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THE GAME COOKBOOK by Clarissa Dickson Wright & Johnny Scott [Book Review]

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Cork Graham

 

If you remember the British cooking series, Two Fat Ladies, of PBS and BBC fame, you’ll immediately recognize Clarissa Dickson Wright as the taller of the two, not the proud chainsmoker who passed away from lung cancer in 1999.  Dickson Wright is the co-author of The Game Cookbook with Scottish farmer and outdoorsman, Johnny Scott.

A gorgeously illustrated review copy sent to us by the publisher, The Game Cookbook takes standard table game and puts a variation on it that brings out the best qualities through innovative experimentation, with classic recipes and those that seem to have been magically created by neighbors on the other side of the authors’ hedge.

Included are recipes that are very traditional in the UK and Europe. Others reach to the Middle East and South Asia, modified from recipes based in preparing more traditional farm-raised meats. Well-read and always willing to tell a story, Dickson Wright colors the recipes with asides of family histories and remembrances of foreign travel and meals had with friends.

You’ll find that it’s very much a UK book with such references as “wapiti”, which those of us in the US and Canada recognize as elk: what they call elk in Europe and the UK, we call moose in North America.

The artwork gracing the pages is a mix of old paintings, of hunting and fishing in North America and Europe, even movie stills (James Mason looks quite dashing with a side-by-side), and then photos of completed dishes just as beautiful as the sketches and historical art. Together they bring to the reader the old and new of game and fish cuisine, along with anecdotes that can prepare the neophyte hunter or angler for their first hunting or fishing experience.

At the end of the book is a listing of hunting and fishing organizations in the UK and US, along with a collection of wildlife agencies in the United States. For those who might not be personally able to collect their own main component of a game or fish dish, a listing of game suppliers offering meat farm-raised animals (unlike in Europe, where wild game and fish are sold in many shops, the selling of true wild game in the US has been illegal for years) provides an option.

One of the topics that I keyed in on, because it puts so much fear in the new game chef, is aging. In the US of late, as the tradition of hunting has skipped one, two or even three generations, the result of more Americans moving into urban areas in pursuit of employment, the art of aging has been forgotten. If you read some of the forums on the Internet, there’s such an intimidation toward aging and meat contamination that it can sometimes be humorous, sometimes sad…. What would people do if suddenly our refrigerators no longer worked and we were suddenly dumped into a kitchen life experience most families had up until the end of the early part of the last century?

Aging was a heavily practiced technique for stretching the day’s take, improving flavor and tenderizing a tough old bird, or side of venison. It all has to do with air temperature and humidity: cool and moist tops the list, and extends the aging time. The author goes through the aging process for just about every meat type taken, from grouse, to pheasant to venison.

There are also recipes for those that might not be specifically sought in the US and Canada, but are looked forward to in Europe and the UK, such as carp. There are recipes for grouse, pheasant, elk, moose, antelope, caribou, wild boar, partridge (chukar), quail, dove, American woodcock, snipe, hare (jackrabbit), cottontail, salmon trout, sea trout, zander (yellow perch), pike and of course goose.

At the back just before the meat supplier’s list, is a collection of recipes for compotes, sauces and stocks bringing out the best flavors of the dish.

When it came to testing a recipe, I decided it was time to use one of the many pheasants that Ziggy had pointed out for me last year—the dish quick to prepare and a rich, creamy mix of flavors!

PHEASANT WITH NOODLES AND HORSERADISH CREAM

A bit sweet. A bit tangy. All delicious!

 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/3 cup (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 pheasant breasts
  • 4 shallots, chopped (if unavailable, use 4 tablespoons of chopped mild onions)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp bottled horseradish, or 1 tbsp strong fresh horseradish, grated.
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 packet black or green Italian noodles or make your own chestnut noodles (enough for 4 people)
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps: 

  1. Heat the butter in a heavy frying pan for which you have lid
  2. Sauté the pheasant breasts until they are sealed
  3. Remove them and sauté the shallots and the garlic until the shallots are pale gold
  4. Remove and discard the garlic clove
  5. Stir the horseradish into the shallots
  6. Add a tbsp, or so, of water and the lemon juice
  7. Return the breasts to the pan, add the cream, and cover
  8. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes, until the breasts are cooked
  9. If the sauce is too wet, remove the breasts and zap up the heat to reduce
  10. If it’s too dry, add a little more cream or some dry white white wine
  11. Cook the noodles according the package instructions and drain
  12. Serve the noodles with the pheasant
  13. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.

