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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”

Fowl Irish Cream of Mushroom Stew

Rendered duck fat is nothing less than liquid gold. The value lies in its utility, as it serves as a healthier substitute for most oils and margarine, lard and even butter in some situations. Bakers will even substitute rendered waterfowl fat for shortening.
One way to improve your stews: make a duck fat roux. A roux (a combination of flour and any of the following: heated butter, canola oil, hot animal fat) involves cooking flour, while being careful not to burn the roux, in order to create a powerful thickening agent for soups, stews or gumbos. It requires time and patience and a vigilant cook willing to stand over the stovetop and whisk that mess every few minutes.

     There are two options regarding how to finish off this stew. Most recently, I added it to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish for a casserole known as Hotdish (a Minnesota staple, mix of proteins, vegetables and starches), therefore I preferred a gooey mix and never added milk. Should you wish to enjoy this stew as simply stew in a bowl, I advise you add the milk (two cups) to thin out the contents; otherwise your spoon might get a case of the cement shoes.    

Fowl Irish Cream of Mushroom Stew
Makes six to eight servings.
Roux: 1/3 cup heated duck fat, 2/3 cup flour
1-1/2 cups shallots, julienne
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons freshly minced garlic
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Irish porter beer
3 cups hot chicken stock
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk
5-6 ounces grated or shredded Kerrygold Dubliner cheese
2 teaspoons each of salt and black pepper
To start: In large skillet heated on medium-low, add butter, shallots, and garlic, lightly salt and pepper, and sauté until shallots are soft. Add mushrooms. When shallots have very slight brown color, add porter beer and let simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside until roux is complete. 
To make roux: While sautéing shallots and mushrooms, heat 1/3 cup duck fat on medium-low in large pot until it is liquid form and hot. Add 2/3 cup flour. Simultaneously, heat 3 cups of chicken stock until it simmers. Stir roux often to avoid burning. After approximately 10 minutes, roux should be hot (not necessary thick liquid form). Add hot chicken stock and whisk thoroughly.  
To finish stew: Once roux mix is thick and hot (there may be some bits of roux floating, that is okay), add cream and milk and shallot-mushroom mix, plus S&P. Stir thoroughly, keep on low for half hour, add cheese. Heat on low for another half hour (minimum). Serve and enjoy!
Remember: Should you wish to add this stew to a casserole or hotdish, do not add milk. Additionally, for my most recent Dubliner Mallard Hotdish recipe, I did not add full contents of stew (probably a little over 2 cups remained in pot after mixing stew with vegetables and proteins).
Hank Shaw offers an excellent video on the easiest way to render waterfowl fat (spoiler alert, it involves duck butts):

Additionally, should you ever find yourself searing duck breasts in a skillet, make certain to save the oil that accumulates in the pan (as it is nothing other than liquid gold duck fat). Can it. Put it in the fridge. (For a solid recipe on Seared Duck Breasts with a Lemon Ginger Glaze, check out my story with the Pioneer Press’s Outdoors section:

Humor: The Great Jake Debacle of Thanksgiving 2012

Others, those involved, may know this incident by another name, for we all suffered in our own ways.
Prosperity often precedes the greatest hardships. An abrupt shift in fortune remains the common component of every tragedy. The “Great Jake Debacle of Thanksgiving 2012” was no different.
 On the morning of the day before Thanksgiving 2012, my good friend Kevin and I sat shivering in the rain, concealed in the bramble of a thorn bush, waiting for turkeys to stir in their roosts and swoop down at sunrise.
      Dawn was near. Rain clouds gradually turned a lighter shade of gray. Blurred shadows in the distance took shape and rows of pine stood delineated in a haze of rain. In the roosts hens started yelping and clucking and soon we were able to make out the vague outline of locked wings coasting to the ground.
Half disappeared over the property line, while the rest moved in a procession along the ridges, toward our spot.  
When they were within range, we each fired two shots, though only one bird dropped and flapped about in the mud. I checked the time on my phone. After four years hunting this property, I knew turkey patterns down to the minute. In a half hour, they would be circling the ridges near the farmer’s cattle pen.
I slowly stalked ridges, drawing closer. From over a hundred yards away, I spotted a line of redheads cresting a hill. I sprinted to catch them on the next ridge, quickly ascended their previous hill, and saw the last bird in the train approaching the top of the next ridge, not far away. I lifted my shotgun, placed the bead of my muzzle on the base of its neck and fired.
The shot sent hundreds of nearby stooped mallards into the sky. They had lifted from muddy cattle fields and now swarmed above the pines. I futilely spent my last two shells in their direction.  
As I picked up my downed jake (immature male turkey), I heard a loud crack—a shot from a hundred yards away that echoed vibrantly along the ridges. I circled back to Kevin to find him holding the neck of his turkey hen in one hand, the neck of a hen mallard in the other.
In his laziness and indifference, Kevin handed me the duck to dress and pluck. So I did. I spent nearly two hours at home afterward plucking the birds, though I left the jake—at least 15 pounds—unfinished.
The next day our close group of friends gathered early in the morning for Thanksgiving. My good friend Scott and I drank High Life well before noon and together finished plucking my jake.

