Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: The Sporting Road by Jim Fergus

There's nothing like cold weather to bring me closer to my...bookshelf. After having a pleasant and quiet Christmas holiday spent around the house with my family, I've renewed my appreciation for curling up with a good book. In this light, I digress a little from my cast iron and offer a review of a book that I finished not too long ago, The Sporting Road: Travels Across America in an Airstream Trailer--with Fly Rod, Shotgun, and a Yellow Lab Named Sweetzer by Jim Fergus.

The first great thing this book had going for it was the introduction by my friend Rick Bass, most notably of the Yaak Valley in northwest Montana. There is no one better, no one as strong and yet soft-spoken as Rick Bass to set the humble tone I found in Fergus's book.

Although I bird hunt, I do not own a dog, nor have I had the luxury to travel so lonesome-ly (albeit with his dog) in an Airstream trailer as Fergus does in the Sporting Road, but somehow I'm entirely entranced by his stories of great hunts and memorable fishing trips with his friends and sidekick, Sweetzer.

Fergus does not glorify filling his bag limits or gloat over "miracle" shots. He simply lets the reader walk alongside him and his dog as they travel from campgrounds to backyards and beat-up bars. In an elegant manner, Fergus portrays his appreciation for companionship and the great outdoors.

This book will entertain anyone, regardless of their hobbies, geography or political views. Grab a copy today and let me know what you think!

P.S. Learn more about the Yaak Valley through the Yaak Valley Forest Council.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Venison Enchiladas with Christmas Chili Sauces

When I worked in northern New Mexico for a summer, I learned how to order "Christmas" at restaurants, and I learned it quickly. I flew in to the quaint Santa Fe airport and was picked up by a friend. I was hungry after the day's travel so we stopped off at a nearby restaurant. My friend had already been working in area a few weeks before I arrived and already knew how to enjoy the local cuisine.

I ordered a plate of beef enchiladas and the waitress asked if I wanted red or green chili sauce. Thinking that I hadn't had much green chili sauce during my life, I went with that. My friend ordered chicken enchiladas, and again the waitress asked, "Red or Green?" My friend replied, "I'd like that Christmas, please."

My friend knew I'd be a lot confused, and after the waitress left, my friend explained that ordering a dish with "Christmas" meant it would be topped with both red and green chili sauce - see, the colors of Christmas.

So today I give you, in honor of Christmas, a recipe for Venison Enchiladas with Christmas Chili Sauce.

Note: I've really appreciated all the comments people have been making to me, here and in person, about this blog and how it can be improved. My New Year's Resolution for this blog is to include many more high-quality photos of the actual dishes I'm preparing. So stay tuned and make sure I follow through!

Venison Enchiladas with Christmas Chili Sauces 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Twelve 6- to 7-inch corn tortillas
3 cups of heated, canned venison meat
10 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 3 cups), can substitute with non-dairy cheese
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
1 (10-ounce) can of red chili sauce
1 (10-ounce) can of green chili sauce
2 avocados for topping and garnish

In a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil over med-high heat until it is hot, but not smoking

Cook the tortillas, one at a time, for 5-10 seconds per side, or until they start to bubble but not crisp, and transfer them with tongs to paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

On each tortilla mound 1/4 cup of venison, one tablespoon of the cheese, one tablespoon of onion and one teaspoon of the chopped coriander.

Roll up the tortillas and arrange the enchiladas, seam-side-down, in a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Pour the red and green chili sauces over the enchiladas, sprinkle the enchiladas with the remaining 2 1/4 cups cheese and bake them in a preheated 350° F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Sprinkle the enchiladas with the remaining chopped coriander and serve with the avocado, peeled and diced.

Serves 4 to 6.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Move Over Ron Burgundy, We've Got Elk

Good movie, but a better dish. Get out your Crock Pot, gather the ingredients and prepare to simmer. The recipe I'm giving you today is a rich, classic French dish with a Western Rockies flair. Enjoy!