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Roast Specklebelly Goose and Fig Sauce

Posted on 14 July 2010 by Cork Graham

 

Hung for two days in the garage and sitting in the bottom of my freezer for the last three years, I was wondering if the goose was still good. One of a snow and specklebelly pair that I had taken in the Sacramento Valley while trying out a new SP10 and 3-1/2” Remington 1187, it fell to the matched Federal Premium Blackcloud BB-sized pellets

That Blackcloud collar is the reason birds just drop when they get hit...

When I was done with the aging process and had plucked them (the fresh hearts and livers had gone into a Ziploc, the day the geese were taken, for a later liver paté greatly enjoyed and long missed) I wrapped them in a three layers of cellophane. 

Surprisingly, three years later, not even a trace of freezer burn! 

Originally, I was going to do a book review of Chef John D. Folse hunter’s cookbook bible, After the Hunt, but then something wonderful happened—the first round of figs turned a beautiful dark purple, signaling their ripeness! 

My huntin’ buddy Hank Shaw has written an number of articles on syrups, and one fig syrup recipe caught my eye. But, I enjoy eating my figs fresh and whole, so in order to stretch them, I decided to make the sauce for my goose more like a turkey’s cranberry sauce, thick and more like a jam. 

Figs from now until end of A Zone deer season in September

On the subject of the meat and “things not to do” once again surprised me by actually doing them. Always told that refreezing meats would make them somehow worse didn’t seem to be true with this goose. 

Two weeks ago, I had gone through the whole process of defrosting and brining the goose, but when the day came for cooking, I realized I didn’t have all the ingredients for the full dinner, nor the time—probably happened to you as you remembered a dinner or other meeting almost too late? 

Taking the goose in the pot that it had been sitting in to dry (I like to remove the brine for a day to let the skin dry in order to improve the browning and crisping of the skin), I put the whole thing in the meat freezer. 

A week later, I had everything and the time….defrosting again, with trepidation: I was told that meat frozen and refrozen is just horrible….And when it was all done, the goose was delicious! 

Since the Fig Sauce takes the longest, make sure to prepare it first. 

Specklebelly Goose with Fig Sauce

Fig Sauce Ingredients:

1 can chicken broth 

1 tsp Herb de Provence 

1 cup of sugar 

10 figs 

1 tsp salt 

2 cups of Pinot Noir (in this recipe a bottle of 2007 Peters Vineyard from Papapietro-Perry Winery was used) 

Steps:

1. Finely chop six figs and add to a saucepan. 

2. Save four figs and cut them lengthwise into sixths and set aside. 

3. Add all ingredients and bring to a fast boil, thicking the sauce through evaporation—about 25 minutes on high heat. Sauce should be the consistency of thin jam. 

4. Add the figs slices and simmer for another 10 minutes and set aside. 

Goose Ingredients:

1 Specklebelly goose 

1 large red onion 

1 tbsp Salt 

1 tbsp Black pepper 

1 tbsp Olive Oil 

Steps:

1. Brine the goose over night in a gallon of water with one cup each of sugar and kosher salt (use only ceramic or plastic containers so that there’s no reaction of the brine with metal). 

2. Drain the brine and pat away the excess moisture on the goose and place it back in the empty brining container 

3. Let is dry in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. 

4. Place the red onion in the cavity and rub the goose skin olive oil and then the salt and black pepper. Truss the legs or simply stick in the open cavity under the tail. 

5. Place in a cast-iron skillet and place in an oven that has been preheated to 400-degree Fahrenheit. 

6. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. 

7. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes and then carve, serving with a two cooked fig slices and sauce. 

8. Save the goose drippings and use to brown the potatoes. 

Cook goose like a great steak -- medium rare!

Roast Potatoes with Salsa de Mani (Peanut Butter Sauce)

Salsa de mani ready to serve

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Modified to use country roast potatoes instead of the traditional boiled, this family recipe has been served by mom ever since I can remember. An Ecuadorian recipe of Inca origins, it’s normally served with that other Incan delicacy, cuy (roast guinea pig). 

Ingredients:

6 Red Potatoes 

3/4 Cup Chunky Peanut butter (sweetened) 

1/2 Cup White onion, thinly sliced crescents 

1 tbsp  of Achiote seeds 

1 Cup Milk 

1 whole Onion 

Pinch of salt 

  1. Wrap the potatoes in moistened paper towel and put them in the microwave for 6-7 minutes until soft to squeeze.
  2. Quarter them and dowse with olive oil.
  3. Fry the achiote seeds until the oil leeches out.
  4. Remove the seeds and then fry the onion in the red-tinted achiote oil until they’ve sweated and translucent.
  5. Add the milk, pinch of salt, and then disolve the peanut butter in the milk, stirring as it comes to a low boil. Don’t over cook the sauce. It should be creamy and the consistency of almost watery tooth paste, not peanut butter.
  6. Put the quartered potatoes in skillet previously used to roast the goose, uncovered, to brown in a 500 degree Faranheit oven, 10-15 minutes.