(Packer fandom forgiven during plucking) 

Another friend Amanda had received a domestic turkey from work. While that bird would serve as dinner, this jake was intended to serve as a snacking bird during football.
I lacquered teriyaki sauce over every flank, started a heap of coals in a chimney starter. I tossed the coals in my buddy Gabe’s Weber and threw a gallon of wet applewood chips atop and placed my sauced jake on the grate and started smoking the bird with minimal ventilation.

(Grill Mishap Suspect Number 1: Gabe)

Yet, somewhere amid the beer drinking and football, someone (possibly even myself) got a little too handsy with the grill vents. I came out an hour later to find plumes of fire spilling out the sides of the grill. I immediately removed the lid and used two sets of tongs to lift the grate and take my jake off the flames. Its entire backside was charred, though the front side seemed untouched.
I added more coals, more chips, re-adjusted the vents and placed the jake back in the grill to finish smoking. I was determined to salvage this harvest.
Later, presentation-side up, my smoked jake was a work of art, sitting on its platter for all to sample during football.
Many did, while others opted to wait for domestic turkey.
Amanda returned home from work and everyone, having brought their own dish to share, began prepping and reheating their contributions in the early afternoon. Gabe and I had the bright idea, with Kevin’s duck, to make a turducken this year. We crammed a store-bought chicken inside the cavity of that domestic turkey, followed by wild duck inside that chicken, and started roasting.

(Roasting the perfect, slightly wild turducken)

Scott’s contribution was an expired can of cranberry sauce, the first ominous piece in the painful mystery that would ensue.
It should be noted: Scott has a propensity for consuming expired goods. Prior to his wedding, his wife’s uncle had stockpiled cases of Hamm’s and brought the beer to share at the ceremony. Scott, not wanting one drop to go to waste, brought the remaining beer home with him and, even for months afterward, continued to drink and offer guests expired Hamm’s. He seemed offended when we grimaced while drinking.

(A Hamm’s man)

Scott was the first to get sick. After dinner, we listened to him violently disgorge his meal upstairs in the spare bathroom. My wife, Dara, and Amanda went upstairs to help.
Was it the cranberry sauce? We all laughed at his bravado, as he was the only one willing to dollop that purple gelatin atop his plate. He even sat with a posture of arrogance during dinner, stoutly dismissing every advocacy for caution.

(Patient Zero: Scott)

      Later that night, after we all had gone our separate ways, I woke to a severe pain in my stomach. My wife darkened our bedroom doorway, informing me she herself had just thrown up.
      It felt like razor blades were coursing through my intestines, though I never vomited.
      The next day we learned Amanda had been throwing up, while her husband, Gabe, also experienced similar pains to me. Our other friend, Sam, also expressed he wasn’t feeling well.
       Maybe it wasn’t the cranberry sauce? Was it the wild turkey? The turducken? My wife’s stuffing? My mashed potatoes? Whenever we thought we had narrowed it down, someone else would advise that they never tried that particular dish. Amanda never had the wild turkey. Sam never touched the turducken since he left early. There was no one constant among us.
        My wife later suggested Scott may have contracted the Norovirus during his recent business trip to Vancouver, since there was an outbreak of the virus there. But then why did all the guys (not including Scott) experience gut-wrenching pain and never vomit?
So many variables. The cause remains a mystery to this day. Still, perhaps the greatest tragedy was the pounds of leftovers that were viewed as suspects, never to be cherished twice. My jake—bigger than most toms, a true beauty—with sizeable portions of meat still remaining, was destined for the trash.
The idea itself of scraping baking pans packed with mounds of Thanksgiving staples into the garbage was nothing less than painful. They remained in our refrigerators for days, for we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to part with them.
Eventually, we simply had to.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? Hard to say when the root of the problem is still unknown. Regardless, to avoid food poisoning, here are some basic Thanksgiving tips:

