Thursday, January 29, 2015

Elk Tongue Tacos

I will be the first to admit that there is nothing appealing about a tongue. If I were to base my food choices simply off how it looked I would never eat a tongue. Fortunately for me I am not squeamish when it comes to food. Tongue can be off putting when you look at it but if you have ever had tongue cooked properly it is some of the best meat around. Over the years I have pickled deer tongue and made corned elk tongue but the one thing I have always wanted to make is tongue tacos. I finally got my chance this year when I received some elk tongues from two different sources. My buddy Ben shot and Elk this year and saved me the tongue, heart and some other meat. Then a friend from work gave me a bag of elk parts after his father-in-law butchered some of the elk he raises. I am now set for odd elk parts for some time. 

I don't have any issue using up the odd parts of an animal. For me it is one of the rewarding challenges of cooking. When you can take a part of an animal that most people shy away from and turn it into something delicious.  A lot of people I know just can't get over that it is a tongue or a heart or any other part that they would normally not eat. I have a strategy for those people. You have to transform the unfamiliar into something they are more familiar with. If I were to cook a heart whole and then place it on a plate nobody would eat it but if I brine that heart, cook it and then slice it thin and make a deer heart pastrami sandwich it changes everything and is now more familiar and therefore more appealing. 

The trick is finding a way to use the offal that still highlights the offal but changes its form to something more appealing. Duck gizzards are one of my favorite organ meats to use. They are a dense little nugget of muscle that is very tough to eat but if you confit them shred them up and make them back into nuggets the richness and flavor of the meat remain while getting rid of the less than appetizing appearance. Taco's are a great way to present food, everyone likes a taco. These are tongue tacos and I would be willing to bet that if I didn't tell anyone they were made out of tongue they would be some of the best tacos ever eaten. The tongue is a very dense muscle and has its own unique fattiness. When it is braised for song periods of time it breaks down and shreds apart to make a rich succulent taco filling. This is really a very simple recipe it just take a little time for the braise. I topped these off with some fresh cilantro, white onion, lettuce, queso fresco, Mexican creme and some hot sauce and they were hands down the best tacos I have ever made. This recipe could be made with a cow tongue if you don't have an elk tongue available. 

Elk Tongue Taco Meat

One elk tongue
16 oz jar of salsa verde 
2 cups of water
3-4 chipotles in adobo sauce Plus 2 tablespoons of the sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place the tongue in a pot of simmering water for 45 minutes to an hour. Then peel the skin off the tongue. Sometime the skin peels right off and sometimes you have to shave it off with a knife.

2. Place the tongue in an oven proof pan that has a lid, add the salsa verde, water, chipotles with sauce and the cumin, then place in a 300 degree over for 4 hours. 

3. Check the tongue for doneness, when the tongue shreds apart easily it is ready. 

4. shred the tongue and add some of the braising liquid to the meat, season with salt and pepper then assemble you tacos.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Buttermilk Fried Grouse

In my experience there are very few things as satisfying to hunt as grouse. That being said I often wonder why I don't spend more time hunting them. There is really nothing like it, the peace and quiet of walking through the woods on a crisp autumn morning is calming to me. Right up to the point when a grouse flushes right next to you and scares the bejeezus out of you. Then your heart is racing and the exhilaration of the hunt hits you. It's at that time you realize that you just stood there and watched the grouse fly away without ever raising your gun. The nice thing about grouse however, is that they very rarely fly to far away and you can usually see where they flew and might get a second chance at them.

Last fall I got to spend a good amount of time in the woods chasing grouse and actually did have some success. My grouse taken home to grouse seen percentage was pretty low but I did get to bring home a few grouse and this off season I am going to be eating some grouse, which is the other great part of grouse hunting. They are some of the best tasting game birds around. I know it is cliche to say they taste like chicken so I will instead say that they taste like a really nice free range chicken should taste. The meat is firm and lean and has a very natural clean almost nutty flavor. I will most definitely be spending more time this year chasing them.

When I was thinking of how I wanted to cook these little guys I came up with a few different ways. The first was to soak in buttermilk and then fry them. This is a very standard way to cook chicken and I figured it would work on grouse just as well. Before I soaked them in buttermilk I deboned them. If you have never deboned a bird before don't be to afraid of it, it really isn't as hard as it might look. Here is a simple video to help you out on deboning a quail.

