Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nettle Agnolotti with Ramp and Ricotta Filling

One of my favorite parts of spring used to be one of my least favorite parts. Stinging nettles have always been a nuisance to me and then I taught myself how to pick them and eat them. Now they are one of my favorite things. The only problem with them now is that once they get to big they lose some of their edibility. They get a little woody and aren't as delicious.

So how do you keep the young tender nettles so you can make nettle pastas and gnocchi through out the summer. The answer is to freeze them. I recently picked about a pound and a half of nettles and after rinsing them and drying them off I sauteed them in butter with a little salt and pepper then threw them in the blender to puree them. Once pureed I poured them into ice cube trays and froze them. I measured it out and 3 1/2 cubes is about equal to 1/2 a cup. Now I can have my nettle pastas all through out the year.

I have eaten nettles in dozens of different ways, I have made nettle soup and have used nettles to make chimichurri and pesto. I have even made a nettle beer that tasted pretty good. But my all time favorite thing to do with nettles is to make gnocchi and pasta. Not only does it give you a beautiful looking pasta but it adds a distinctive and wonderful flavor. The flavor of the pasta is so good in fact that you don't really need to sauce it at all. Just a toss in brown butter and a light sprinkle of Parmesan and you are good to go.

These little agnolotti are surprisingly simple to make, they do require a pasta roller but you can pick up a decent hand cranked pasta roller for about 30 bucks. After you make the dough you feed it through you roller until you get a thin piece about 4 inches wide and 2-3 feet long. then you pipe the filling out onto the pasta. For piping it out I use a one gallon Ziploc bag and cut one corner off so you can squeeze your filling out onto the pasta. Then all you have to do is roll the pasta over the filling until you have one long tube. then using your fingers press the pasta down about every inch or so to make the individual agnolotti. Cut the pieces with a knife and then crimp the two open sides with a fork. 

You will end up with these beautiful little pillows of pasta and filling. For these I had been out trout fishing and found some Ramps (wild onions) so I sauteed a cup of ramp leaves and chopped them fine and mixed that with ricotta and Parmesan to make the filling. After cooking the agnolotti I tossed them with some brown butter, a tablespoon of lemon juice and some capers and topped them with some grated Parmesan. They were absolutely fabulous.

Nettle Pasta

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup nettle puree
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Make a mound of flour in the middle of a large surface and make a well in the middle. Stir the yolks and nettles together and pour into the well. Add the pinch of salt and then with your fingers start to stir the nettle puree into the flour and work it all together until you get one ball of dough. If it is to dry add a few drops of water at a time until you get a dough with the consistency of Play-dough. once you have reached this point the possibilities are endless. You can make the agnolotti or you can make any other variety of pasta. 

For the filling

1 cup sauteed ramp leaves (roughly chopped)
1 cup ricotta 
1/4 cup grated Parmesan. 

combine all the ingredients and you are all set to make ravioli or agnolotti or tortellini.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chicken Fried Venison Steaks

There are very few meals that make me as happy as chicken fried steak. It doesn't matter if its breakfast, lunch or dinner I love chicken fried steak. Even shitty chicken fried steak is good. This has been my go to meal for just about every hangover I have ever had. It is also my grab a bite after the bar go to as well. You can find it on almost every diner menu and it never changes. I have been trying to make a really good wild game version of chicken fried steak for about 10 years now and this is probably my best effort to date. In the past I have tried duck breast and elk heart but a perfect pieces of white-tail deer really can't be beat.

 I grew up eating a similar dish my grandmother used to make, fried round steak is great but doesn't have the same crunchy breading on the outside. The round steak isn't pounded out either so it isn't as tender. These venison steaks that I pounded to about a 1/4 inch thick were fork tender. This is always a crowd pleaser and I never seem to cook enough it always disappears fast. Served up with some pan gravy mashed potatoes and last years canned beans this is one of my favorite meals.

Chicken Fried Venison

4 venison steaks pound to about a 1/4 thickness
1 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
seasoned salt
Canola oil for frying

Pound the steaks and then season them with the seasoned salt. Add a teaspoon of the seasoned salt to the beat eggs and the flour. Dredge the steaks in the seasoned flour and then into the eggs and then back into the flour. Shake off the excess and then set them aside for five minutes before frying to let the breading set. Pour enough oil into the pan to give you a 1/4 inch depth and heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the steaks for 4-5 minutes on each side making sure your oil isn't to hot and burn the breading. After frying set the steaks aside to make the gravy.

For the gravy 

1/4 cup of oil
1/4 cup of the left over seasoned flour
salt and pepper

Pour off the excess oil leaving about a 1/4 cup in the pan, add a 1/4 cup of the seasoned flour to the pan and stir until the four and oil are combined. slowly add milk while stirring constantly adding a little milk at a time. the gravy will thicken and clump. Keep adding milk a little bit at a time until you get the consistency of gravy you want. When the gravy is just right season with salt and pepper.

serve with mashed potatoes and beans or with hashbrowns and eggs. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Cedar Braised Buffalo

I just finished reading the book Lord Grizzly, a book about Hugh Glass and his adventures or rather misadventures. One of the things I took away from the book is that they cooked and ate a lot of Buffalo in the book. They talk about taking the whole hump of the buffalo and boiling it for long hours until the meat is tender and delicious. The way they talk about buffalo in the book it made me want to try cooking more buffalo. Lucky for me mybuddy Ben had gone to Montana this last January and brought back some buffalo. I have been slowly working my way through it and have found it to be delicious but it can be a little tough.

