Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Grilled Quail with Peaches

Its February and I live in Minnesota, not exactly grilling weather outside. On the day I did this is was 3 degrees outside. Spicy grilled quail with peaches isn't exactly a Minnesota dish. We don't even have quail up here, but I love eating quail. Its probably a good thing we don't have them up here or I would probably waste a lot of my hunting year chasing them instead of other animals. It might seem strange that I would decide to grill but the folks at PK Grills sent me a grill to try out and I was kind of excited to get to it. 

I had these quail in the freezer and a burning desire to try a recipe from one of my new cookbooks so it kind of worked itself out. The PK Grill is an odd looking thing, kind of reminds me of my Grandparents old Airstream trailer. It is a cast aluminum grill that can be used for grilling or smoking. I haven't had an opportunity to try smoking anything on it yet but it certainly grills like a dream. It holds heat really well and the depth of the coals in relation to the grate is nice for fast grilling. These quail only needed about 2 minutes on each side to finish.  

I may have put a little to much of a char on these but you would never have known. they were sweet and spicy with just a hint of the charred flavor I love. Quail meat is a rich and wonderfully flavored meat and like I said before I could eat these everyday. The grilled peaches add the sweet balance that is needed to suppress some of the heat from the marinade. This was a recipe from Donald Link out of his book, Down South, it is the first thing I was going to cook out of this book but definitely not the last, it is full of delicious looking southern fare. 

Donald Link's Spicy Grilled Quail 

4 semi-boneless quail
3 cups of arugula
2 peaches pitted and halved

for the marinade

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix together the marinade and then add the quail. Marinade the quail for 2-3 hours. Over a hot grill, grill the quail for 2-3 minutes per side. reserve the extra marinade and put it in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. grill the peaches along with the quail. Place the grilled quail on a bed of arugula and add some of the grilled peaches. spoon the remaining marinade over the quail and peaches and serve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Corn Meal Tamales

I know nothing about tamales, I have only eaten them a few times and it has always been in a cafeteria setting. I can only imagine that those are the bottom of the barrel tamales and even they aren't bad. I would really like to get out and try some really good authentic tamales to see how good they can be. When I decided to make tamales I went at it with no knowledge of what was needed. I have a shit ton of dried corn that I have been using for everything form grits to cornbread and figured I could use it to make tamales.  Unfortunately there are several step in between whole dried kernel and tasty tamales.

There is a process known as nixtamalization that the corn is subjected to. It is a process that exposes the corn to and alkaline solution which allows the corn to be hulled and adds nutritive value to the corn. It also allows the corn to be ground finer. It is this nixtamalized corn that is typically used to make tamales. I wasn't about to try to nixtamalize corn so I tried to find a recipe that used freshly ground corn. I couldn't find one. So I set out to create my own recipe using what I had read about tamales as a guide.

I whipped pork lard with my mixer and to that I added fresh ground corn that I had soaked in wild turkey stock. My mixture was a little wet but I used it any way just to see if it would work. As a filling for my tamales I used some braised elk tongue that I had shredded up.

I placed all of my tamales in my steamer and steamed them for a little over and hour. I was afraid they were going to stay runny and not turn out but to my surprised they turned out exactly how I wanted them to.

My tamales dough was wonderful, the corn set and held together well. the dough wasn't smooth and had the texture of good cornbread only a little firmer. For a guy who had no clue what he was doing these actually turned out OK. I will have to try them again to see if they work but at least now I have another way to use up the 30 pounds of corn I have in the freezer.

My Tamales Dough 

2 pounds of ground corn meal
1 pound rendered pork fat
3 cups of wild game stock, (chicken stock would work also)
salt to taste.

Mix the corn and stock and let stand for about an hour. whipped the lard in a stand mixer and then slowly add the corn mixture. When all the corn is mixed in scoop about a 1/4 cup of the dough mixture into the prepared corn husks and spread the dough over the husk. add your filling of choice and then roll and tie the tamales. Steam for an hour and serve. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Buffalo Liver, my New Favorite Liver

I remember eating liver as a child and loving it. Mom would fry it up and I would eat mine with yellow mustard. Some time after that I found out what liver was and stopped eating at all. I was appalled that my parents would have fed me that and couldn't believe that people would eat such a thing. I was 6 or 7 years old at the time and my next experience with liver didn't come until I was in the Navy and it was served to me at the Hospital in San Diego. Cafeteria style liver and onions didn't do anything to get me back on the liver wagon.

