Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pickled Duck Gizzards

It's a perfectly dreary day on the shores of Leech Lake and I have been inside all day with a couple 6 year old girls and my 4 year old son. Not a whole lot to do, but luckily my wife was thinking ahead and brought a craft box and some games for us all to play. After braiding everyone a paracord bracelet and playing some letter sequence everyone is down for a nap and I have a few moments to think about what I want to do. It is raining and there is a steady 25 mile per hour wind out of the west so unless I want to get wet and frustrated, fishing is out of the question. So I poured myself a glass of bourbon and thought I would write a blog post. 

I have been saving this one for a rainy day and here it is, Pickled Duck Gizzards. If there is one thing that I usually have on hand in the freezer it is duck gizzards. My friends usually save all of them for me and I end up with several large bags of duck gizzards. In the past I have used them to make confit and I made some decent spring rolls with them as well. I was thinking about how else to use them and was listening to the Meateater Podcast and heard Steve Rinella talk about pickling gizzards so I gave it a shot. 

There isn't a whole lot of info out there on how to pickle a gizzard so I kind of had to make this up as I went. I had made Pickled deer heart a while back and figured I could use a similar technique for the gizzards. the only different is that gizzards if not cooked correctly can turn into small little meat rocks as hard as a golf ball. I ended up simmering these gizzards for almost two hours to make them tender. I served them up with some of my pickled pike and a radish and kohlrabi quick pickled. Paired with some crusty bread and some whole grain mustard it made for a nice afternoon snack. 

This pickling recipe is a two part process, first you have to cook the gizzards and then you can pickle it. This is for one pound of gizzards.

for the cooking liquid I used

4 cups water
1 sprig rosemary
1 small bunch of thyme
5 juniper berries (crushed with the side of a knife)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tsp black peppercorns

Simmer the gizzards in the cooking liquid for about 2 hours or until they are tender.

for the pickling liquid

1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1 tsp black peppercorns
10-12 allspice berries
2 tablespoons honey
4 juniper berries
2 cloves of garlic

bring the cider vinegar and remaining four ingredients to a boil, while that is cooking place the gizzards into a 1 pint jar with 1/4 of a thinly sliced red onion, 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of thyme.  Pour the hot liquid in to the jar and seal.  boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Let the mixture sit for a couple of days before diving in.

Depending on how many gizzards you have you may need to use multiple jars if so just double the pickling liquid.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Never Stop Trying New Things

This last week I learned some thing about myself. I found out that I am kind of a snob when it comes to cooking walleye. Being from Minnesota I have caught and eaten a lot of walleye. But I can count on one hand the number of ways I have cooked walleye. I have tried to use it in different ways, I made walleye cakes once, and there was a butter basted walleye that was pretty good but for the most part (99% of the time) I only ever cook walleye one way. The way my grandmother cooked it, rolled in flour, then egg wash and finally a saltine cracker breading and fried. It is the way I grew up eating it and it will always be my favorite way. Not because it is the best way but because it is the most familiar way. Also because it is the best way to use my favorite condiment, Hellman's Tartar Sauce.

So what is it that broke me out of my fried fish trance? I was reading the new issue of Saveur magazine and in it was an article by Magnus Nilsson. Along with the article was a recipe for Pike-perch which is a Scandinavian fish similar to a walleye. The recipe looked so amazing that I had to thaw out some walleye and give it a try. I cooked the walleye exactly as it was written in the recipe and not only was I blown away at how wonderful it was but my wife, who was very skeptical of all the horseradish, loved it. In the recipe it states to grate the horseradish and cook it in butter. This process takes all the heat out of the horseradish and makes it somewhat sweet. I was amazed at how good the walleye was. It was hands down the best walleye I have ever eaten. It made me wonder how many other ways I have blown off because I was to much of a snob to try something new.

