t know they were a rail.
Ramsey Russell: Well, they’re in the rail family, I’m assuming. Yeah. Very close. Very close and related. Yeah, rail like and duck like.
Chef Ric Rosser: That was the first set of decoys my dad gave me. He was like, he bought me a half a dozen decoys, he was like, okay, you got two kids you need coots. He did.
Ramsey Russell: How do you cook your coots versus your ducks?
Chef Ric Rosser: The coots we pluck them but we’ll salt them for about 8 hours.
Ramsey Russell: Age them?
Chef Ric Rosser: You can. But if you’re looking for a quick, like a day or a day and a half, you can just sprinkle them with salt skin off and it’ll start leaching that blood out, which again, is that mineral flavor. It’s like, you’re just brining them in reality. So if you just brine those coots, the hardest thing about cleaning the coot is the feathers and then you look at the gizzard and you’re like, man, I wish something would go with this thing because it’s the biggest gizzard you get from a duck.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, that’s why a lot of the Cajuns is for the gizzard. I had a friend, I used to hunt down the Mississippi River with his grandmother would ask him every year to bring him coot gizzards, that’s what she made her gumbo with.
Chef Ric Rosser: This year, we’re trying to save all of our hearts and livers for all of our ducks.
Ramsey Russell: How do you think you’ll cook them?
Chef Ric Rosser: So truthfully, I’d like to put the little duck hearts on skewers and lightly grill them real quick. I think that would be really cool. And then the liver is going to be whatever.
Ramsey Russell: What do you do with the heart and the liver?
Chef Ric Rosser: I think we’re going to put them on a little skewer, the hearts we’re going to put on just a little skewer and lightly grill them, probably no more than like three minutes, minute and a half minute and a half and eat them. Maybe put some kind of an onion woo sauce would be good if you just take like some saute onions and add some Worcestershire sauce, maybe a little bit of butter, so you could just drizzle over the top of it, that would not suck.
Ramsey Russell: No, that would not suck. And the livers, I’m assuming like a Pâté?
Chef Ric Rosser: Either the Pâté or we can add them into some of our sausages or we might just make the rice and just make a dirty rice with it just because it would take a lot of livers to make – these are all of our ducks, so many of like when our guests come are we have a tremendous amount of repeats here because of what we get to offer, we start planning for their next visit. It’s whether it’s making a ham or whatever we kind of think or like for the next visit that they come, so we plan a year in advance for most food. Well, it takes at least 3 months to grow our lettuce that we serve.
Ramsey Russell: I want to talk about some of the field to table things. Like for example, I just say last time I was here last year, it was a pork chop of some sort, something –
Chef Ric Rosser: We love pork here, I’m not going to lie, we love pork.
Ramsey Russell: And I want to say, as you were explaining what we’re fixing to dive into plated it very beautifully. But I want to say, you said that, that hog had been fed some kind of squash for week preceding him being killed. And then the following morning, I’m assuming the same hog it was about a pound and a half sirloin sized country ham on side of my plate that was grown here, made here completely.
Chef Ric Rosser: Again, it goes back to being passionate. I can tell you what the pig is because I know the person who raised it and then because we know them, I know that it was raised in a pecan orchard the last 4 months of its life and it was tits high and turnips because that’s what they eat, that’s the way he said it. That’s the way it is.
Ramsey Russell: Does it make a difference?
Chef Ric Rosser: I think it does. We have some gentleman, a group of guys out of Ohio, come here and really brought us further on our pig program and thinking about what it is. You can buy a commodity pig and it’s a great pig. But you buy a pig that’s not industry standard, 425 lbs 550lbs that fat is different on that pig, the muscle structure is different. 150 lbs deer and a 250lbs deer taste differently, they just do ducks taste differently. Pigs that are raised with love and care and are brought up and big, they eat differently, 100%.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever had any luck with wild hogs?
Chef Ric Rosser: We have and actually this year we’re only going to start curing some of our wild pigs. Now, I am going to freeze them just because of it being a wild pig, I’m going to take it, we’ll butcher it, freeze it like you would sushi and then we’ll pull it out, slack it and then we’ll turn it in, this time next year, I’ll have wild hog hams.
