Thursday, January 19, 2017

Grilled Cheese using Upland Game Birds

Its not very often I get to cook something I have never had before. I have never hunted or eaten Hungarian partridge before and this past summer a buddy of mine Josh Dahlke was having some freezer issues and I took a bit of meat off his hands. Most of that meat needed to be dealt with right away but a few things like the partridge went into my freezer for later use. Josh had told me that he hate to let the go and only now that I have cooked them and ate them do I understand why. Of all the game birds that I have eaten I can easily say that these partridge are among the best I have ever had.

They aren't big birds and I would say they are about the same size as a roughed grouse. the biggest difference being the color of the meat. These partridge have a very beautiful reddish color to them. I had never cooked partridge before and truthfully had know idea what I was going to do with them. Then Netflix released a couple seasons of the Wild Chef with Martin Picard. In the very first episode he cooks partridge and makes a beautiful grilled cheese sandwich. I now had a plan and a free afternoon so I gave it a shot.

This is a very simple sandwich, it doesn't require a lot of ingredients but I will say if you are going to get the best results out of this sandwich regular old white bread and cheese slices aren't going to do it. Buy some nice sourdough bread and splurge a little on some nice cheese. For my sandwich I went with Gruyere because I love the nuttiness of the cheese and when it melts it has a very nice texture.

Season your breast liberally with salt and pepper and then sear them in a pan with a little butter. It doesn't take long only about 2-3 minutes per side to get a nice carmelization on them.

When the breasts are done cooking set the aside for a couple of minutes before slicing them. Meanwhile leave your pan over the heat and deglaze the pan with some beer. Nothing to powerful just a nice lager. If you are looking for a great beer try Fulton's Standard Lager it has become my new favorite beer. Add about a half cup more of the beer and stir in 2 tablespoons of roasted garlic until you have a nice sauce. Add the slices of partridge back to the pan and stir to coat all the pieces.

To assemble your sandwich cut some thick slices of sourdough bread and brush all sides with mayo. Evenly distribute the partridge across the bread and cover with grated gruyere. Grill over medium heat until the bread is nice and golden brown. One of the things Chef Picard did was throw a couple of sprigs of Rosemary on the grill pan and grill the sandwich right on top of it. this infused the sandwich with even more great flavor. This was easily one of the best sandwiches I have ever had and would be wonderful with pretty much any upland bird. I might even try it with duck if I get a chance.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Salmon Curry with Wild Rice

If you were to look at cooking and eating wild game, fish and foragables as a Rabbit hole then you could probably safely say that I am well on my way to Wonderland. After trying everything I can in as many different ways as possible I have built up an extensive history of both failures and successes. I have tried to use local wild ingredients in as many different dishes at home as I can and have used the fish I catch and animals I hunt in every type of cuisine from around the world as I can. That said I haven't even scratched the surface of the endless possibilities that the world has to offer when I comes to wild food.

For the past few years I have been going over to Lake Michigan with my father-in-law and brother-in-law to catch salmon. I have smoked, baked, grilled, poached, cured, ground and even fried it just to see what was possible. Then I came across a recipe for a quick salmon curry stir fry in Jamie Oliver's  food revolution cookbook. It looked simple and I do love curry so I put it on the list of things I wanted to try. One of the things that drew me to the recipes was that it called for wild rice. I have only recently (in the last two years) began to love wild rice. Growing up it never appealed to me and every time I ate it I was turned off and disappointed.

This little stir fry turned out to be one of the biggest surprises I have ever had. I figured the salmon and curry combination would be good but what I did expect was how well wild rice and coconut curry go together. I was quite seriously blown away by it. So much so that I had to make it again a few days later just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and it wasn't. I could very easily see making a curry gravy just to pour over some wild rice. If you like curry and you like wild rice I highly recommend you give it a try.

Salmon curry with Wild Rice

Adapted from a recipe in Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver
this will serve 6-8 depending

1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet (skin off and bones removed) - cut into 1-inch chunk
3 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 handful of raw shelled peanuts (roughly chopped)
2 tablespoons of curry red paste
8 oz. fresh snow peas
2 14 oz. cans coconut milk
1 lime
3 fresh red chili, finely sliced
Small bunch of fresh cilantro , separate the leaves and stems and then finely chop the stems
Canola oil