Immediately after eating the walleye with horseradish I was sitting down watching a cooking show and Eric Ripert was cooking some kind of halibut with a coconut curry sauce. Chef Ripert stated that any firm white fish would work so back to the kitchen I went to try something similar. I had a couple pieces of walleye left over and had all the ingredients I needed so I started cooking. I had to make this recipe from memory of the show so I am sure this isn't exact but it was fantastic. Chef Ripert served his with a tropical fried rice but I was I to much of a hurry to make rice so I added some of the raisins that would have gone into the rice, into the sauce. The little bursts of sweetness in the sauce balanced out the heat from the curry and made this one of the best walleye recipes I have ever had.

My point through all of this is, never stop trying new things. Yes my grandmothers method of frying fish is one of my favorite recipes ever, that will never change. But when you get stuck on one thing you could miss out on something even better.

Walleye in a Coconut Curry Sauce 

2 walleye fillets, Cut into 4 portions
1/2 on a medium onion roughly chopped
a 1 inch piece of ginger roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
canola oil
2 tablespoons of curry powder
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup of golden raisins
juice of one lime
salt to taste

1. season the walleye fillets with salt and set aside while making the sauce.
2. heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat and then add the onion garlic and ginger. cook until the onions are translucent.
3. add the curry powder and stir to combine, cooking for 2-3 minutes more.
4. add the chicken stock and the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes
5. strain the sauce through a mesh sieve removing all the onions, garlic and ginger then return the sauce to the pan and add the lime juice and raisins and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken. taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
6. Place the walleye fillets in the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through.
7. serve the fillets with plenty of the curry sauce and some fresh cilantro. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Duck Heart Terrine

 It saddens me that very few people know what a terrine is and even fewer have ever made one. I know they may seem difficult but in all actuality they are incredibly simple. They just require the proper equipment and a good amount of patience. I love making terrine's because they are an excellent way to use up some of the less popular bits of the animals I shoot.  This terrine for instance used some duck livers and duck hearts that I had saved from last years duck season.

I have been fascinated by terrines lately and I think I am going to try and make at least one every month. I had a fantastic pheasant terrine at the Surly Brew pub in Minneapolis recently that made me rethink they way I use the game birds I shoot. I also had an amazing beef neck terrine at a place called The Salt Cellar in St Paul that got me thinking about different ways to use off cuts of meat. That beef neck terrine was amazing and had a great texture. I am imagining how good it would be with a deer neck.

This duck heart terrine is a version of a terrine I have made several times. The original recipe is from Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstahl and is fro a wild game terrine. He takes a variety of wild game animals and uses all the part to create a beautiful terrine. I Like to use his force meat recipe and one type of animal instead of a bunch of different animals. For this terrine I used duck livers and pork in the force meat and duck hearts as the inlay. I lined the terrine with and apple wood smoked bacon and the end result was amazing. Served with some grainy mustard,  pickled onions and some nice crusty bread there really isn't a better lunch out there.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cedar Plank Trout With a Soy Ginger Glaze

I have always said that inspiration comes from the strangest places. The Rainbow above was caught last summer over on Lake Michigan. It has been hanging out in the freezer comfortably sealed in a vacuum bag ever since. I kept looking at it thinking I was going to save it for a special occasion and that occasion never came. Then the other day I was over at the Wal-Mart picking up some tomato cages and saw some cedar planks for sale. The next thing you know I am grilling fish on a cedar plank. 

I have never grilled anything on a cedar plank before. I have see it done many times but have never done it my self. After a quick read of the package I learned the technique and all I had to do was determine the seasoning I wanted to use. I had picked up some Chinese broccoli at the farmers market earlier this week and was going to toss it with oyster sauce so I figured something Asian inspired was in order. 

I didn't have a lot of time so marinating the fish wasn't a possibility but I could brush on some flavor and it should work just fine. I through together a sauce of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a few other ingredients and brushed it on right before I put the fish on. The grill temp was around 350 and I grilled the fish for 15 minutes brushing on more sauce every five minutes. It was absolutely perfect. I was a little intimidated by the cedar plank technique at first. I had no idea how very simple it could be. 

As a side note, I had never had the Chinese broccoli either and was blown away at how good it was. I simply tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and then grilled it until it had a nice char and the stalks were just tender. Then I tossed it with a couple tablespoons of oyster sauce. If you have never tried it I would highly recommend it.