The whole roasts and larger chunks of meat that I have been full of sinew and connective tissue and it has made for some challenging eating. I had corned a buffalo roast for St Paddy's day and even that didn't tenderize the meat as much as I had hoped. I remembered back to last October when I went to a dinner put on by Sean Sherman and one of the dishes he prepared was a shredded buffalo with Hominy. I remembered it being very tender and delicious so I sent him a message with the hope that he would let me in on his secret.

Not only did he share his method but clued me in on the seasoning as well. That buffalo that I remember being so good was braised with cedar and maple syrup. No fancy spices or cooking techniques just straight forward deliciousness. Chef Sherman suggested I use fresh flat cedar and since I didn't know where I was going to get that I used cedar paper which is available with most grilling supplies. The cedar paper and some Maple syrup is really all the seasoning that goes into it. Cedar always reminds me of my grandparents Sauna and I really had never thought mush of using it as a seasoning agent. I have grilled on cedar planks but that adds more of a smoked flavor to the fish or whatever I am cooking. This actually adds the cedar flavor to the meat and it really is awesome.

I ended up cooking this for 18 hours, I don't know if it needed all that but the first 8 hours weren't enough and by the time I got home to it, it had been 18 hours. The meat shredded easily off the bone and the cedar really stood out. There was just a hint of sweetness from the syrup and it was mind blowingly good.

Cedar Braised Buffalo Roast.

1 4 lbs. Buffalo roast
5 sheets of cedar paper
1/2 cup of maple syrup
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 can of white hominy, drained
1 can of sweet corn, drained

Rub the roast with salt and then bring the oil up to heat in a large frying pan. when the oil is hot sear the roast on all sides until well caramelized. Place the cedar sheets in the bottom of a crock pot and then transfer the roast on to the cedar. pour the maple syrup over the roast and then fill the crock pot with water until you almost cover the roast. Set the crock pot on low and cook until it shreds apart. When the roast is fork tender transfer the roast to a large bowl and shred add about a cup of the braising liquid to the roast and then stir in a can of hominy and a can of corn. Toss til combined and serve. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spice Rubbed Orange Can Woodducks

Duck are one of my favorite things that I hunt and eat. Wood ducks especially are some of the best eating ducks out there. I had these three wood ducks left over from last year and was saving them for something special. That something special came in the mail a couple of weeks back in the form of a new cookbook. The Field to Table Cookbook is a new book by Susan Ebert. In the book she has a recipe for teal that involves stuffing an open can of orange juice inside the duck similar to a beer can chicken. Why this never occurred to me in the past I do not know.

The idea alone is brilliant, let the flavors of the orange juice steam inside the duck and cook it from the inside and out at the same time. These wood ducks were perfectly cooked in about 10 minutes. I the book Ebert uses a jerk spice blend to season the outside and inside of the birds. I opted for a southwest spice blend with cumin chipotle powder and the results were amazing. The skin was crisp and flavorful and the meat was tender and juicy. This might be the most perfect method for cooking whole ducks that I have ever tried.

The method for these ducks is a little time consuming in the book. It asks you to age the duck for a day and then season them and age them for another day. So if you are going to go by the book plan ahead. I only seasoned the ducks and let them sit overnight before grilling them and they were amazing.

For the spice blend

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Rub the spice blend into the ducks, inside and outside and let sit overnight in the fridge. Preheat your grill to high. open up as many 6 ounce cans of juice as you have ducks. Pour out about half of the juice from each can and reserve for another use. Insert the cans inside the ducks and set them up on the grill. Close the lid and cook for about ten minutes. You are looking to get the ducks to about 140. This will work with any of the smaller ducks.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rabbit Burgers with Buffalo Sauce and Blue Cheese Celery Slaw

I am sure that I am not the only hunter who has experienced this phenomena. When you are out hunting deer you see rabbits and then you decided to go get you shotgun and hunt rabbit and see deer. I always seem to see rabbits when I am hunting something else and when I dedicate some time to hunting rabbits I see nothing. I have been lucky enough to get a few rabbits while out pheasant and grouse hunting but that it. And it s to bad really because I really like eating rabbits.

This last hunting season I didn't get a single rabbit while out hunting but I did get several rabbits to put in the freezer thanks to my father-in-laws live traps and a friend of mines dog. One of the ladies I work with would send me a text occasionally that her dog had killed another rabbit and would I like it. The answer of course is yes. So I ended up with 4 rabbits from her and a couple from Ted and before you know it I had a bunch of rabbits to use.