French Elk Burgundy
1/4 cup flour
2 lbs. elk chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 bacon slices, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 beef bouillon cube, crushed
1 cup red wine (recommend Burgundy wine)
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbls. cornstarch, dissolved in 2 Tbls. water (optional, but recommended)
Cooked wide noodles

In a large skillet cooked bacon for several minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Dredge elk with flour and brown on all sides in bacon drippings. Mix elk, cooked bacon and drippings, salt, seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, marjoram, pepper, garlic, bouillon and wine in Crock Pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, until elk meat is tender. Then turn to HIGH, add mushrooms, cover and cook for 15 minutes. To thicken sauce, add cornstarch mixture when you add the mushrooms. Serve over wide noodles.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Canning Meat: Where Science Meets Patience

Canning is one of those fading kitchen arts that risks being underutilized to point of extinction, tossed to the side to make room for the "quick and easy." But canning can be incredibly rewarding, and it can free up significant space in your freezer. So let's take a few minutes and learn about canning meats.

My almost-90-year-old grandmother still tends a vegetable garden in upstate New York, and what she doesn't eat fresh from that garden she cans. When my dad harvests deer from her fields, he, too, cans most of the meat. This is why I treasure the canning process.

This past weekend, I collected about 12 quarts of stew meat cuts while butchering my elk. I'll freeze a couple quarts, and I'm canning the rest this evening. In fact, as I'm writing this post, I'm waiting for my pressure canner to slowly calm down after a lengthy canning process.

If you've never canned anything before, you'll need a few items: a 22-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner, a Canning Jar Lifter and some canning jars. And I highly recommend these two reading resources: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and the Web site, National Center for Home Food Preservation.

But the most important tool in the kitchen for this process is a touch of patience.

To can your game meat, decide if you want to "hot pack" or "raw pack." I suggest "hot packing" venison stew chunks because it's about the safest way to can meat, especially game meat that has been in the field and butchered at home.

A "hot pack" essentially means pre-cooking the meat before you can it, and "raw pack" is just what it sounds like, packing raw meat into the jars and then canning it.

To get started, heat up your frying pan with a little oil and start sauteing a quart-sized jar's worth of meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees F. Fill your hot jars with the meat, loosely (note: canning meat does not require sterilized jars, like canning vegetables. In most cases, jars fresh out of the dishwasher cycle will work perfectly). The jars should be hot, however, because you'll be adding hot liquids to them and you don't want them to break.

Add a teaspoon of salt per one-quart jar of meat and then pour hot water, tomato juice or broth over the meat, leaving about an inch of head space. Screw on the lid until tight by hand (don't over-tighten!).

A 22-quart pressure canner will hold five quart jars per canning session. Fill your pressure canner with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place five filled jars in the canner, with the provided canning rack at the bottom of the pot. Make sure none of the jars are touching each other or the sides of the canner.

Close and lock the lid according to your manufacturer's guidelines. Leave the weight off the pressure valve for now. Bring the burner up to a medium-high and wait until steam pours out of the pressure valve at a steady pace. Let the steam vent for 10 minutes, which removes the excess air from the canner and allows the meat to cook at a higher than normal temperature.

After the steam has vented for 10 minutes, place your weighted pressure guage over the pressure valve. Use the right weight for your altitude, jar size, style of pack and cut of meat (Generally, it's the 10 lb. weight if you live between 0-1,000 feet and the 15 lb. weight if you live above 1,000 feet). Again, refer to the mentioned resources and your manufacturer's specifications.

Let the pressure build again, maintaining at least a medium boiling temperature, until the weighted gauge begins to rock steadily. At this point you begin timing your canning process. Again, depending on your jar size and cut of meat, you'll likely be canning for 75 minutes for pint jars and 90 minutes for quart jars.

Maintain a steady temperature, and only adjust the temp lower if the gauge is rocking violently. After you've timed your canning process, turn off the heat and let the pressure canner return to normal on its own. Do not try to quicken the process by removing the gauge prematurely, and definitely don't open your canner until you can safely remove the guage and let the canner sit for an additional two minutes, venting through the open valve. Remove the lid slowly and let the jars cool to room temperature at their own pace. Within a couple hours, you may hear a distinct "popping" noise that indicates your canning was successful and lids are sunk in tightly.