It wasn't until after I got out of the Navy that I had my first taste or liver from a wild animal. I started trying the livers out of the duck and geese I was shooting and really enjoyed them. on the recommendation of my uncle I kept a liver out of one of the white-tail deer I shot and ate it. It was an eye open moment for me and suddenly I was liver crazy. I kept all the livers from every animal I shot and started taking livers from friends who didn't want them. Several years ago I came across a recipe for Mazzafaggeti which is an Italian liver sausage traditionally made with wild boar livers and flavored with coriander and orange. It is an amazing way to use up livers.

I have used livers to make different pates and terrines and really like to add livers to stuffing's.  I went Antelope hunting a few years ago and really fell in love with antelope liver. In my opinion it is the best tasting liver out there. That is until this year. My buddy Ben decided he was going to go to a ranch in Montana and shoot a buffalo. He had asked me if there were any parts I wanted and I jumped at the opportunity to get a buffalo heart and liver and tongue. I figured a buffalo liver would be big but I had no idea that it would be ten pounds.

Now I am scrambling to come up with ways to use all that liver. I think I am going to try my hand at Braunsweiger for the first time and am thinking about making a liver sausage as well. But the first thing I needed to do was fry up a couple of pieces to see how it tasted. I took a couple of 1/4 inch slices and gave them a quick dredge in flour and Tony Chachere's creaole seasoning. I fried up some onions in bacon fat and then fried the liver for about 2 minutes per side on high heat. I hate to say this but I have a new favorite liver. Buffalo liver is one of the cleanest most beautiful tasting livers I have ever eaten. Served simply with fried onions and some Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard It was quite a treat.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

Last year my good friend Rick Edwards grew a bunch of corn for me. I had gotten this crazy idea that I wanted to grow and make my very own grits.  With Rick's help I was able to do that and have been enjoying fresh ground homemade grits on a regular basis. The only problem is that Rick grew a lot of corn and after he dried and shelled it we ended up having a shit ton of green Oaxacan dent corn. As much as I love grits there is only so much grits a guy can make. So I had to branch out and start grinding the corn finer and making other things with the corn he grew. 

The first thing I could think of was to make corn bread, after all everyone loves cornbread and if I could make my own cornbread with the ground corn I had all the better. I immediately looked at Sean Brock's book, Heritage. I had gotten the idea to grow and make my own grits from him in the first place so it was only fitting that I used his recipe for corn bread. If you have never made real cornbread I highly recommend his recipe. The combination of buttermilk and bacon make it one of the best things I have ever eaten.

After making the cornbread I had read another recipe in Brock's book that looked interesting. Cornbread and buttermilk soup. As much as I love cornbread it does sort of lose something after a day or two. Having a recipe that uses leftover cornbread was genius. The soup is very simple to make and can be made as thick of thin as you would want. Brock states that it can be served both cold and hot but here in Minnesota in January Hot was the only choice that made sense. I did try it cold as well and can see how on a hot summer day it would make a nice starter soup.

It's not often that one has left over cornbread but in the rare instance you do give this soup a try. I reserved some of the cornbread and toasted it in bacon fat to make cornbread croutons. I finished the soup with a drizzle of buttermilk and some fresh parsley. I still have a five gallon bucket full of corn in the freezer so I will definitely be making this again.

Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

2 cups crumpled day old cornbread
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup light chicken stock
1/2 of a white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of celery
2 tablespoons of pork lard or butter
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the lard or butter until hot and add the onion garlic and celery and cook over medium heat until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the stock and heat until boiling then add the cornbread and stir. Mix in the buttermilk and cook covered for 15-20 minutes. Using a stick blender blend until smooth, or transfer to a blender and do the same. return to heat and taste for seasoning, add slat and pepper as needed.

I added a few dashes of my Habanero Hot sauce and the toasted cornbread croutons.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back at 2015 and Looking Forward to 2016

I have been doing an end of year wrap up for this blog every year and this year will be no different. 2015 brought with it a lot of new opportunities for me and pushed my comfort zone a little. 2016 looks like it is going to be more of the same. This last year started with me teaching a class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It was the first class I had ever taught about cooking wild game and none of the people who signed up for it knew it was going to be about wild game. It was a fun night and a lot of the participants tried things they would never have tried so that was a lot of fun for me. So lets take a look back at some of my favorite creations.

This was a Mallard duck that I had shot and then deboned and stuffed with dates, walnuts, sage and it Italian sausage.

I had shot a Sandhill crane and in an effort to use as much of the bird as possible I braised the leg and thigh portions and made these steam buns.