NOTE: I used the Big Green Egg for the goose and the potatoes. 

Total Preparation Time: 2 days

Save the carcass to make a great soup!

 

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Through the Smoke a Delicious Rainbow

Posted on 10 January 2010 by Cork Graham

Cork Graham on the upper American River with a fresh rainbow trout.

Cork Graham on the upper American River with a fresh rainbow trout.

Before you think I’ve been playing with those funny mushrooms collected in a cow pasture under a full moon with that “delicious rainbow” title, let me tell about our show production last summer…

We were lucky in that we had shot the raw footage so quickly for the episode that would become the acclaimed, bowyer-edifying Baser Bow Traditions episode, so my cameraman and I decided we had time to fish the American River. Bill Lentz, who owns Cat Creek Outdoors, was all too happy to take us to a place where he was sure we’d get into some German browns if not some rainbows.

My setup was a Super 180SX that US Reel had just sent me to try out, mounted on my trusty 10’6″ Fenwick HMXS 105XL-2R steelhead and trout float noodle rod.

The hike down to the river from the highway bridge quick, and I was surprised that aside from construction workers on the road, only the three fishermen we were stood on the gravel bank of the American.

We tried spinners. We tried small marabou jig under a pencil float. Then, I moved away from the deep pools, upriver to the whitewater feeding the string of green emeralds, and tried on a never-say-die, single Pautzke’s red salmon egg on a light line-2 lb line in this case-that the worm turned.

Casting it up into a feeder flow, with a two small lead split-shot squeezed onto the line a foot-and-a-half above the single egg hook in a dropper, it tapped along the bottom with that morose code of communication that a steelheader searches the river for messages: either a solid take, or a silence of the tapping of lead along floor for tumbling waterway, hopefully…

In this case, it wasn’t a 10-pound steelhead that I might have hooked into later in November, below Folsom Dam, but a monster of a fish no less!

It pulled out so much line, with such veracity, that it felt like a salmon, not only in its immediately shooting downriver, but how it never jumped the whole 100 yards it took me over 20-foot boulders and rock outcroppings–I was thinking it was a big carp or river sucker.

–You can be sure I’ll be writing about the adventure in an upcoming column about how to fish effectively for trout in a freestone stream…

When it was all said and done (Lentz climbing 30 feet down to shore to lip the trout, while I kept tension on the line), I’d caught my largest landlocked, stream trout–I was finished for the day (I prefer to just take my catch for the table, instead of practicing catch-and-release with a multitude of fish, risking them to the statistical bracket of 63-percent unintentionally killed: this research by Texas Tech University was collected with the hardy largemouth bass and not the delicate trout) and wondering how to offer a trout, with such beautifully pink, almost sunrise-orange, flesh…culinary respect: this rainbow was to be smoked!

SMOKING TROUT

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Freshly smoked American River rainbow, about to be enjoyed with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon

Smoke then salt; these are the first solid signs of civilization. With this knowledge of food preparation, Man was able to move from one area to another in voyages of discovery. Migration led to mixing of cultures and building of societies.

With the advent of refrigeration, the need for salt curing and smoking lost its importance. Were it not for how much smoke and salt, and now sugar, not only preserve, but also improve the taste of game such as deer, game birds, and fish, these skills would have been lost to history. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Scottish, German, French, all centers of culinary invention have retained the process of putting salt and smoke to meat in order to not only preserve, but make a meal better.

For many, the process can be a trial in “getting it just right.” To brine or to dry cure is often the call sent out.

DRY CURE

Having tried both, I really don’t have a preference, other than that dry curing enables me to use less room in the refrigerator.

My favorite salmon and trout cure is one inch of salt over a fillet and let it set for five hours. Then, wash off the fillet with cold water. After patting it dry with a paper towel, layer it over with brown sugar for 6 hours. You’ll notice a nice deep brown shift in color. Again, you’ll have to wash off the fillet.

This time, though, pat it off and let it sit for at least one hour to air dry. This will enable a skin to develop, called a pellicle. A good pellicle enables great adherence of smoke to the flesh, giving that deep smoky flavor for which we enjoy the results.

Two hours on a grill or rack with a fan set next to it does fine.