  1. Put your wok or large frying pan on a high heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of Canola oil. Sauté the garlic, ginger, most of the chopped chili, and the cilantro stalks for 30 seconds
  2. Add the curry paste and stir for another 30 seconds. Add in the salmon, cook for a minute or so, then add the snow peas and coconut milk. Cover and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat
  3. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves, the remaining of the chilies, peanuts and a wedge of lime. Serve with wild rice

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Marlin Involtini

If you have read this blog for any amount of time you have probably noticed that I get a lot of ingredients from people I know. This Marlin might be my favorite. My sisters, friends, dad caught this marlin while on vacation and it has made its way to me. I was given two large packs of frozen fish and told, we thought you might know how to use this. As it turns out it took me a while to figure out how to use it. I grilled the first pack and that grilled marlin was some of the best fish I have ever had. I was tempted to just grill the second pack in a similar way but  curiosity go the best of me. 

In my limited knowledge of marlin I sort of equate them to a smaller swordfish. So when I was looking through Mario Batalli's book Babbo I came across a recipe for swordfish involtini. Basically thin strips of fish that are rolled up with breadcrumbs and seasonings inside them then simmered in tomato sauce. It seemed simple enough and sounded pretty good so I gave it a shot.

This was another great way to cook marlin, the texture of this fish reminded me of chicken. It was tender but not flakey like other fish. The sauce was a perfect addition as well. the raisins and pine nuts added a little sweetness to the sauce that balanced it out perfectly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Looking Back at 2016

I think we can all agree that 2016 was a rough year. It was by far my worst year of hunting in a long time as far as putting meat in the freezer myself. But there were several highlights that made it tolerable for me. Probably the biggest highlight for me was that I started writing for and am very proud of the work I have done over there. I also had a few of my recipes featured in the October issue of Outdoor life and another magazine called Make it Minnesota.

One of the other big highlights for me was that I got to spend a week in the mountains of Colorado bow hunting for Elk. I didn't get an elk this year but it was a great experience and definitely lit a fire in me to return the mountains and try again.

As I mentioned before I wasn't very successful in the hunting department this year but still managed to get some meat in the freezer thanks to some friends of mine. I should have plenty to keep me writing about for the next year. I was also very successful this last fall in the foraging department and found a shit ton of mushrooms. Hopefully my luck will change in 2017 and I can start getting some fish through the ice.  Here are a few of my favorite dishes from last year.

Smoked fish spread with horseradish

Buffalo Liver Braunschweiger

Corned Buffalo Roast

Nettle Agnolotti with a Ramp and ricotta filling.

Nashville style hot squirrel, Might be my favorite thing I made all year.

My curried walleye with tropical fried rice was delicious but many people did not like that I would abuse walleye in such a way.

I had a Great trip over to Lake Michigan that inspired many meals.

Pate de fruit made with a mixture of berries I foraged in my neighborhood.

Fresh from my garden and turned into zucchini relish and featured in Make it Minnesota Magazine.

Buffalo liver wrapped in caul fat. These were then seared in a pan and topped with a fig vinaigrette

Another one of my favorites, Wild turkey enchiladas.

I tried out pigeons this year and was amazed at how good they were.

My version of General Tso's chicken made with Chicken of the woods Mushrooms.

Wild Turkey Confit Aranchini

Roasting hen of the woods mushrooms.

Kai Wot, an Ethiopian stew made with venison

2016 wasn't all bad it just seemed like it. I had a lot of good things happen and 2017 looks like it is going to be a lot of fun as well. I will be teaching some classes with St. Paul Community Ed and am going to be cooking on the Gander Mountain cooking Stage at Pheasant fest in February. I have already started planning an Antelope hunt in October and another Elk hunt in November. I still have some time left to get out after some squirrels and will be heading north for some ice fishing in the coming weeks. I can't wait to see what adventures 2017 brings. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chipotle Cheddar Summer Sausage

I am very much into doing things the hard way. I don't mind taking the extra time and effort to make food if it means I am going to get a superior product. That said, I make a few exceptions here and there. One of those exceptions is when I make summer sausage. I have made it from scratch and I have bought kits and I can honestly say that there is no difference. The kits are less expensive and you don't end up with a giant pile of pink salt laying around the house. If you are going to be making a lot of meat that needs pink salt that's one thing but if you are just buying curing salts to make summer sausage or trail bologna then I would suggest buying the kits. Everything you need is in there and you end up with a consistent product every time.