I wanted to make a burger this year that would blow my socks off and this blue cheese stuffed venison burger did that and more.

Without a doubt I can say that this was the best thing I made all year. It might be the best thing I have ever had. It was a bowl of duck ramen made with homemade duck stock and duck breast from birds I hunted.

One of the highlights of my year was finally getting up to the North Shore and netting some smelt. I didn't come home with barrels full but I did get enough to cook several smelt themed dishes. I still have some left.

My son just wants to help with everything and was a big help with the stinging nettle gnocchi.

I caught the biggest walleye of my life down on the Mississippi River, this big one went back in the water but I caught a few others that made it to the prying pan.

This walleye wrapped in Ramps and bacon was a huge success.

I steamed some walleye with Ramps, bay, lemon and thyme.

This was a lightly fried walleye fillet on a bed of mushrooms and topped with butter poached horseradish. It may sound like a strange combo but I assure you it is.

Walleye in a coconut curry sauce, Enough Said.

I can't believe that this was the first time I had ever cooked anything on a cedar plank. These trout fillets were fantastic.

This was one of those dishes that I just had to sit and look at. On the bottom is a corn cake topped with a fried green tomato then pimento cheese and Home cured bacon. it is surrounded by fried oysters and rhubarb barbecue sauce.

Duck heart terrine.

I tried to up my presentation game and made this birch serving board. On the board are pickled pike and pickled duck gizzards.

Seared duck breasts on a bed of wild rice served with a highbush cranberry sauce.

My gizzard game was strong this year in addition to pickling gizzards I corned a bunch of gizzards and made this gizzard hash.

I also made these corned duck gizzard Rueben Bites

Sandhill Crane Au Poivre

Buttermilk Fried Ruffed Grouse

One of my absolute favorites Elk tongue Tacos

Sharp-tailed grouse covered in a white wine cream sauce.

I have been working on smoking more things and this smoked lake trout was encouraging.

Showing a little of my German side I made this Elk Rouladen.

One of the simplest things I have ever made Seared Northern Pike with almost Burnt Cream.

Over the summer I started using sumac and made a wonderful sumac lemonade that was a refreshing mixer with Proseco.

I found an Elder berry bush in the early part of fall and made elder berry ice cream.

I finally got around to set out some crayfish traps and caught about 10 pound of crayfish.

I had a bumper crop of Habanero's this year and made my own hot sauce. I am going to try and make buffalo wings with this.

Sumac and cocoa crusted deer loin, it was amazing.

I was out chasing squirrels in September and stumbled across this massive Hen of the Woods mushroom. I froze some and dried the rest and still have some to use.

Using that mushroom and the squirrels I shot that day I made a squirrel stroganoff.

This turkey was actually jumped up by a deer that I spooked and came running right at me. I shot it at about 10 yards while it was running straight for me.

Wild Turkey Piccata.

Wild turkey confit with Jarlsberg cheese and highbush cranberry jelly.

I didn't shoot very many ducks this year but the few I did bring home were made into a southwest style duck stew.

My good buddy Rick grew me some corn this year and dried it and sent it to me. I have been trying to use it as much as possible.

The corn is supposed to be all green some of the corn must have cross pollinated with some corn from Wisconsin.

The corn bread was amazing.

Green grits and eggs sounds like a Dr. Seuss story. In the New Year I am hoping to master the art of making Tamales.

Rick also raised me a pig this year and this was the first batch of bacon I made.

I rolled a Pancetta as well.

Elk Enchillada

Crayfish risotto.

One of the things I am most proud of this year is that I was asked by Outdoor Life Magazine to contribute to their new online blog Called the Cast Iron-Chef all about cooking, butchering and using wild game. This Orange Pheasant was one of the article I wrote for them.

This was a duck , apple and sage sausage served on a bed of potatoes and topped with pickled chicken of the woods mushrooms.

One of the last things I made this Year were these Elk Pierogies, they will be up on the Outdoor Life page soon.

2016 looks Like it is going to start off with a bang, I might be going on a buffalo hunt in January. There are a number of things taking place next year. I am going to be doing a few more classes, more details on those as they come. If you haven't already looked up Whitetail Rendezvous make sure you check them out. I have been working with them and hopefully this year we will be putting out an e-book about venison cookery. I will continue to write here as often as I can an I will be writing for Outdoor life weekly. If you have any suggestions or things you'd like to see let me know. I may be investing a little more time and money into this and might be looking into starting my own website as opposed to a hosted one. If there is enough interest. Have a safe and happy New Year and remember to try something new .