BRINING

Make a brine of:

  • 1 gallon of filtered water
  • 1 cup of Kosher salt
  • 1 cup of extra fine granulated white sugar

Put the brine and fish in a non-reactive container, i.e. metallic, (plastic Tupperware is perfect) and refrigerate overnight.

Wash off the fillet in water and then pat dry. Like the dry cured fish, put it on a rack in front of a fan for drying.

Now, you’re ready to smoke.

SMOKERS

You can start small or grand, that’s a Smokehouse Little Chief or Big Chief to start, or a large smokehouse in your backyard. While I like to smoke birds in my CookShack smoker, or now my Big Green Egg, I leave my fish to my Smokehouse smokers.

If you’re a smoked foods fanatic like me, you’ll have a smoker collection in no time. I started with just a Little Chief and one Big Chief.

In fact, I just got a French oak wine barrel from our friends Bruce and Ben at Papapietro-Perry Winery in the Russian River Valley, that I’m going to be turning into a smoker this month: I’ve just received an advance review copy of Forgotten Skills of Cooking, Darina Allen’s masterpiece (an understatement, I’m sure you’ll agree with once you get a copy yourself when it comes out in March), and will be preparing my favorite Scottish breakfast from scratch: fried eggs and kippers…what else with a very old Scottish name like Graham?

…Stay tuned for the magic of herring kippering like back in the “Ole Country” and the crafting of a smoker from a wine barrel (you can bet it’s going to do double and triple duty on smoked Teutonic and Slavic sausages this spring)!

BEST WOOD

I prefer to smoke fish with those having less bite, such as apple. Alder is wood I learned about during my year’s cabin pilgrimage to Alaska in 1990, which makes it my go to wood for smoking all salmon, char and trout. It gives the fish a smooth sweet flavor.

If you’re getting it yourself from a riverbank, be sure to remove the bark, or you might get sick. That was a trick I learned from my BBQ buddy Rick Sanchis, of Anchorage, who owned one of two BBQ pits catering to tourists and those working the Spit down in Homer, AK. Those who were heading to the visiting Texan’s pit were always complaining of bad stomachaches, if not outright vomitting after a meal. Sanchis was the one who taught me about removing the bark, which is what the summer bird pitmaster from Texas didn’t do…

SMOKED TROUT PAIRINGS

Though many like to use smoked trout as an ingredient for something else, like stirred into cream cheese, or a garnish for a soup, I prefer to eat smoked trout in a manner that best brings out it’s smoky flavor and that’s with a Ritz cracker, perhaps a little sliced red onion. Perhaps even a light sprinkling of black pepper. That’s it!

The perfect wine I learned for anything smoked is a good solid Pinot Noir, as I enjoyed in a 2007 Papapietro-Perry, and 2006 12 Gauge Cabernet Sauvignon suggested by my friend John Putnam, a fellow game and fish enthusiast at Gauge Wines.

That’s the thing about some meats, unlike chicken and fish, that go better with a white, smoked and spiced meat marry best with the deep earthy red wines.

FINAL NOTE: In the open of the New Year, I had promised to keep this column running at two, at least one, column a week. The mega-monster flu of the year hit me this week that basically took me out of a number of hunting and fishing opportunities and nearly made me miss my objective…by hours.

My apologies. I hope by next week I’m much better for typing and hitting the field, like an Ever-Ready Energizer rabbit that I am, to bring more helpful, reliable Tuesday and Thursday rollouts as I used to do with my weekly newspaper column.

Actually, weekly column was only once a week, so this is much better!

And we have lots of things to do: I’m now the equipment review columnist for e4Outdoors, and will be attending the ISE Show at San Mateo, and conducting a number of interviews, not the least of which will be with my friend Michael Riddle of Native Hunt, who will be releasing a special and tasty food product related to wild game!

…And don’t surprised if there’s also a special, secret guest, a partner of Michael’s…Hint: Do you love the early 1970s song Free Ride? I do, especially every time I watch one of my favorite films: Air America.

…And final quick note, on how I’ve been seeking solace in reading while recovering with Langdon Cook’s Fat of the Land. Cook is a writer of such great skill, that he brings me back to the emotionally vested writing style of old that drew me to become a writer in the first place: Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, and Remarques’ All Quiet on the Western Front. I look forward to next week and delivering to you my review on Langdon Cook’s great memoir of refusing to leave life experience to only reading about it, and venturing forth to enjoy personally what the Earth and Nature has to offer.

…Until next then, good hunting, good fishing and cooking–enjoy the Bounty of the Earth, and practice Sound Wildlife Conservation!

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