Ramsey Russell: Will you try to feed him out first or does work?
Chef Ric Rosser: We should start being able to see smaller piglets soon, if we could catch some smaller piglets, we are trying to get ready to try and raise them out and they’re doing it, everybody talks about it, they’ve been talking about it for years, it probably makes a difference.
Ramsey Russell: I just wonder if a wild hog will develop fat like a farm hog.
Chef Ric Rosser: Well, I’ll tell you what, you come back next year and I’ll let you know.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think you would feed a wild hog to make him put on fat? Day old bread, day old doughnuts?
Chef Ric Rosser: It kind of goes back to the fall off of our – trash here could go to that pig as well as feeding it a protein supplement to try and make sure you’re really bulking him up or her.
Ramsey Russell: I got a friend back home that was going to teach his kids how to, just little father son project, they were going to take some, I don’t know, 30lbs boar and grow them out, get them slaughtered and they put a movable pin out in their pasture and asked him what he fed it and he fed him, he went to the day old bread store and would buy the bread that they didn’t sell a day or a week after and fixing it to throw out, that’s what he fed them and they just exploded and fat. And he took those three hogs and slaughter, I might say, maybe they’re 100lbs, 125lbs, he took them down to the local butcher, the deer meat processor to get different stuff made and a few days later, they call him, said your meat’s ready, would you come get it? And he goes, well, I’m going out of town next week, I’ve got a vacation, no, sir, we don’t have enough freezer space for this, he goes what? And he showed up and he literally stopped in a part of town and dropped a tailgate and said, come and get it and kept as many 48 ice chest as he could store at home. But he said, the day old bread and doughnuts and honey buns just made them pig explode. He said, man, they were fat. He never dreamed to be, it produced that much sausage and stuff like that.
Chef Ric Rosser: I could eat honey buns every morning and I’d be fat too.
Best Meals Hunting Field to Plate
I like our charcuterie because it has so much on, it has so many different variations of what the ranch and farm is from a duck prosciutto to a beef soppressata to a lamb…
Ramsey Russell: I guarantee you. What are some of your favorite meals that you prepare, field to plate here? I’ve had a couple of great ones but run me through just the thought process and what it is and how you cook it.
Chef Ric Rosser: I think that, one of our appetizers is really neat. I like our charcuterie because it has so much on, it has so many different variations of what the ranch and farm is from a duck prosciutto to a beef soppressata to a lamb, which is just a fancy salami name, it represents everything and what’s silly, I’m a busy body of a person, but I don’t have to work that hard on the charcuterie because it’s a year old worth of products, it’s been sitting there for 9 months, I already did the labor, now it’s just an easy transition. Our buco has gotten really great simply because we grow our corn, going back to the Bobby Buff theory, you grow your own corn, you process it, it becomes a polenta which again, does not suck, a little cream, little butter, you’re eating grits so to speak with that meat of the polenta, gremolata over the top to lighten up the heaviness. If I had to eat two of our favorite dishes and we try not to ever do repeats year over year, but it’s gotten to be very challenging because we really feel like we’re doing a great job, you miss the Caesar, it’s a classic caesar for us, but it’s served with a 9 month salt cured duck egg grated over the top and then we use a speck which is a German style ham deboned and cured and smoked, our speck are smoked about 35, 40 hours in our smokehouse. And we literally shave that like cheese, not grade it, shave it on top of the Caesar, it’s a high end bacon bit.
Ramsey Russell: I could see why that’d be popular. Tell me some of your favorite ways? We’ve talked about the hearts and the livers, talk about some of your favorite ways to cook duck.
Chef Ric Rosser: My go to would be the black-eyed peas with any waterfowl. But if I had to pick, I would eat them like what we said with the dove. I would go back to the –
Ramsey Russell: Is that a recipe anybody can cook?
Chef Ric Rosser: It is. It’s black-eyed peas. Really, it’s salt pepper, cumin, cilantro and parsley, black-eyed peas.
