Two Reasons Why Spring is Such an Exceptional Season: Wild Turkey and Pheasant Back Risotto

After the doldrums of late-winter—those weeks when the ice has started to thaw on lakes statewide, leaving little opportunity for fishing—spring is a welcomed reprieve from cold days with little sunshine. For us hunters and foragers in particular, spring represents the opportunity to pursue some of the rarest, most-elusive table fare the year will have to offer and serve it up in some classic or new favorite dishes.  Continue reading “Two Reasons Why Spring is Such an Exceptional Season: Wild Turkey and Pheasant Back Risotto”

Incorporating My Appalachian Roots: Kentucky-Fried Ruffed Grouse Legs

One of my earliest childhood memories is the Kentucky mountainside opposite my great-grandmother’s porch. A steep mosaic of oak and pine, it towered over the one-lane highway hemming its slope, a short walk from Nannie’s front steps. I recall well the intermittent hum of semis at night, the whirring glow of their cab lights like fireflies in our guest bedroom window. In the morning we woke early to the sounds of Nannie working in the kitchen. Smells of frying bacon and chicken roused our noses from sleep, luring our feet, pair by pair, down creaking floorboards. Continue reading “Incorporating My Appalachian Roots: Kentucky-Fried Ruffed Grouse Legs”

A Belated St. Paddy’s, Lenten Feast: Fried Walleye with Irish Colcannon

I thought I knew a good fish fry, until I moved to Minnesota, where the state fish, the ever-famous walleye, was a game changer. I had fried everything from bass to cod to trout during my years in the Pacific Northwest. While I thoroughly enjoyed those suppers, nothing quite beats a walleye—the way it melts in your mouth, how its flavor balances perfectly with spices inside a golden-brown crust. Continue reading “A Belated St. Paddy’s, Lenten Feast: Fried Walleye with Irish Colcannon”

Real Hunters Know Their Gravies: Roasted Grouse with Hunter-Style Gravy

The origin of hunter-style gravy, or “sauce chasseur” as the French call it, remains rather unclear. Seen on modern menus today, the term hunter-style or hunter’s sauce typically refers to a recipe that includes sautéed mushrooms and is made from beef demi-glace. Some sources suggest the sauce got its name from the practice of hunters returning home from a successful hunt and foraging for mushrooms along their route. Other sources speculate instead of wine—a common ingredient in modern hunter-style gravies—hunters employed the blood from their kill in the recipe. I prefer to believe the latter and have sought to create a recipe that aims to celebrate the ritualistic nature of returning home from the woods after a great day bagging grouse. Continue reading “Real Hunters Know Their Gravies: Roasted Grouse with Hunter-Style Gravy”

The Airline Cut: Grilled Rosemary Pheasant with Red Curry Sauce

For most wingshooters, when it comes to preparing their birds, there are typically two options: breasts and thighs, or the longer—but also more rewarding—process of plucking the entire fowl. However, a happy medium exists between these two choices, one that saves time but also offers the benefits of bone-in, skin-on pheasant.
An airline cut saves skin, resulting in a crispier exterior, while also leaving a drumette attached. While some chefs argue bone-in proteins don’t add extra flavor, I tend to disagree, since I believe innate flavors present in bones seep out into meat during cooking. As well, leaving the drumette attached allows for a more even cook and a juicer piece of pheasant once done grilling.     Continue reading “The Airline Cut: Grilled Rosemary Pheasant with Red Curry Sauce”

Flavoring a Rooster Aged for 10 Days

Hang an undressed rooster outside for 10 days?

The idea went against my natural inclinations as both a former line cook and a fisherman. Years of food safety rules and regulations—complete with bi-annual certification tests and multiple kitchen inspections per year—remain engrained in my mind and still largely influence how I handle food during every stage of a meal. Storage temperatures between 40 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit make me nervous, as health code science has labeled this range as the “danger zone,” temperatures where bacteria can potentially grow at a quicker rate.    

As an angler, the thought of allowing guts to sit and stew inside the cavity of any quarry for days on end had my mouth tasting mud (in the metaphorical sense). After all, there is a reason we clean our catch as soon as possible. Innards tend to permeate flesh. Once that happens, they’re spoiled beyond repair, better given as gift to your neighbor’s cat.  Continue reading “Flavoring a Rooster Aged for 10 Days”

Stop Calling Your Buttermilk a Brine, Because It Ain’t

Buttermilk is not a brine, no matter what you add to it. Many cooks, chefs and food experts may initially disagree with me on this statement, but few can argue there are distinct reasons buttermilk works differently than your basic salt-water brine. True: Both, when used properly, improve the overall texture of protein, yet they do so through different means.

Continue reading “Stop Calling Your Buttermilk a Brine, Because It Ain’t”