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. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Smoked Lake Trout

Like many of my posts this one starts out with a gift. I guy a work with sent me a text and asked if I would like any lake trout. Of course I did, what kind of silly question was that. I don't catch a lot of lake trout and the only ones that I have caught have been in the Boundary Water Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. That is also the only place I have ever eaten Lake trout. When in the BWCA we usually fry them like any other fish but we have roasted a few and mixed them into a risotto and one year made a very nice Parmesan crusted trout. Other than that I don't get any and never have had any at home that I could smoke. I have heard wonderful things about smoked lake trout and have always wanted to try doing it myself.

After the fillets were delivered I started searching for smoked lake trout recipes and oddly enough the first one I came to was from Hank Shaw. If you are ever in need of a recipe for wild game there is a pretty good chance Hank has what you are looking for. Hank's trout recipe is very easy and doesn't require a whole lot, its just salt, orange zest and spruce tips. I am not yet very knowledgeable about spruce tips so I took hanks recommendation and used rosemary instead. I also added a half cup of maple sugar to the salt mix to add hint of sweetness.

I have a really cheap and useless smoker and most days I can't keep it under 225  degrees but on the day I smoked I was lucky and the outside temp was -4 so that kept the temp of the smoker down around 175 which was perfect. I smoked over Apple wood and got exactly the light application of smoke I was looking for. I didn't want to over smoke the fish and lose any of the great natural flavor the trout has. I ended up leaving the fillets on for about 5 hours and the end product was about as good as it gets. I had a party last Saturday and just poured everybody some Blanton's and left a bunch of forks out and we ate it right off the board. It was perfect!

Smoked Lake Trout 

This is enough cure mixture for four good sized fillets

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple sugar
zest from one orange 
5 sprigs of rosemary

mix together the salt cure and rub it into the fillets and let stand in the fridge for 4-5 hours. Then rinse off all the cure mixture and let the fillets sit in front of a fan for about an hour until the fillets are tacky to the touch. After that smoke the fillets over what ever wood you prefer, I like apple. Smoke at 175  degrees for 4-5 hours. (depending on how cold it is outside)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sandhill Crane Prosciutto

Last October I was fortunate enough to head up to the Northwest corner of Minnesota and spend some time hunting Sandhill Crane's. I have never hunted crane's before and really didn't have nay idea how I was going to hunting them. In years past I have deer hunted in this same area and over the year have seen some impressive flocks of thousands of crane's flying over. A few years back Minnesota opened open a crane season and ever since I have been wanting to hunt them. I figured the best way to hunt them would be to set up in an area they might be landing or taking off from and pass shoot one. The only problem was that when I got there the cranes weren't as abundant as they are later in the year and the flocks of birds flying around were much smaller than what I had seen in the past. 

My first day there I drove around and tried to find an area that they were moving around. My old friend Scott Oberg, whose land I was hunting on had made some calls and got me permission to hunt some other land next to his. In one of those fields was a group of cranes hanging out eating cut corn. I watched them for some time and then figured I thought I would try to stalk up on them. Little did I know that cranes have incredible eyesight. I made it about 100 yards away before they flew out of the fields. My strategy was flawed at best and I needed to come up with a better method. I figured I would wait until the next morning and then try to get out in that cornfield early and be set up when the cranes came back in the morning, If they came back at all. 

I spent the rest of the day hunting sharp-tailed grouse and would occasionally see where some cranes were flying over. The next morning I set up in the corn and waited for the sun to come up. There was no sign of the cranes and I waited for several hours before I had the first group of cranes fly over. They were the only cranes of the morning and they were a bit high but I took a shot anyway. I missed and my only chance of the morning was gone. At this point I was pretty sure that my chances of shooting a crane were gone. I had some luck shooting grouse the day before and was seeing a lot of grouse flying around so I gave up on the cranes and headed off to shot some more grouse. 

My friend Scott decided to join me for some grouse shooting and we walked off into some red brush to shoot a few grouse. While we were walking I had walked into some willows and flushed a couple of woodcock. The willows were so thick that I had a hard time swinging my gun to get a shot but I did get a shot off. I missed the woodcock but my sot jumped a group of cranes out of the swamp and they flew directly over me. they were so close when they came over my 20 gauge with number 4 steel was more than enough to knock one down. It hit the ground with a loud crunch, I raced over to it and couldn't believe how big it was. It must have weighed 25 pounds. It isn't often that I get all amped up but that got me pumping, it was awesome. 

I plucked the whole bird and then had to think about how I wanted to cook it. I have eaten crane a couple of times in the past but have never had a whole bird to work with. I have heard many people refer to them as the "ribeye of the sky" so the first thing I did was make the classic french dish Steak Au'poivre. I used the legs and thighs to make some steam buns. I saved one breast of the crane to make a sandhill crane Prosciutto. I have made prosciutto in the past out of goose and duck so I was reasonably certain that in would work great on the crane. I wasn't wrong, the crane made the best prosciutto of them all. For this prosciutto I used a recipe from Jamie Bissonette's The New Charcuterie Cookbook, I altered it slightly but for the most part its his recipe. I really like the cinnamon that is added to the cured mixture. Cinnamon really blends well with the natural flavors of the the crane. Cranes are amazing table fare and if you get a chance to hunt them you really should, you won't be disappointed. 

Sandhill Crane Prosciutto

1 crane breast
3 cups kosher salt
1 1/2 cup maple sugar
2 tablespoons coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
4 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
2 bay leaves crushed
2 sprigs of thyme

1. mix together the salt, sugar and spices then pour half the mixture into a glass or other non reactive dish. then place the breast in the salt mixture and cover with the rest of the cure mixture. let the breast sit in the salt for 2 days.

2. remove the breast from the salt cure mixture and rinse it clean, then pat it dry and wrap it in cheese cloth. then hang it in the back of your fridge for two weeks. Slice and enjoy. 

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.