Ramsey Russell: No ham hock?
Chef Ric Rosser: I’m sorry. Yeah, that’s a given.
Ramsey Russell: All right. And then cook the duck separately and add it to it or just plate it on top?
Chef Ric Rosser: I smother it a little bit because any duck I cook, I wouldn’t call it a fry, I do dust it with flour difference between dusting and breading is you’re dipping it in egg wash versus just dipping it straight into the flour just because it adds again, maybe it’s more of an emotional thing, I got to have that flour on there because I feel like I’m going to pick the duck up and eat it because I don’t breast my ducks out. I feel like I waste time, I do. If I’m going to make some kind of shit with them, then I would take them off the bone. But other than that, again, I go back to just being lazy.
Ramsey Russell: But let me ask you a question, you say that. But I’ve got a friend down in Louisiana that will not filet, he breast his duck but leaves the meat on the bone because his grandmother taught him that if you pan fry or whatever you do with that meat, it don’t want to contract stay tough, if you leave it on the bone, that heat will break it down. He believes it’s more tender, is there truth to that?
Chef Ric Rosser: I completely agree with grandma and look, you can think of it like a chicken, you can take it and if you just pull it and you breast it out, you can slice it in half where that sternum is and then you have two pieces just like you would get in the grocery store, theoretically, they’re just smaller. So you can grill them or whatever you’re going to do easier than when they’re up like this, when they’re up and the breast cavity is still there and you’re not getting a sear on the bottom of that bone, so to speak. That makes sense.
Best Waterfowl Recipes
Brining is a great way to help people that don’t like that flavor it leeches out that duck or that mineral flavor, a basic brine recipe.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your other favorite recipe for waterfowl? Do any of them involve whole pick ducks?
Chef Ric Rosser: Actually, it’s funny that you say that, kale, brown rice and a walk with shredded duck is amazing. Also white bean –
Ramsey Russell: What did you do? How do you cook the duck before you shred it?
Chef Ric Rosser: So there’s two recipes that once I start shredding duck again, let’s say the end of the season, you got a bunch of ducks or you’re not going to make sausage with, I’ll boil my ducks and then pick them, shred them and then I can bag them up for small soups on top of something. But white beans with sun dried tomatoes and shredded duck is like little chorizo, sun dried tomatoes, cook your white beans and then you add your shredded duck at the end of that just to warm that duck back up, that is a great December, January soup.
Ramsey Russell: Sounds delicious. I do boil and shred some ducks like that you’re talking about.
Chef Ric Rosser: It’s a smart way to hold them. When you just got a bunch and get the blood line out.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever use duck fat?
Chef Ric Rosser: I do.
Ramsey Russell: Do you make your own?
Chef Ric Rosser: We do, as much as we can. Again, it kind of goes back to where we start looking in January for stuff like that. But our duck fat, usually if we find a big fat duck like that, we’re contemplating prosciutto because it would be better for us. You get more food out of a prosciutto than say the duck fat unless you’re going to add it into something and you need that.
Ramsey Russell: How does your work life as a cook, what you cook some of the meals you prepare here versus home?
Chef Ric Rosser: It’s the same. Exactly the same. My boys and wife grew up, we would eat hot dogs one day and rabbit with cayenne whipped sweet potatoes the next.
Ramsey Russell: And she’s a cook also?
Chef Ric Rosser: She’s not a chef, she’s an accountant, she does accounting things, she keeps me in line. Thank goodness for her. Yeah. We grew up eating, she was not a hunter when I met her, but she was not close-minded to any of those things, thank goodness. And I mean, she’s venison, she actually made it – what did she put the other day? Something with duck and she was complaining because I didn’t do it and she was going to have to, I think, she was like, don’t make me do it, I’m like baby, I’ll be right there.
Ramsey Russell: I like to ask guys like you for your favorite recipe like that because I learned a little bit and is the black-eyed pea recipe one you would share?