You could leave the bones in if you want I just really like the idea of being able to pick up the whole thing by its two handles and eating all of it. This recipe will work on the breasts by themselves if you choose to just breast out your birds.  You want to make sure and let the meat sit in the buttermilk mixture for at least an hour but could leave them overnight if you want to.

Buttermilk Fried Grouse 

1 cup of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of hot sauce (I like to use Crystal Hot Sauce)
1 tsp of seasoned salt (like a lawry's or your favorite brand)

1/2 cup of flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt

oil for frying

Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce and seasoned salt together and soak the grouse for at least an hour and up to overnight. Then mix together the flour and seasoned salt and dredge the grouse in the flour mixture until the grouse is completely coated. Set the grouse aside for about 5 minutes to let the breading stick to the grouse then fry in oil over a medium high burner for 4 minutes per side. This is super easy and wonderfully delicious.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sandhill Crane Steam Buns

Most people probably aren't aware that Sand hill Cranes are a huntable bird. I would be willing to bet there are more than a few people out there that don't even know what a Sand hill Crane looks like. And I am most certain, that other than a privileged few, not many people know what a Sand hill Crane tastes like. This is all a very good thing for me and a bad thing for them. If the general public and even most hunters knew how good a Sand hill Crane tasted there might be a problem.

Two years ago I was given some crane to try and was very impressed at how much it tasted like a combination of duck and beef. Two of my favorite things to eat. I have heard many refer to the cranes as the "rib eye of the sky" and I completely understand why. The meat is a dark, rich, red color and when the breast portion is cooked just south of medium rare it takes on a very beef like quality. In fact the first thing I made this year with the crane I got was Steak Au Poivre. Last fall I was given the opportunity to hunt cranes in Northwestern Minnesota, I only got the one crane so I wanted to cook it in as many different ways as possible. The first breast was used for the Au Poivre, the other breast is being cured into a prosciutto and the legs, thighs and wings were all braised together to make these steam buns.

Steam buns are somewhat of a popular item as of late and you are starting to see them pop up on menus everywhere. There seem to be an almost limitless amount of variations for these.  I was looking for recipes for the actual bun and found a sight that claimed that Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk biscuits can be used as a substitute. I was just to curious to not give it a try. If you roll out the biscuits to about a 1/2 inch thick, fold them in half and then place them in your steamer for 12 minutes you get a pretty serviceable steam bun. The texture is light and airy and the flavor is pretty similar to other steam buns I have had. Add some hoisin and some quick pickled carrots and cucumbers and you have a sand hill crane steam bun.

Sand hill Crane Steam buns

The leg, thigh and wing potions of one sand hill crane
2 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
11/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cooking sake
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbls oyster sauce
2 pods star anise
2 tbls honey
6 cloves garlic smashed

Rub the roast with the five spice powder then heat the oil in an oven safe pan until hot. Add the crane and brown on all sides. Remove the crane from the pan and add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and place the crane back in the pan. Place the pan in a 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the crane is easily shredded with a fork. 

For the buns

I used the Pillsbury grands buttermilk biscuits, roll them out till they are about a half inch thick then fold them in half and steam them in your steamer for 12 minutes.

For the pickles

Shred some carrots and cucumbers and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, let sit for 20 minutes and then cover with rice vinegar and let sit for at least 30 minutes before using.

To assemble

Take a hot steam bun and squirt about a teaspoon of hoisin on the bun, then add the meat and top with the pickles serve immediately and enjoy. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Big Sarge