There are dozens of kits out there to purchase and most of the hunting stores sell them. Most kits come with the seasonings, the cure and the casings for about 13 dollars and will make you about 10 pounds of summer sausage. I have been using the LEM summer sausage kit and the LEM trail Bologna kit for the last 5-6 years and have never had a problem with them. When I make them I like to use a 60/40 blend of wild game to pork and I use a good fatty pork shoulder for the pork. I have used venison, antelope, wild boar and ducks and geese for the wild game and have been very pleased with all of it. The kits are designed to make a total of ten pounds of sausage total but is split to make two five pound batches.

The process is amazingly simple but does require some specialty equipment. You will need a grinder and a sausage stuffer. You could get around the sausage stuffer but it really is a pain in the ass to hand stuff the casings. If you don't have a smoker you can make this in the oven just as easily and still get a great product. You can also customize your sausage very easily. If you want to add cheese to your summer sausage you will need to but high temp cheese which is readily available on Amazon. It is a special cheese that has a high melting point so that it won't melt in the cooking process. Adding pepper jack or cheddar cheese to you sausage is awesome. I also like to add chopped jalapenos or a six ounce can or chipotles in adobo. The summer sausage you see in the pictures has chipotles and cheddar mixed in. This is a hit everywhere I bring it and makes a great gift to give out after the hunting season. It is also a great way to use up all that left over game meat that has been sitting in the freezer for a little to long. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fried Duck Hearts

If you have been following this blog at all you know that I am a huge fan of eating heart. The heart of any animal is by far my favorite part of the animal to eat. With some animals like deer, elk and antelope the heart is big enough to make a meal out of by itself. With other hearts its not so simple. Duck and goose heart are delicious but if you only shot one duck it hardly seems worth the effort for one bite. With duck and geese I take a one quart freezer container and If I shoot one or two duck I can pull the hearts out and put them in the plastic container and put just enough water in the container to cover the hearts then freeze them. As I shoot more birds through out the season I can add more hearts and more water until the container is full. It works well with livers and gizzards as well.

I didn't get many ducks this year but I did get a bag of hearts from a buddy of mine who had been saving them for me. I though about doing a Japanese teppanyaki but the day I wanted to did it the outside temp here was -17 degrees and I didn't feel like grilling. So instead I opted for a Cajun fried duck heart with a spicy sriracha dipping sauce. Duck hearts are ridiculously tender and if you cut them in half they are just the right bite size.

Fried Duck Hearts

Duck hearts cut in half
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp Cajun seasoning

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespooon cajun seaoning

Mix together the buttermilk and the Cajun seasoning and soak in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Then mix the remaining Cajun seasoning with the flour. Take the hearts out of the buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Fry in 350 degree oil for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with you favorite dipping sauce or try this one.

Smoky Sriracha Dipping sauce

1/2 cup mayo
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wild Mushroom Tacos

I was looking through one of my cookbooks a while back and came across a recipe for smoked mushroom tamales.It looked interesting and I had a whole pile of mushroom in the freezer from a very productive fall so I thought I would give it a try. Now any one who has ever made tamales knows that when you make them you better not have anything else going on that day. I thought I had enough time to get them done and of course I ran out of time. I got the hen of the woods mushrooms cooked but never even got started on the tamales. I ended up putting all the cooked mushrooms in the freezer thinking that I could always come back to it and make the tamales.

As it turned out I got busy for about a month and forgot about the mushrooms in the freezer. When I remembered they were in there I was in the middle of a Taco Trip, (See the Netfilx series) and decided to make the mushrooms into tacos instead. As it turns out I am really glad that I did because these tacos might be some of the best tacos I have ever made.

I would have never considered mushrooms as a taco filling but was really pleased with how well they fit. These hen of the woods mushrooms have a meaty texture and wonderful flavor that worked perfectly in a taco. I cheated a little and used French's fried onions to give a little more texture.

Hen Of The Woods Tacos

Adapted from a recipe by John Currence
1 quart Hen of the woods mushrooms (I used Hen of the woods but you could use any wild mushroom)
1/2 of a red onion sliced thin
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
additional water as needed

Put the mushrooms in a sauce pan and add all the other ingredients, add enough water to cover the mushrooms and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms completely and pat them dry with a paper towel. If you want to add a bit more flavor to the mushrooms you can throw them in a stove top smoker for ten minutes with some hickory and give them a little smokiness. If you don't have a stove top smoker you can add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the braising liquid. 

After the mushrooms are drained melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet and give the mushrooms a quick saute. At this point you can build your tacos. I used white corn tortillas, a cilantro lime aoili, some fried onions and radish sprouts and a little bit of habanero hot sauce.