After the jars have completely cooled, you can rinse off their sides and store them in your cupboard!

I love using canned venison for my Sloppy Doe's recipe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Elk on the Menu!

I've spent the last two days elbow-deep in elk meat from the cow I shot (pictured above). I shot it a week ago and have been letting the quarters age in my garage. Elk and venison meat are much more tender if you can let the animal age for 7-10 days after the kill, but this can only be done if the meat can always remain around 45 degrees or lower, or you risk spoilage.

The first dish I prepared from this elk was cooking up its tenderloins the next day in a little salt and butter. Truly delicious!

Cow elk average a live weight of around 500 pounds, and dressing an animal usually yields around 50-60 percent of its live weight. On my cow, I've probably got at least 200 pounds of meat to process. Tomorrow I'll dive into the hind quarters, which are teeming with prime cuts. I've already marinated and froze steaks from the two backstraps (using my trusty FoodSaver).

My process for dressing deer and elk is simple: eat the tenderloins within 48 hours, steak out as much as you possibly can, keep both rump roasts in tact, cube and can what you can't steak, and grind what you can't can. With the ground meats I make summer and breakfast sausages, beef jerky and hamburgers. I use canned meat for chili and Sloppy Doe's.

If I don't get a duck or goose before Thanksgiving, I'll be preparing an elk rump roast. I just discovered a new meat rub blend, which I'll try before I share, but for Turkey Day, I'm going with this recipe.

Apple Cider Roast
8 lbs. boneless elk roast
4 Tbls. butter, softened
2 Tbls. Dijon mustard
4 Tbls. packed brown sugar
2 Tbls. cracked black pepper
2 tps. dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
2 tps. kosher salt
2 large onions, sliced
1 1/2 c. apple cider (or juice)
2 Tbls. pickle juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. While oven is preheating, rinse roast and pat dry. In a bowl, blend together butter and Dijon mustard and spread on all sides of the roast. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, pepper, rosemary and salt; sprinkle mixture evenly over roast, patting into butter.

Place roast on rack in a roasting pan. Scatter onion slices over roast. Pour apple cider and pickle juice into bottom of roasting pan. Cover with foil and cook until roast is done to your preference (see chart below). Let roast stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Doneness Chart (internal temperature)
Rare 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium-rare 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium-well 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit
Well-done 155-160 degrees Fahrenheit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Product Review: Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System

Last week I ordered the Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System., and every day since it arrived I've been searching the house for knives I can sharpen on it, simply because it's that good.

The last five years I've been collecting knives and collecting sharpening systems. The knives I've been happy with, but the sharpening systems, by and large, are just taking up space in my kitchen drawers.

The Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System. is very similar to a system my Dad always used when I was a kid. I can picture him clearly sitting at our oak kitchen table with his knives arranged nicely on a small towel, while the hint of honing oil lingered until dinner.

What using this system has taught me is that sometimes you should stick with what you know. The Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System. consists of three stones: Coarse, Medium and Fine. The system also comes with a trial bottle of honing oil and a small plastic 23-degree sharpening guide. (I also ordered a large bottle of Lansky Nathan's Natural Honing Oil when I ordered the system, and I'm glad I did because the trial bottle didn't last long).

The 23-degree sharpening guide isn't very useful for anything other than getting a "feel" for the right angle. Believe me, it won't take long to master.

Most of the knives I sharpened started on the Medium stone and finished nicely on the Fine stone. Several knives attained an edge sharp enough to shave hair off my arm. One of the selling points of the Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System. is its ability to polish an edge while producing one. I don't know how important of a feature this is, but I certainly didn't notice anything unsightly when I finished sharpening a knife.

The only down side is that I felt I had to rinse off the stone every time between knives because of the buildup. I didn't remember my Dad having to do this. On the flip side, however, is that the base is made of plastic (my Dad's was wood) so I didn't have to worry about its resistance to constant washing.

