I have been writing this blog for a little over three years now and have been enjoying most of it. I sometimes get lazy and don't feel like writing but I always seem to get over that and put something up. I am going to try this year to fight through that laziness and be more regular with my posts. I am not off to a very good start this year but I just bought a new laptop and hopefully that will help me be more organized. Over the past few years when people find out that I write a food blog they always ask, "Where did you learn to cook?"or " How do you know what goes together" the answer to those questions, comes in three parts.
The first part of the answer is from my family, growing up I watched my grandmothers and my mom do a lot of cooking. My family also made Swedish sausage every year and that was my first experience with sausage making. I never really enjoyed it as a kid but today it is one of my favorite things to do. We also had a lot of wild game in the freezer that nobody really cared for. I would cook venison steaks as an afternoon snack when I got home from school. I would grill them or fry them in a pan with lots of butter and Lowry's seasoned salt.
The second part of the answer is an old friend named Chis Boni, Chris and I were stationed in Sasebo, Japan in the late 90's and shared a house with a couple other guys. Chris decided that he wanted to do some big Sunday meals the way his family did back home. That started a weekly event at our house and we all started doing a lot of cooking and drank a lot of red wine. Chris came from an Italian family and did a lot of Italian food while we were in Japan. Chris is really the one who got me into cooking and it stuck. When I got out of the Navy in 1998 the Food Network was really starting to get big. I would watch Emeril Live every night and try the recipes I saw on TV. I blame Emeril for my Cookbook addiction. The first cookbooks I bought were Emeril's TV Dinners and Louisiana Real and Rustic. That leads us into the third part of the answer, Cookbooks.
I have about 300 different cookbooks and I have used them all. But there are really five cookbooks that I use more than anything else. When I was about 16, I think, I was given the L.L. Bean game and fish cookbook. This is the book that really got me started with wild game. As my willingness to try new things expanded this was the book to go to. In its pages you will find recipes for everything from deer and ducks to woodchuck and badger. The first time I ate raccoon I used a recipe out of this book. It is also full of information on how to dress and clean wild animals and has been an invaluable part of my cooking repertoire.
As I said earlier I blame Emeril for my cookbook addiction, when I started watching his show in the late 90's he would recommend all these cookbooks and I would run out and buy them. Louisiana Real and Rustic, was my first introduction to Charcuterie. There is an entire chapter about curing meat and making sausages. Emeril's Duck pastrami was an instant hit and I was making 15-20 pounds of duck pastrami every year. Friends of mine would save all their duck and give it to me just so I could make pastrami out of it. Many of the recipes in this book call for wild game and the rest can be adapted to wild game very easily. There is also a great recipe for a sweet potato and pecan pie that every body should try.
Before Nose to tail eating was trendy and popular, there was Fergus Henderson. An English chef who has done more for the Nose to Tail movement than any one else. When I first heard about this book I started shopping around trying to find a copy. When I finally found one the first recipe I tried was the Roasted bone marrow salad. I was an instant believer from that point on, when ever I get Offal and want to try something new this is the book I go to. The Deviled Kidneys were fantastic and I have yet to find a better recipe for Brawn (headcheese) than his.
Steve Rinella said it best when he said that Ruhlman and Polcyn's book Charcuterie is unintentionally, the best wild game cook book you can find. Every recipe in this book can be easily adapted to wild game. I have made almost every type of sausage in this book using wild boar, venison, antelope or duck and all of them have been fantastic. I like to make ten pound batches of all the sausages using a 70/30 ratio, 70% wild game to 30% pork fat. The Mexican style chorizo and the garlic and sage duck sausage are hands down my favorites. If you hunt and have extra wild game sitting in the freezer this is a must have book.
When I first started reading Hank Shaw's blog I was amazed at how wonderful all of his recipes were. His book Hunt, Gather, Cook has become my new go to book for wild game. The recipes are easy to understand and everything I have had out of this book has been incredible. The squirrel recipes alone are worth buying this book. Hank's book covers all aspects of cooking wild game from stews and soups to sausages and curing meat. It also has some great tips about hunting and caring for your meat.
I use a lot of different cookbooks and find new things to try all the time, when I am out to eat I am always thinking about how I can reproduce the dishes I eat, at home using wild game. I have been having a lot of fun over the past three years and I look forward to sharing future cooking and hunting adventures.