Chef Ric Rosser: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: I want to get it before I leave. But I believe everybody should have a pocket recipe. I’m not a cook like you man, but I can cook a few things and if I’m going to be somewhere and need to cook for somebody, there’s one or two recipes I’m going to cook guaranteed. Now, if I’m at home, it’s going to be collard green and cornbread. But how important is it that everybody have one? And what advice would you give a regular guy that may not be a great cook on how to develop or come up and become a better cook, but have that one pocket recipe.
Chef Ric Rosser: I think what I would say, do what you’re comfortable with first off, but then also simple. I mean, how many guys you see at camps they show up and there’s like 12 things that go, you got to think ahead for good food. And I always joke if you’re at duck camp and you’re cooking food, you’re behind, I go to duck camp, ready to relax. Look, you want to throw steaks on the grill, but we’re talking about soup and if I show up at duck camp, there’s a little bit different level of, hey, Ric’s cooking than say you’re going to show up and cook collard greens and cornbread. First off, everybody needs to know how to cook at least something because of what it does for everybody –
Ramsey Russell: It’s very communal.
Chef Ric Rosser: It is. And everybody wants to help. There’s always two or three people like, hey, can I help you? Yes, you can. You need a recipe and especially if you’re going to be harvesting and going out and doing these things, you probably already do, get better at it, just get better at it. Think about it. I didn’t start aging ducks because I thought to myself as a chef one day I had an epiphany. I was like, hey, these guys are doing it in Europe, Ric, you’re a chef, you could probably figure that out, yes and here we are.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You said earlier a lot of people struggle to cook duck. We were talking about people that may not like it because of the iron taste, what are some simple things people can do to cook better duck?
Chef Ric Rosser: Brining. Brining is a great way to help people that don’t like that flavor it leeches out that duck or that mineral flavor, a basic brine recipe. I think, it’s one gallon of water, one cup of salt, half a cup of sugar, that’s from shooting from the hip real quick, but a basic brine recipe, you can sit it in there for over 24 hours, it gets that blood out, it’s the same theory, you hear guys talk about soaking things in buttermilk, that’s all they’re doing. It’s osmosis, getting that blood, leaching that blood out, I think that’s the first thing and second thing is just have a really good sauce. Figure out a sauce that you’re going to make and it’s cool, you don’t make a small sauce, you make a bigger pot of sauce and then you put it in little containers. So, hey, I’m going here this day, here’s this container, you’re preparing your meals, so to speak for the long haul because I’m only going to cook this duck this way, a couple of times, here’s my sauces because here’s an example. So you clean your ducks or you shred your ducks, do you make a duck stock and save your duck stock for soup for later in the season? Because you should. So many times you really are just doing it, you make gumbo stock and gumbo because you have carcasses, but you always have carcasses because you’re always going hunting. So you could save them, freeze them, pull them out and make a big stock pot and then save them in little gallon containers, if you wanted.
Ramsey Russell: Waterfowl lends itself, you mentioned a recipe earlier with kale and rice and shredded duck. Kale is kind of bitter, I’ll try kale.
Chef Ric Rosser: Not on my part.
Ramsey Russell: But I’ve always used spinach as a side because it’s got this bitterness and to me, waterfowl lends itself to kind of a sweeter and fruitier orange marmalade man for just to go to something, whether it be a sauce or a dipping sauce or maybe put a little bit inside the breast or I think of candied figs put that inside, duck just pairs real well to me and something kind of like that bitter spinach really just goes good together. I don’t know why it does, but it does.
Chef Ric Rosser: The only reason I said kale is because you got to try and eat a little healthy sometimes, I’m trying to stay healthy.
Ramsey Russell: That’s all right. I mean, I’m not ashamed to say I eat kale or spinach.
Chef Ric Rosser: The spinach works great, anything green, something to take the rice and then you can go in any different direction. You can add some kind of Asian style schezwan, soy sauce, any of that.
The Joy of Doing What You Love
…the duck camp experience, a lot of my camp experience anymore at home is, everybody cooks a little something and we stand around the table and just kind of pot luck it and that’s just kind of a very communal experience, I love it.