I highly recommend the Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System.. My knives are sharper than they've ever been. I only hope my fingers don't pay the price!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hunter's Stew with Baked Pumpkin

Over a week ago I made a substantial batch of fresh pumpkin butter (pictured above) out of a few pre-Halloween pie pumpkins we bought from a local farm. My family grew up making pumpkin butter at least every other autumn. For two days our house was filled with the smells of pumpkin pie spices. We invited friends and family to help us can dozens of pints of the sweet and spreadable deliciousness (best on made-from-scratch biscuits).

I'm sorry, but I won't be giving out my family's secret pumpkin butter recipe anytime soon, but I do have a great recipe I'll be using soon because I have a few leftover pumpkins. This recipe comes from a 2001 issue of Sports Afield.

Hunter's Stew with Baked Pumpkin

1 lb. of venison, cut in 1" cubes and dusted with flour (but any red game meat can be substituted)
1 lb. duck thighs, boned and cut in 1" cubes and dusted with flour (I'm going to use ruffed grouse)
1/2 lb. pork loin cut in 1" cubes and dusted with flour
1/2 lb. of your favorite spicy sausage cut in 1/4-1/2" chunks
1/2 lb. sweet butter
1 Tbl. minced garlic
1 large onion, minced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 c. red wine
1 c. beef or chicken broth
1 c. peeled potato, cut in 1/4" cubes
1 c. turnips, cut in 1/4" cubes
1 c. rutabaga, cut in 1/4" cubes
1 c. baby carrots
1 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
16 oz. stewed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbl. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt

Baked Pumpkin:
2 c. raw pumpkin (or squash) cut in 1" cubes
1/4 lb. butter
1/4 c. maple syrup (or honey)

Directions for Stew:
In a large stock pot, melt butter and brown venison, duck and pork, separately. Set meat aside and saute onion, celery and garlic for five minutes. Add wine and stock to deglaze the pan. After bringing liquid to a boil, add the browned meats and sausage. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in bowls or over buttered noodles. Garnish with Baked Pumpkin.

Directions for Baked Pumpkin:
Begin preparing pumpkin 30 minutes before the stew is finished. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large saucepan, melt butter and add maple syrup. Bring to a slow boil and then add pumpkin cubes. Remove from heat and transfer to a buttered, covered casserole dish and bake in oven for 20 minutes.

Serves six to eight generously.
Baked Whole Pumpkin on Foodista

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love Me Some Sloppy Doe's

As hunting season progresses, and I feel ever so much closer to bringing home a nice plump deer or elk, I've been trying to go through my stash of canned venison from last year. And my hands-down favorite dish to prepare with canned venison stew chunks (which fall apart at the touch of a fork) is "Sloppy Doe's." If you can't figure out what dish I'm spinning off of, may God help you.

So, dust off a quart jar of a previous season's deer or elk and be ready to eat in five minutes. This is a great go-to for quick dinners or one-pot campsite grub.

Sloppy Doe's

1/4 pound bacon, chopped in small pieces
1 quart venison stew meat
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 Tbl. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbls. minced garlic
1 Tbls. prepared Dijon mustard
1/2 c. ketchup
14 oz. can of diced or stewed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large cast iron skillet, cook bacon pieces until crispy. Drain a little of the grease (Note: Not too much. Bacon grease is the true nectar of the gods!). Add chopped onions and cook until almost clear over medium heat.

In a blender (or Vita-Mix), add everything else except the venison and blend until smooth.

Drain some of the water from the jar of venison and add meat to bacon/onion mix and heat through thoroughly (until all liquids are gone and meat just starts to look "dry"). Now add the sauce from the blender, a little at a time, until you get the "sloppiness" you desire and heat through.

Garnish with grilled onions (optional) and serve on warm burger buns with your favorite sides and beverage.

