Friday, April 24, 2015

Catfish Two Ways

I have a love hate relationship with catfish. I love to catch catfish, they are one of the best fighters out there and can really give you a work out if you get into a good sized fish. I love to eat good catfish, the only problem is, and this is the part I hate. I can never figure out what makes catfish good or bad. I don't buy catfish and the catfish I catch can be firm and sweet and delicious. It can also taste like an aquarium water filter. Its kind of a bizarre game of Russian roulette and all you have to do is take that first bite. 

My Uncle lives down in Iowa On the Mississippi river and has fished catfish all his life. Every time I have had catfish he catches and cooks they are delicious. I am not sure if he just knows how to catch the good tasting ones or if I am eternally cursed to continue playing the game of roulette. I have experimented with a number of different cooking methods and found that the only recipe that seems to work every time is my catfish boudin recipe.  The boudin recipe has a certain amount of heat and spice to it that seem to work really well. So I thought I would try a couple of other recipes that involce a little heat. The first recipe I got from Alton Brown and is for Catfish Ceviche. For the most part I followed the recipe, but I did add a little extra cumin and a bunch of chipotle powder to give it some extra heat. It was one of the best ceviche's I have ever eaten and is one of my new go to recipes for catfish. It is a raw preparation so if you are going to make it I wold suggest freezing your catfish for at least a month before making it.

The second recipe is a fried catfish with a red curry. This is hands down my new favorite catfish recipe. I borrowed a few different elements from other recipes for this. The first and most important is the batter I used to fry the catfish. I mixed 2 egg yolks with a quarter cup of corn starch and 2 tablespoons a piece of fish sauce and soy sauce.  After you mix those ingredients together you place your catfish fillet in the batter and let is sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then fry it in hot canola oil for 5 minutes per side. Not only does the batter add a great flavor to the fish but it ends up very light and crisp. then all you have to do is top it with the curry and serve with rice or noodles. If you enjoy spicy food I highly recommend you give it a try.
Red Curry
1/4 cup coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons of red curry paste ( depending on how spicy you like it)
1 15.5 ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup palm sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste
Heat the coconut oil and then add the curry paste. Stir and fry the paste for 2-3 minutes until fragrant, then add the palm sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 15 minutes, longer if you want a thicker sauce. Pour the sauce over the fried fillet and enjoy.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Duck Ramen

I am embarrassed to admit that up until about three months ago the only Ramen I had ever eaten was the cheap instant variety that is found in every grocery store. What's even more embarrassing is that I lived in Japan for two years when I was in the Navy. Ramen seems to be very popular lately and is getting a lot of attention both locally and across the country. I figured it was time I got in on the craze so I started looking around for places that serve Ramen so that I could start sampling a few different varieties.

I tried a Tonkatsu Ramen with a curry broth at Masa, in Minneapolis that was my favorite by far, until I made my own. I also tried two different Shoyu Ramens one at Moto-I in Minneapolis and the other at United Noodles in Minneapolis. Both were very good and the thing I like most about these bowls of Ramen, was the noodles. The Ramen noodles from the instant packages are horrible in comparison to the noodles that I had in all three of the Ramens I tried. After a little research I found out that I needed to find fresh Ramen noodles and try cooking them. I checked all the Asian food stores in my area and had no luck finding fresh ramen. When I was up at United Noodles however I did find fresh ramen noodles called Kaedama made by Sun. They come in a two pack and can be frozen for up to 3 months so I stocked up. You can buy the noodles by themselves or with soup packet very similar to the instant variety.

The noodles don't take long to cook, the instructions on the back give time frames based on what texture you want your noodles. I cooked the noodles for 3 minutes and the firm chewy texture was exactly what I wanted. The noodles actually had a spring to them that you just can't get with instant ramen.  

For this bowl of ramen I kind of used a mash up of several different recipes but if you had to classify this as a certain type of ramen I suppose it would be a Shoyu Ramen. A proper bowl of ramen is not a quick lunch time meal. It requires many different steps and if you are going to make this at home it is kind of an involved process.

I should throw out a disclaimer here, I am not a ramen expert. In fact when I started reading about ramen I was shocked at how many different kinds of ramen there are and how very little I actually new about ramen. There are terms and techniques that I have never heard of and even after looking them up I'm still not sure what they mean. So this recipe for ramen may not be as complete as it should be but it is still very good.