One of the things I learned in the Military is that just about everything can be made into a sandwich. During boot camp we would grab a couple pieces of bread and stuff everything we could in between them and eat. It really didn't matter if it was turkey and potatoes or lasagna and salad it all got made into a sandwich and eaten as quickly possible. On one of my deployments over seas there was a 24 hour sandwich shop attached to the chow hall and you could go in there when ever you wanted and make yourself a sandwich. My good friend Andy and I would head in there from time to time and make some fairly impressive sandwiches in our off time.
Its sort of a funny thing in the military, we were always working out and we were always hungry. Food was one of the few things we had that we could look forward to. Heading up to the sandwich shop and making some sandwiches to go and then hanging out playing Splinter Cell or Cabelas Big Game Hunter in our down time was about all we had to keep us sane. Every Wednesday they would have a Mongolian Barbecue and we could go to the chow hall and build our own plate of food. Wednesday's were always looked forward to and by the time you got done with your Mongolian barbecue you felt like you needed to go for another run just to burn it off.
I was deployed with Andy a couple of times and food was one of the things we bonded over. Its an interesting thing when you spend every day with someone and then come home and you don't get to see them as often. It is one of the hardest parts about being in the military. Andy came down last week and even though we haven't seen each other in a while you would never know. We spent some time catching and then we had some sandwiches.
Knowing that Andy was coming I thought I would make something special. I had been given about 10 pounds of wild boar and had made some wild boar Italian sausage. So I thought I would make Sausage and peppers. I left about half the sausage uncased so instead of using sausage links for our sandwiches I made patties and then made a sweet pepper relish to go on top. We all used to call Andy, Big Sarge, because he was in charge of all of us. So I think I will call this sandwich "The Big Sarge".

The Big Sarge
One pound of Italian Sausage
provolone cheese
hoagie style  buns
 For the relish
1 medium red onion diced
2 Pepper (I used one red and one yellow) roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 head of garlic roasted
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tsp chipotle powder
salt and pepper to taste.
1. preheat the oven to 425 degrees, cut the top off of one head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and  then wrap in tin foil. roast int he oven for 35 minutes then let cool and squeeze out the garlic cloves and make into a paste.
2. roast the peppers while you are doing the garlic then place them into a paper bag and let cool. When the peppers are cool peel the skin off discard the seed and give a rough chop.
3. Dice the onion and saute in a pan with olive oil until soft, add the garlic and the peppers and then stir in the remaining  ingredient for the relish.
4. Form the sausage into patties the same size as your buns and grill or fry in a pan until cooked through.
5. place a patty on each bun top with cheese and the relish and then place back into the preheated oven for 5 minutes.
Serve with your favorite beer and enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Classics With A twist


Last year I was approached by Cooks Of Crocus Hill and asked if I would be interested in teaching a class about cooking wild game. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that anybody would ever read this blog let alone ask me to teach a class based on the things I write here. The team at Cooks did a great job of getting the class set up and on the 2nd of January 2015 I taught my first class called Classics with a Twist. I thought the name was great and until I heard it hadn't realized that I do take classic dishes and put a wild twist on them. 

I do some writing for a blog called Simple, Good and Tasty where I have written a series of articles called Hunting For Dinner. Many of those articles have been about classic dishes that I have changed to incorporate wild game. Fried Chicken and waffles morphed into Fried Squirrel and waffles. I turned the almost inedible coot into Cootechino and many other recipes. For my class I was going to do three of my favorites. Fried panfish spring rolls, pheasant and dumplings and a juniper roasted venison loin.

 My fried panfish spring rolls were a big hit served with a traditional Thai dipping sauce. Due to a problem sourcing blue gill or crappie I ended up using ocean perch but I am pretty sure this recipe would be delicious using just about any fish.

My pheasant and dumplings recipe is one of the simplest recipes you will find and can be used on just about any kind of small game. I have used it on squirrels and pheasants and I would bet it would be great on grouse or even wild turkey legs and thighs. 

I will admit upfront that doing this class was a stretch for me, I was incredibly nervous. I don't know why, I had cooked these dishes many times in the past. I think I was just worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the pressure of putting out food for 15 people on a specific timeline. I am not a professional chef I have no idea how to work in a big kitchen. The staff at Cooks were extremely helpful and really made me look good.

The main dish of the evening was the juniper roasted venison loin. Because of certain restrictions I wasn't able to use wild venison and had to use farm raised venison. These are venison tenderloins from Durham ranch. I was very impressed with the quality of the meat and was able to cook it perfectly. 

The venison and the bourbon cream sauce were a big hit and hopefully some of the class who had never had venison before were convince to make it a part of there future meals.