I normally would have just fried them or made some kind of stew but I had read a couple of different recipes that called for ground rabbit. I had 6 rabbits and figure I could bone them out and get a decent amount of meat to grind and then be able to try some of those recipes. From the six rabbits I got about 4 pounds of meat. Rabbits are very lean so I added some fat to it. I had ground bacon ends in with some venison and really enjoyed the results so I ground a pound of bacon ends into the rabbit as well. The first recipe I tried was a rabbit ragu and it was fantastic.

I had watched an episode of the River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstahl a while back and he had made bunny burgers. The idea has sat with me for quite a while because I really wanted to make these burgers. The patties are just the ground rabbit and bacon ends that I grilled. By themselves they were out of this world delicious. But I couldn't just leave it there, I had to take to the next step with my Buffalo Blue Cheese Bunny Burgers. After grilling the patties I smothered them in homemade buffalo sauce and topped them with a shredded celery and blue cheese slaw.  The end result was not just one of the best burgers I have ever made but one of the best burgers I have ever had.

To put it all together you could use a store bought buffalo sauce or make your own.

1/2 cup Crystal hot sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter

In a small sauce pan add the hot sauce and brown sugar and heat over medium heat until is boils. then start whisking in the cold butter in small pieces. Remove from the heat before all the butter is melted and set aside for the burgers.

For the celery blue cheese slaw

6 stalks of celery
4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup butter milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste.

Using a vegetable peeler shred the stalks of celery, Combine the other ingredients together to make the blue cheese dressing and then combine with the celery.

Grill the burgers to 165 degrees and then top with buffalo sauce and celery slaw.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Smoked Fish melts

I had read a book a while back called Fishing For Buffalo, it was all about fishing and eating some of the less desirable varieties of fish. That is something I have been very interested in because I love catching a large variety of fish and also get a lot of joy in cooking and eating things that most people wouldn't. See my post about bowfishing for Carp.  I am also a big fan of bow fishing but I hate waste so I have to eat what ever I get. That said not all fish make it easy to eat them.

I grew up on Leech lake and every spring just after the ice went out the suckers would come up to the shoreline and spawn. My uncle would take me down to the shore with a five gallon bucket and dip net and net up a bunch of suckers. He would then chop the heads off and gut them then take them down the road to Mrs. Bundy who would then smoke them and give them back. That was probably my first experience with eating rough fish and I remember loving those suckers. The meat was sweet and smoky and had a nice firm texture. I really wish Mrs. Bundy were around today to share here secret. 

I have bee trying my hand at smoking some of the rough fish I catch and have had some success with Sheepshead and carp. Last year I was down fishing the Mississippi River with my friend Eric and he caught this redhorse sucker. He was going to throw it back but I talked him into keeping it so I could try smoking it. I had read that the redhorse is a very good eating fish because they need to live in water that has a higher oxygen content. I figure the worst case was I smoked another fish and improved my technique. Best case it might be really good. 

What I ended up with was something in between. The fish wasn't bad but it did have sort of a grassy flavor to it that wasn't overwhelming but was noticeable. the other thing the redhorse has that I was unprepared for was a shit ton of bones. I knew they were a bony fish but wasn't aware they were full of some of the craziest bones I had ever seen. Not only the Y bones but there were these odd little fan shaped bones that seemed to be all through out the meat.

Once I finished picking through all the bones I was left with about 8 ounces of decent looking meat. I decided to use it in a fish melt recipe I had seen Mario Batali make. As a smoked fish melt it was really good but you could still pick up some of that grassiness. I really want to try these melts with smoked salmon, I think they would be out of this world. I might have to book a trip over to Lake Michigan this summer. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My New Best Venison Burger

I have been trying to make the ideal venison burger and every time I make a new one I feel like I'm getting closer. My last venison burger was really good but it still felt like it was missing something. I now know what that something was. Over the years I have heard several people say that you need to add fat to your venison burgers. I have tried beef fat and pork fat with good results from each but nothing that blew me away. My uncle always said that you should grind bacon into your burger meat. I had read this in a couple of different places but it was Hank Shaw who turned me on to the idea of buying bacon ends at the grocery store and using them. Bacon ends are just the scraps left over from bacon and are mostly fat but add a touch of smoke flavor to your burgers.

I kept telling myself I was going to try grinding bacon into some venison and never got around to it. Finally this year I set aside 7 pounds of venison to be ground with 3 pounds of bacon ends. I packaged this separately and labeled it FOR BURGERS ONLY. Yesterday I finally got around to making my New favorite venison burger.

I was very happy with the results, the burgers held together great and cooked evenly and were juicy and delicious. The addition of the bacon ends gave the venison a sweet smokiness that wasn't overwhelming but very mild and pleasant. In addition to the bacon I added a little garlic powder and onion powder, some salt and pepper and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I grilled the burgers and achieved that nice cooked crust you can only get from a grill. So far these are the best burgers I have ever made and luck me I have 9 more pounds to use this year.

Venison and Bacon Fat burgers. 

1  lbs of pre mixed venison and bacon ground meat
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix together all ingredients and form into patties, grill over medium high heat and serve with your favorite toppings.