When I decided to make a bowl of ramen I knew one thing, I wanted to make a duck focused bowl of ramen and incorporate a few other wild ingredients into the meal. Ideally I would have used some type of wild mushroom that I foraged but when I made this there was still 6 inches of snow on the ground so I bought enoki mushroom at the store. When I read about ramen broth there were an endless amount of recipes on the Internet and in my cookbooks at home. All of them start with bones or carcasses of some sort. I felt that I could skip that step because I had already make duck stock from last years ducks that I shot. All I would need to do is add the other flavors to the stock. For the Duck Ramen Broth I used:

2 quarts of duck stock
1 thumb sized knob of ginger
1 head of garlic
10 knots of kombu

I simmered all the ingredients together and reduced the stock down to about 1 quart. When the stock is finished it has a very pleasant flavor of duck and ginger with a hint of garlic and some earthiness from the kombu.

 The next step is to make the Tare, the Tare is where you are going to get that umami flavor in your ramen. It is a combination of:

1 cup soy sauce
5 grams of bonito flakes
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon of mirin
a thumb sized knob of ginger
half a head of garlic
2 green onions (roughly chopped)

Bring all this to a boil and then let sit until room temperature then pour through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth to get all the little flakes out. This is what you will put in the bowl first to flavor the broth. You add 2-3 tablespoons to each 8 ounces of broth depending on how flavorful you want your ramen. To add just a bit more flavor and add some fat I combined

2 tablespoons of duck fat
2 cloves of minced garlic
pinch of salt

Then I added 2 teaspoons of that mixture to the bowl. At this point I poured in the piping hot broth and added the noodles right out of the boiling water and gave it a quick stir then it was time to garnish. For my Garnish I used some hard boiled eggs that were soaked in some soy sauce and sake. I also simmered some duck breasts using 1/2 a cup of the tare to flavor the water. Place the duck breasts in a pan add the tare and then cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes then slice the duck breast about a 1/4 inch thick. I added the enoki mushrooms and some chopped green onions but to add a little kick of flavor I had some wild ramps that I had fermented. I added about a tablespoon of that and a 1/4 sheet of Nori .

There you have it, my version of a Duck Ramen. It might not be the most traditional bowl of ramen out there but it was absolutely the best bowl of ramen I have ever eaten. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Ducky Philly Cheese Steak

The way I see it ducks are basically the pigs of the sky. They are a versatile and delicious meat and can be used in just about everything. Why it has taken me so long to make a duck Philly cheese steak, I don't know. Last duck season was good to me and I still have a good supply of duck so I figured it was time to start using some of it up.
I have eaten a lot of Philly cheese steaks in my life and for the most part they were all good. I have tried making them with venison and antelope and they were pretty good but not nearly as good as this one made with duck. There is just something about the way duck cooks and gets those crispy little bits at the end that made this sandwich better. Topped of with grilled onions and peppers this is now one of my favorite sandwiches.
The secret to this recipe is to slice the duck breasts very thin. The best way to accomplish this is to place the breasts in the freezer for about 45 minutes until they are almost frozen. Then take a very sharp knife and slice the breasts about an eighth of an inch thick if possible.  The pieces cook very quickly and they with shrink a little and when they do the pieces get a little thicker as well. If you can keep your slices nice and thin your whole sandwich with be tender and delicious.
Duck Philly Cheese Steak
1 pound duck breasts, sliced (about 4 mallard breasts)
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 hoagie rolls
2 peppers
1 onion
8 slices of provolone cheese
Mix the duck and seasonings together with the Worcestershire and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Cook over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until all the pieces are cooked through. Top with grilled onions and peppers and provolone cheese.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grilled Salmon with a Habanaro Peach Glaze

I go through streaks with this blog, sometimes I am feeling the drive to write more and sometimes I am not. I am still cooking a lot and taking pictures of everything but the creative juices just don't flow in the writing department. I really want to post regularly but I get lazy and before you know it I have gone 2 weeks without making a single post. In those 2 weeks we here in Minnesota have gone from sunny 50 degree days back down to  30's and 8 inches of snow on the ground.  Before the snow hit I got some of the outdoor clean up done and fired up the grill for the first time this year. I had one salmon fillet left from last years trip to Lake Michigan so I thought I would cut it up and have it for dinner.