Sloppy Doe's on Foodista

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bring Home the Bones

One thing every hunter should know is how to deal with a dead carcass after the bullet or arrow has done its dirty work. This video is one of the highest rated on YouTube. Packed with over ten minutes of useful information - gutting, aging, skinning a deer, etc. This is a great go-to video. But beware: It's not for a the faint of heart and should not be viewed at dinner time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Don't Sideline Your Condiments


Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our main dishes never make it beyond being just okay. When this happens, we should not be afraid to turn to our sidekicks often kept on the sidelines. I'm talking about the "sauveur du repas" - condiments.

This past week the temps dropped and it snowed, so I gathered the remaining green tomatoes from our garden. Being raised in the South, I've had my fair share of green tomato dishes, from simple fried green tomatoes to Paula Deen's insanely fabulous Green Tomato Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Since most of our green tomatoes were small, and I wanted something I could both serve with venison or put in jars and give away, I explored new recipes for green tomatoes. I came across something I had never heard of before - Green Tomato Ketchup.

I played around with the recipe a little until I got it where I wanted it - less sweet and more twang! I hope you enjoy it!

Green Tomato Ketchup

3 lbs. green tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs. white onions, chopped coarsely
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tbl. dry mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsps mixed pickling spices
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup honey

Slice the green tomatoes and onions and place in a large pot with black pepper, ground mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Place pickling spices in a small cheesecloth bag and add to the pot. Pour in white vinegar cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 4 hours. Then puree hot mixture in a blender and strain back into the original pot through a mesh strainer. Bring to puree to a boil and then add honey.

Immediately fill 3 sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space, and process in a boiling water bath in your deep canning pot for five minutes.

Let jars of green tomato ketchup stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Store unopened jars in a cool dry place up to one year. Refrigerate green tomato ketchup after opening.

Bring out a small dish of this ketchup next time you serve burgers or brats and your guests will beg you for the recipe!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pheasants Forever...tasty

For those who know me well, know that I really enjoy Geocaching, which is a "techie" hobby that uses a GPS to hunt and find hidden caches all over the world. As an aside, I also have a strong affinity for Garmin GPS units, owning at least a half dozen different units. Currently I'm using the Garmin Colorado 300, and I really like it.

Anyway, I was recently contacted by a fellow geocacher because I found his geocache on my way home from Lewistown, Montana and the Montana Trappers Rendezvous (see previous post). His cache is set up as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations. According to his criteria, I had earned the honor to choose next year's beneficiary for money raised in the cache.

I thought long and hard about an appropriate organization. I settled on Pheasants Forever, primarily because I had such fond memories of pheasant hunting in that area a couple years ago.

It also seemed appropriate that I include a delicious recipe for pheasant in this week's posting. This recipe is a modified version of an Emeril Lagasse offering on Food Network.

Roasted Pheasant with Citrus-Jack Sauce

1/4 cup Jack Daniels
2 oranges, cut into 1/8ths
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 (2 to 2 1/2-pound) pheasants
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices bacon, halved

Citrus-Jack Sauce:
1 cup Jack Daniels
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 cup red currant jelly
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
Serving suggestion: Wild rice

For the pheasant: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, toss the oranges with 3 tablespoons of the Jack Daniels. Rub the pheasants with the remaining 1 tablespoon of whisky and lightly season with salt and pepper. Stuff each pheasant with the oranges and 1 sprig of fresh thyme, and close the cavities with skewers. Wrap the breast of each pheasant with the bacon and set in a roasting pan. Roast the pheasants until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees F., about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes.

For the Citrus-Jack Sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the whisky, orange juice, and orange zest, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by 50 percent in volume to about 3/4 cup. Add the currant jelly, salt, and cayenne, and stir well.

Cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a decorative bowl. Cool slightly before serving.

Remove the bacon from the pheasant breasts, if desired, and cut each bird in half. Discard the oranges and thyme in the cavity. Serve hot with Ctirus-Jack Sauce and wild rice.

Photo: National Geographic

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trapper's Delight

I write this post from Lewistown, Montana, a beautiful little town of 12,000 people in center of the state (literally). I'm here attending the Montana Trappers Association's annual Rendezvous.

I'm also here working on a story about trapping in Montana, and it's been a fascinating few days. Also fascinating are the breakfasts I've enjoyed at the bed and breakfast at which I've been staying. This morning I had apricot scones, waffles and bacon fresh off a 4-H hog the B&B owners just received the day before my arrival. Delicious!