Cedar Planked Trout With a Soy Ginger Glaze

2 trout fillets, skin on
2 cedar planks prepared according to the package instructions
salt and pepper

for the glaze

2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Salt and pepper the fillets about 15 minutes before you start grilling. Preheat your grill to 350 degrees. Place the fillets on the planks and then put them on the grill. brush the fillets with the glaze and close the lid. Check the fish every 5 minutes and brush on more glaze. The fish is done when it easily pulls away from the skin. This was some of the best trout I have ever had, give it a try.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pickled Pike Salad Sandwich

I don’t remember the first time I ate pickled herring. I didn’t have some great, holy shit moment, that changed the way I eat. Pickled herring has just always been a part of what I eat. It has always been a mainstay at every family gathering and special occasion. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have pickled fish. On really special occasions my Grandmother would give us creamed herring. Had you told the ten year old version of me that it was the same pickled herring with sour cream stirred in, I wouldn’t have believed it. There must have been some sort of very rare and exotic ingredient that made it that much better. Fortunately it really is that simple and my love for pickled fish has only grown over the years. 

There was a small part of me that didn’t want to learn how to make pickled fish. I think I was afraid that if I learned to make it myself it would lose some of that mystique. Like if I lifted that curtain I would somehow not enjoy it as much. Lucky for me I ignored that voice and started making my own pickled pike last year. It was the first batch of pickled fish I had ever made and it was incredible and left me craving more. So I set out to catch some northern pike and keep them in the freezer until I was able to make another batch. 

I now have nine pints of pickled pike in the fridge and as much as I like to eat pickled fish I found myself thinking of other ways I could use pickled fish. I have always just eaten it on a cracker or with a piece of rye toast. I did make a pickled herring cake once that although it sounds wrong was actually really frickin good. I looked through all my books and came across a recipe in the Williams Sonoma Hors d'oeuvres book for an apple, onion and herring salad that looked good enough to try.

I simplified the recipe a little and added some dill and serano chili but the concept is still the same. finely chopped red onion, some apples and pickled pike. What I ended up with was a mind blowing success and only reaffirms what I have believed all my life. Pickled fish is one of the best foods on earth and continues to make me feel like a kid getting a special treat at Grandmas house every time I eat it.
Pickled Pike Salad

 8 0z pickled pike, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 granny smith apple diced
1 tsp fresh dill chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
a few slices of Serano chili
salt and pepper to taste
sorrel leaves and chives to garnish
Swedish rye bread

Combine the first 7 ingredients and stir together, taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Then serve on some good rye bread with a garnish of chives and sorrel leaves and enjoy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Northern Pike with Almost Burnt Cream

There are very few things I enjoy more than catching a nice big Northern Pike. They are one of the most aggressive fish we have in Minnesota and when you get into a big one it is a shitload of fun. Most people I have talked to agree and like to catch Northerns, but most people don't like to eat them. Northern have an interesting bone structure and unless you are really good with a knife or willing to learn there are a lot of bones. As far as texture and flavor go I put the northern right up there with Minnesota's beloved walleye. Still there are many people who won't eat them.

One of the techniques I have learned for filleting a pike is the five fillet method. If you do it right you will end up with 5 boneless fillets, I take it one step further and make six fillets. In the picture above you can see how I cut down the back bone and remove the top, or the back loins of the fish. down the middle of that piece is a row of bones that can be removed by making a v cut on either side of the bones. Then when you skin it you have a perfect boneless fillet. What I like to do is split that piece in half and then portion it into fish stick sized pieces. For whatever reason the kids like the fish stick but are less enthusiastic about the fillets.

Fishing is one of my great passions in life and fortunately for me so is cooking. I am always trying to find new ways to cook and eat the fish I catch. I watch a lot of cooking shows and get a lot of ideas of things to try from them. Recently I was watching season 3 of Mind of a Chef featuring Magnus Nilsson. In one of the episodes he cooks king crab in a very simple style with just a brush of butter and seared in a very hot, dry pan. At the same time he pours heavy cream into another dry hot pan and cooks it until it almost burns. The result is a very sweet reduced heavy cream that by itself could almost be part of a dessert. As I watched it over and over I began to wonder if it would be a technique that I could use on some of the fish I have.