Last summer I had made a habanero peach jam. It is one of my favorite jams and really goes great on an English muffin. it is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the peaches and the heat of the peppers. I was thinking about it all winter and wanted to see if I could use it in something else. What I came up with was to mix it with some soy sauce, Mirin and sake to make a nice glaze for my salmon.

I like using my grill but grilling fish is one of those things that never seems to work for me. The fish usually ends up falling apart or burning and I just can't seem to get it right. This salmon actually turned out really well. I had read a few techniques for grilling fish and this one seemed to work. basically you leave the skin on and grill the fish over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes basting the salmon every five minutes with your glaze. The skin on the bottom burned but the meat itself was perfectly cooked and the skin peeled right off with out any problems. My glaze was delicious and the sweet and heat of the jam really came through on the fish.

Grilled Salmon with a Habanaro Peach Glaze

4-6 pieces of salmon about 6 oz. a piece
1/4 cup Peach Habanero jam (you can find all sorts of pepper infused jams you and of them you would like)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/4 cup sake
2 clove garlic, minced

mix the glaze together and then marinade the salmon in the glaze for about 30 minutes before you grill. Preheat you grill to medium low, about 300 degrees and then put the salmon on the grill. Don't move the salmon once it is on the grill. using a brush baste the fish with he left over marinade every five minutes. Grill for 15-20 minutes. top with green onion or chives and enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burger

With out a doubt the most popular post I have ever written is my venison burgers. I think that's because everybody loves a good burger. For the most part burgers are a staple in the American diet. I know when I was a kid, burger night was always one of my favorite meals. Mom's burgers and a chocolate shake made sure of that. I love being able to make burgers with wild game. In the past I have made them with deer, buffalo and duck and the occasional catfish burger. But I still haven't made a wild game juicy lucy.

For those that don't know, a juicy lucy is a burger that has the cheese stuffed inside the burger. They are very popular here in Minnesota and it seems like everybody serves one. There is even some debate as to who made the original juicy lucy, Both the 5-8 club and Matt's bar claim to be the home of the juicy lucy. Both are delicious but neither is made with wild game so I made my own. I used my own burger recipe and decided to use blue cheese instead of cheddar. I also like a little sweet with my salty so i added some maple syrup to the fried onions. I topped my burger with a little Mississippi Comeback sauce if you have never tried it I would highly recommend it. It is addicting as hell and goes great with just about everything. It reminds me a little bit of thousand Island dressing only with a kick.

When you make this burger it is nice to use a ring mold of some sort to hold the burger while you make a well in the middle for the cheese and then cover it with a thinner patty. Fry the burger in a little butter and then dive in. Be warned however, the cheese in the middle is often very hot an when you bite in it can squirt out and burn you. So eat at your own risk.

Jamie's 100% venison burger
1 pound ground venison (preferably neck meat)
2 tablespoons minced roasted garlic
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together and form patties

Monday, February 23, 2015

Elk Rouladen

One of the funniest parts about cooking is that you never know where or when the inspiration for a dish is going to come. Old family favorites or a Disney movie you just never know when the idea is going to hit you. These Rouladen are one of those things that I would never have guessed I would make. After all I have never made them before and the only time I have ever eaten them was when I was in the army and they served them in the chow hall. I remember eating them and thinking, god what a mess, why would anyone want to eat these. I now work at the VA hospital in Minneapolis and I see these horrible looking things on the patients menu from time to time. I actually see a lot of things I used to have in the military on the menu at the VA. None of it ever made me stop and think, Oh I can't wait to try that at home. For whatever reason the last time they served rouladen I felt the urge to look them up and see how they are supposed to be made.

The Roulade's I had in the Army were just slices of beef rolled around mashed potatoes and cooked in gravy. The ones at the VA aren't much different. When I looked them up I found out that the reason I didn't care for them is because the ones I had experienced weren't cooked the way they are supposed to be. And for a guy who claims that everything can be tasty if you cook it right I decided to take on the challenge. 

Rouladen are traditionally made with beef or veal although after some digging I found that the dish was originally made with venison and in some areas pork. It is never sliced beef that has been rolled around potatoes. Most versions are some type of cheap cut of beef that has been pounded out flat. Then stuffed with mustard, bacon, onion and pickles, rolled and then braised in some type of red wine to make a gravy. I just happened to have some nice elk chops and some homemade gherkins so all I would need is some bacon. I grabbed some great Thielen's bacon and I was set to make my rouladen.  

