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.