Only because of the similarity in size and shape did I think about these pieces of Northern Pike I have from that back section. I decided to give them a try and cook them in a similar fashion to Chef Nilsson's Crab. I went back and watched the episode again just to make sure I didn't miss anything and sure enough I had missed one part. After the crab was taken out of the pan and right before plating he sprayed it with a mist of vinegar. The show wasn't specific about what type of vinegar so I used a chive vinegar that I had made.

Very simply take a 1 pint mason jar and fill it with chive blossoms. Then cover with white vinegar and let sit for a week. This vinegar is awesome on salads or fries or anything else you use vinegar for.

So, to put it together you will need 2 nonstick pans, 1/2 cup heavy cream, butter, salt, vinegar and of course the pike portions. Dry the fish and give it a small pinch of salt, then brush with butter and bring your pans to Medium high heat. Place the fish in the pan and begin to sear on all sides. This cooking process goes very quickly so it pays to have everything set up and ready to go. Start heating the second pan at the same time as the fish and get it nice and hot. Then just pour in the cream and let it go, don't touch it. The cream should reduce and begin to turn color this will go very quickly as well so keep and eye on it. This picture above is what mine looked like in the pan . I went just about 30 seconds to long. If the cream and oil separate you have gone to far.

When the fish is done remove it from the pan and set it on a cutting board spray it with a fine mist of vinegar and then move it to the plate and serve it with a dollop of cream. Each bite of fish should have a little cream on it. Now, I know you have heard people say that they have a method for cooking whatever fish so that it tastes just like lobster. I'm not going to say that. But, if you try this and don't think it is the best piece of northern pike you have ever eaten, I would seriously be shocked. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Smoked Sheepshead Spread

My last post was about catching and eating walleye, considered by many to be one of the best eating fish around. You could say this post would be the opposite of that. This is about sheepshead, or freshwater drum. A while back one of my readers recommended a book called Fishing For Buffalo all about fishing and eating rough fish. I really enjoyed the book, and the message I came away with was that we often overlook many different species of fish because they require a little more effort to clean or cook. For the last couple of years I have been experimenting with eating different types of fish that most just throw away. The sheepshead is one of those fish, most people won't even consider eating. I can't tell you how many sheepshead I have caught while fishing on the Mississippi river and they have all been thrown back.

This year I decided that I was going to keep a few and give them a shot.  On the same trip that my buddy Eric and I caught all those walleye's we also caught a number of sheepshead. So I kept two of them to play around with and see if I could make them edible. Now in all fairness I have heard from many people that sheepshead are very tasty and can be eaten in a variety of ways. I have also heard that they are disgusting and should be killed and left on the river bank.

When I got these two home I wasn't sure how I was going to cook them. I needed to taste them and find out what I was dealing with so I cut a small chunk of fish off one of the fillets and fried it in butter with a little salt and pepper. It wasn't the worst fish I have ever eaten but I wasn't overly impressed with it either. It had an overly fishy taste that reminded me of cleaning out the filter on my fish tank. I figured if I was going to find a way to eat them I might need a better method, I decided to smoke them.

I put together a salt and sugar cure and rubbed the fillets with the mixture. My intention was to leave them over night but I got distracted and they ended up staying in the salt mixture for almost 2 whole days. I smoked them any way and the end result was exactly what you might have imagined. Overly salty, not inedibly salty, but definitely salty. I had gotten a nice firm texture and good amount of smoke and had I pulled them out of the salt and smoked them when I should have I think they would have been delicious.

I didn't want to waste the fish so I decided to make a fish spread with the smoke fillets. I thought if I added enough non salted stuff to the fish spread I would end up with a decent spread. It was still a little salty but in the end it was still very enjoyable. Served with some saltine crackers it made a nice in between meal snack. I would really like to try it again only next time I am going to take them off the salt when I am supposed to.

Smoked Sheepshead Spread

1 lbs smoked fish
1/2 of a large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I prefer Crystal)
1/2 teaspoon of Old bay seasoning
a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Let sit for about and hour in the fridge for the flavors to blend and then serve with crackers.