I was completely blown away at how wonderful a properly made rouladen could be. The elk was fork tender and the bacon, onion, pickle stuffing was amazing. You might think that this was a really heavy dish but it really didn't feel that way. The gherkins really brighten it up and if you don't overdue the gravy It is really a nice dish.

Elk Rouladen 

6 elk chops (you could use venison or beef or pork)
6 slices of thick cut bacon
1/2 of a red onion
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
12 good sized gherkins or 6 pickle spears
Dijon mustard
flour to dredge the rouladen season with salt and pepper
butchers twine to tie the rouladen
2 cups venison stock (or beef stock)
1 cup red wine

1. Prepare your chops buy placing them one at a time in a one gallon freezer bag and pounding them out flat until they are about a 1/4 inch thick. season them with a little salt and pepper and set them aside. 
2. dice the bacon and the onion and then start to cook the bacon over medium heat. When the bacon has rendered out some of its fat add the onions and cook until the onions are soft and the bacon is almost crispy. 
3. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to soak up all the bacon fat, then set aside the bacon mixture. 
4. on each piece of pounded out meat add about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and spread it around.
5. Add a couple of spoon fulls of the bacon mixture and a few of the gherkins.
6. roll the rouldaen and tie them up with the butchers twine, then roll them in the flour
7. heat some olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat and brown the rolls on all sides about two minutes each side. 
8. add the stock and wine, cover and simmer for about an hour and a half or until the rouladen are tender.
9.If the stock and wine need to be thickened you can mix a couple tablespoons of flour with some cold water until it forms a loose paste then stir the paste into the cooking liquid. when the gravy thickens ad the rouladen back into the pan and cover with gravy. 
10. Serve the rouladen with braised cabbage and boiled potatoes or some type of dumpling or spaetzle.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Grouse a L'Estragon

I have an old cookbook my grandmother gave me called, The First Lady's Cookbook. Every year on Presidents day I try to make something from that cookbook. In the book it shows all the different Presidential China from Washington to Nixon and gives recipes for each Presidents favorite meals. Reading through some of them they really do seem quite fitting for each president.

Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a suckling pig as his favorite meal and Lincoln was a big fan of Fricasseed Chicken. It should come as no surprise that Grant enjoyed a beef steak with a Roman punch that was heavy on the rum. Benjamin Harrison really enjoyed a fish chowder but was also in love with sausage rolls. The picture in the book made me laugh because the sausage rolls are just a fancy name for pigs in a blanket. William McKinley enjoyed breakfast all the time and apparently would have bacon, eggs and Johnny cakes when he was in the mood for a special treat. President Taft had more expensive tastes and would sit down to a meal of chicken croquettes and lobster a la Newburg. If you have never had anything a la Newburg I would highly recommend it. it is usually shrimp or lobster poached and then smothered in a sauce made with butter, cayenne, sherry and cream thickened with egg yolks. 

One of my favorite recipes from the book comes from President Kennedy's favorite meal. Poulet a l'estragon or a simmered chicken in a tarragon cream sauce. It is positively delightful and the chicken is about as juicy and flavorful as any I have ever had. I have made this a few times in the past but this year I had a couple of beautiful sharp-tailed grouse that I wanted to use. When I shot the grouse I was hunting in northern Minnesota and shot them on public land that was surrounded by sunflowers. each grouse was full of sunflower seeds so I really wanted to serve these with something involving sunflowers. I made a very nice rice and chick pea pilaf with sunflowers seeds and the whole meal was wonderful.  

Grouse a L'Estragon 

2 grouse split in half
3 tablespoons of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
olive oil
3 shallots (minced)
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup stock ( i used pheasant stock but chicken stock works as well)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of time
4 stems of parsley
one bunch of fresh tarragon ( reserve some of the tarragon leaves for garnish)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a 1 gallon plastic bag, then place the grouse halves in the bag one at a time and shake until coated with the flour mixture.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan and then brown the grouse halves in the oil. 2-3 minutes each side.

3. Make a parcel with the herbs using cheese cloth and tying them together, then add the wine, stock shallots and herbs to the pan. Cover and simmer for 30-35 or until the grouse is tender and pulling away from the bone. 

4. Remove the grouse from the pan and add the cream and Parmesan, stir until thickened adding the left over flour if necessary to thicken the sauce. 

5. Strain the sauce and serve over the grouse, garnishing with the reserved tarragon. serve with boiled potatoes or rice.