The recipe I offer this week is half in jest, and half serious because it stresses my belief in eating what we kill. It was a recipe I got around the proverbial "campfire" this weekend at the Rendezvous. Enjoy it for what it's worth!

Crock Pot Coyote
3 lbs. coyote meat
16 oz. of favorite preserves (recommend peach, pear or apricot)
1 12-16 oz. bottle of favorite BBQ sauce
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-2 tsps. garlic powder (to taste)

Combine all ingredient in a crock pot and cook for 8 hours.

(Note to my followers: the image in my blog's title of the lake is a place I camped at a few years ago just outside Lewistown when I went antelope hunting)

(Additional note: I fully realize that the photo for this post is a Bobcat, even though I posted a recipe for coyote!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

(The Best) Venison Breakfast Sausage is Ready!

The Best (Venison) Breakfast Sausage

-3 pounds ground venison
-1 pound ground fatty bacon
-1/8 cup curing mix (Morton Tender Quick)
-1/2 Tbl fresh ground pepper
-1/2 Tbl crushed red pepper flakes
-1/8 cup brown sugar, packed
-1 1/2 Tbl dried sage

Directions for Cooking:
In a large bowl, mix ground venison and ground fatty bacon with curing mix, pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar and sage. Mix it well so everything is evenly incorporated.

Make small, flat patties and cook over medium heat, preferably in a cast iron skillet.

This recipe makes 32 servings. If freezing, divide into one-pound allotments and wrap uncooked meat in plastic wrap and freezer paper.

Nutritional Information:
Per Serving
Calories: 93
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 46 mg
Sodium: 472 mg
Carbs: 1 g
Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 12 g

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Hunting!

Today is opening day for archery season in my home state of Montana. As it happens, I went out to look for whitetail deer but all I brought home was a small Ruffed Grouse, which is one in the group of mountain grouse (others are Blue Grouse and Franklin's Grouse). I'm certainly grateful for the grouse. It will make for a delicious meal, but more on that later.

First I want to introduce my blog. Cooked Animals is here simply to inspire and educate the home cook/chef and hunter. When my father taught me to hunt, he also taught me that we eat what we kill. Never was hunting about taking a trophy animal.

My parents also instilled in me a reverence for living off the land. We grew gardens, picked and canned fruit, and made various butters, sauces and spreads. Many of these tasks I still perform today, and I will share what knowledge I have.

And my family feasted, often. We invited friends and relatives over for meals so grand that it seemed that no one had room for a plate on the table. It is for these reasons and more that I am starting this blog.

The recipes, stories and reviews I contribute here have all inspired me in some way. I will write (as much as I can) from firsthand (or near firsthand) experience. Don't worry, I have many professional chef friends!

I look forward to hearing from you, the reader, as well. Ask questions. Tell your own stories. Share your opinions. If you're curious about something, ask and I'll try to find the answer. Most of all, try the recipes and let me know how they worked out.

Speaking of, here's the first recipe I give to you. It's also the first recipe for grouse I ever prepared. Be careful, it's rich!


Mountain Grouse Marsala
4 Tbl flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 medium to large grouse, cut into serving-size pieces
5 Tbl butter
4 Tbl minced white onion
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary, fresh
1 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup chicken broth

Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and dredge the grouse in the mixture.

Melt butter in a large skillet (cast iron if you have one) over med-high heat. Brown the grouse on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove grouse and set aside.

Add onion, mushrooms, rosemary, lemon zest and 1 Tbl of dredging flour to the skillet and saute for 7-8 minutes. Whisk in marsala wine and chicken broth and stir until thickened.

Return grouse to skillet and cook for about 15 minutes. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Works wonderfully served over pasta or rice. (Serves 2)

Recipe adapted from Rocky Mountain Gourmet Cookbook.

*P.S. If you want to learn more about Ruffed Grouse conservation efforts, visit the Ruffed Grouse Society's Web site.