Ramsey Russell: Is duck some of your favorite stuff to cook or do you like other wild game? Or do you like it all equally?
Chef Ric Rosser: I would hate the gossip to get out amongst the wild game. I love them all the same. Duck hunting provides a camaraderie, both at camp and in the blind. You’re always talking with somebody or two or you’re about, you’re a doer, you’re doing these and talking other sports is, it’s more individualistic. So somebody with my personality, I think I’m a duck hunter simply because you’re always around people, the dog and you’re moving, doing things.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. And that to me is really, the duck – like you say, the duck camp experience, a lot of my camp experience anymore at home is, everybody cooks a little something and we stand around the table and just kind of pot luck it and that’s just kind of a very communal experience, I love it. I sure appreciate you coming on today, Ric, I’ve enjoyed it and got to learn a little bit more about, who you are and what your process is. One last question I had because this whole field to farm, the farm to table concept. How hands on are you with your garden vegetable, your seasons, your squash, your pumpkins, your pigs? Is that a part of your job description?
Chef Ric Rosser: Every day, sir. Before I came and talked to you this morning, I had already watered all of our plants and checked on the 250 chickens and the new pheasant pin that we’re putting in. Yes, sir. I love it. I get paid to do something that people talk about and joke about and I’m here every day. I mean, if something happens here it hurts me just simply, I’m in, I’m the chef. It takes us all year to get ready for anybody that comes. So when they come or our guests come or I prepare food, I’ve been waiting for a long time for that. Every day is Christmas here for us. And I don’t mean that as a sales pitch, it’s like –
Ramsey Russell: Because you get to do what you love.
Chef Ric Rosser: Yeah. Look, we’re at duck camp every day. We’re at whatever camp you want to call it or we’re doing things every day as a team here to be better as a group, not individualistic. We’re growing this. Everybody knows what’s going on with the cows or our duck habitat even our ranch hands know what Rob Sawyer is doing. You think they sometimes care, no, but they know and that’s just education on everybody’s part. Team work is huge, there’s no ‘I’ in team.
Ramsey Russell: And you’ve got help in the kitchen.
Chef Ric Rosser: 100%.
Ramsey Russell: And you all work as a team.
Chef Ric Rosser: Spencer Davis is my go to guy and I’ve known him for probably 10 years. He is a cousin of mine. Can I tell you a funny story? So Spencer is my cousin, we don’t talk about it very often because we don’t want people to think that we like each other, right? But he was a young chef and working for me. I’ve known Spencer since he went to culinary school, he would probably tell you I was the reason he went to school. So he’s working for me as a young sous chef and he’s just being a young stupid kid and I walk up to him and I’m trying to coach him as a boss and he starts mouthing off to say something not respectful. And I go, hey, I just want to let I will fire you and I will tell mee-maw, she will be the first phone call I make and then I will call you and tell you right? So we joke Spencer and I, he is my right hand man. I mean, we couldn’t do what we do at Spread Oaks without our team, but I couldn’t do what I do here at the lodge without Spencer and the people.
Ramsey Russell: Since you found your barring in college, start off culinary art school. Did you ever see yourself from wherever you were, whatever your first jobs were out of culinary art school to here? Did you ever see that? Did you start off thinking this is where I want to be? I want an old smokehouse, I want to grow my pigs, I want to grow the squash, I feed my pigs and I want to smoke them. I mean, did you ever see that?
Chef Ric Rosser: No, not a chance. No, clue. I would tell you –
Ramsey Russell: Just keep moving forward, you come to fork in road take it.
Chef Ric Rosser: I would tell you probably the good Lord just, I don’t want to try and sound religious on your podcast, but I’m telling you that’s the only thing I can think of and I would tell you I have thought about it. How did I get here? I have no idea, but man, thank God I am here.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. How did I get so lucky? I ask myself all the time and I’m thankful for it. Yeah, I’m blessed. Folks, you all been listening to my buddy Ric Rosser down here at Spread Oaks Ranch Chef, his love for food filled the table. Thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.