I was shocked that all of the people who came to the class had never read any of my blog posts most of them didn't even know I had a blog. They were exactly the kind of crowd I was hoping for. I don't want to come across arrogant but, the name of this blog is You Have to Cook It Right and I am certain that if people who don't like wild game were to have had any of the dishes I made that night I would be able to convert them.

As a special treat the folks at cooks had asked me if I would throw together some kind of dessert. Since I am not really known for my dessert I thought I would serve up some Glug  and make it into some Ice Cream. Pretty much everyone agreed that it was the best Ice cream they had ever eaten.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014, Not a Bad Year

2014 is almost a distant memory and at the end of every year I like to put together a post of some of my favorite dishes. I had a pretty good year this year and had a few new experiences. In 2015 I am going to try to do more fish and spend some more time fishing, we will see if that actually happens. I am starting 2015 with something new. On the 2nd of January I am teaching a coking class featuring all wild game which should be entertaining. As far as resolutions go I am hoping to be more organized with my posts and plan on post more frequently, again we will see if that happens. Thank you all for reading and I hope you all have a good New Year. 

My fried crappie spring rolls were a big hit with the kids, they were so good that they are on the menu for my first class at Cooks of Crocus Hill on the 2nd of January. 
I really tried to expand my fish cookery this year. This Butter basted walleye was delicious.
Fried Blue Gill Po'boy, hands down the best fish sandwich I have ever made
I figured I would get a few off color remarks when I posted about cooking and eating beaver, what I didn't expect was to start a debate about ethical hunting and trapping practices.
This year was the first year I have actually cooked some smelt, I didn't catch any myself but I was given several bags of smelt to play around with.
It is no secret that I love Ramps, this year I took that love to the next level with a Ramp dip that will blow your mind.  
In an attempt to use pan fish in as many ways possible I tried Crappie Tom Kha.
I cured a lot of Guanciale this year

And used it in a lot of different pasta dishes, like this  bucatini all'amatriciana

I found a few new ways to use up all the duck gizzards I get.

I spent a lot of time with my fishing partner.

I am always playing around with new ways to use up some of the offal I get and dry cured a deer heart this year, it was a lot better than you might think.

I took my first trip over to lake Michigan and caught a couple of decent fish. I have eaten a lot of salmon in my life but having it that fresh has spoiled me an now I will be going every year to resupply my freezer.


Thin Fried catfish was new for me this year and will be a regular part of my cooking from now on.

I had a lot of duck gizzards to use up this year and was really pleased with these Fried Duck Gizzard Rilletes
I finally had a good crop of tomatoes and was able to can about 30 quarts of different tomato product. I made ketchup and pickled green tomatoes and chutney and sauce and salsa you name it I probably made it.

These golden pear tomatoes were my favorites.

The yellow pears made some of the best tomato soup I have ever had.

My Teryaki Salmon meatballs were a huge success
I spent a little time fishing this summer and thought I caught a few bigger fish, this one was probably my favorite.
Probably my favorite discovery of 2014 were dry cured egg yolks. Incredibly simple to make and they can be used on just about everything.

These walleye cakes are fantastic.

Early in the hunting season I got a couple of nice sized fox squirrels. I love eating squirrel and decided to try something different.

What I came up with was a Squirrel and dumplings recipe.

Not everything I made this year made it on to the blogosphere, these duck breasts were an experiment of sorts made with a peach habenero pan sauce and serve or blue corn grits with Pickled corn.

These duck breast were roasted with salt and pepper and served with a green tomatoes, Apple and squash chutney.

Sometimes I don't have to look very hard to find something wild to eat this chicken of the woods mushroom dish was found on a Willow tree in my neighbors back yard.

Walking through he grouse woods in northern Minnesota.

I shot my very first Sandhill crane this year, I haven't cooked it yet but will probably get to that early in the New Year.

I was given an elk heart and made elk heart tartare.

I have wanted to make a boudin Blanc out of pheasant for many years and thanks to a friend of mine giving me a bunch of pheasant I was able to.  

I had a nearly perfect day of duck hunting in early November. 


2014 was a great year, I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted out hunting, fishing and foraging but I still managed enough time to continue writing this blog for another year. maybe 2015 will bring more time in the field. Until then I will sit back and enjoy a cocktail.
Thanks for reading.