·         Thaw your bird under cold running water, not at room temperature on the countertop. Bacteria grows rapidly in raw poultry at room temperature.
·         Always use an accurate meat thermometer to make certain the deepest part of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees. Also check the inner-most portion of the thigh.
·         Cook your stuffing in a baking pan with chicken stock, not inside the cavity of the bird. That egg and bread mix, when stuffed inside the cavity of a bird, takes a very long time to cook adequately. Either your bird will dry out in the process or you will remove early when the stuffing hasn’t finished cooking. Uncooked stuffing presents a very high risk of food poisoning.
·         Be careful when “sanitizing” your countertops and work space, since sometimes old rags and sponges contain germs and will actually spread germs rather than disinfect. Use fresh towels or towelettes, perhaps even a sanitizer solution of bleach and water (1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water—NO MORE).
·         Finish your mashed potatoes well ahead of schedule or right before dinner, since that hot mix of potatoes and heavy cream will grow bacteria after cooked and left at room temperature. Either cook and refrigerate for several hours then reheat, or add the cream and mix shortly before serving, making certain the mashed potatoes stay between 140 to 165 degrees until put away, uncovered, in the refrigerator to cool. Mashed potatoes and stuffing are the leading causes of food poisoning on Thanksgiving.
·         Finally, don’t eat expired shit.

Who says Thanksgiving has to be turkey? Brandy apple-glazed pheasant will suffice.

      This is my favorite time of year—when the air turns just as crisp as the falling leaves. Sunlight has a softer quality to it, almost as if filtered through olive oil. For us bird hunters, all these signs mean just one thing: pheasant season is finally here.

      After a successful hunt, when it comes to dinner, the taste of pheasant itself ranks in the top tier for wild fowl.  

Whenever possible, I believe plucking every bird is a worthwhile endeavor, as the skin seals in juices and flavor while roasting.
Dry plucking requires time and patience, and perhaps a blow torch to singe smaller leftover feathers. There is also the option of dunking birds in steaming water and paraffin wax, then cooling under cold water and plucking. 
 Brining is also an important step, since soaking proteins in a salt-water solution for at least 24 hours reduces moisture loss during cooking by up to 15 percent. The end result is one succulent, flavorful bird.
 The sweet brandy apple glaze is a hint of autumn desert during dinner. Apply as liberally as you choose, but make certain to save room for pumpkin pie.
Makes four servings.
1 whole pheasant, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, skin on. 
Pheasant brine:
1  1/2 gallons water
1 cup non-iodized salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup black pepper
7 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 large bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
2 honeycrisp apples, sliced
1 lemon, sliced and juiced
4 ounces fresh ginger, smashed
Brandy apple glaze:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup shallots, julienne
1  1/2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1  1/2 ounces brandy
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons apple butter
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons salt
To roast pheasant: Once pheasant has sat completely covered by brine in fridge for 24 hours, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse pheasant, pat dry. If possible, truss bird. Lightly salt and pepper all sides. Cook pheasant, breast side up, at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees. Cover breast side of pheasant with sliced apples from brine. Cook for another 40-50 minutes. Check for an internal temperature of 160 degrees before removing. 
To make glaze: Start once pheasant is inserted into oven. Sautee shallots and garlic in butter on medium heat until shallots are soft and slightly browned. Deglaze with brandy, add vinegar, simmer for one minute before adding remaining ingredients. Cook on medium to medium-high for approximately 35 minutes or until liquids have reduced to one third. Stir often. Turn heat to simmer, and continue reducing until glaze acquires viscid texture and dark brown color (approximately another 10 minutes). Keep on low until ready to serve. 
To serve: Let roasted pheasant sit for five minutes. You may choose to remove apples or keep them atop skin. As well, you have the option to glaze pheasant as it cools, or wait until it is carved to drizzle glaze overtop individual servings.   

Stomach health secrets to improve your day afield and on the water: keeping it simple the night before

      When it comes to a full day of fishing or hunting, stomach health and what you eat and drink the night before is arguably just as important as any piece of equipment you place in your truck or boat.
Sure, chances are you already have your neoprene waders laid out, alongside your freshly cleaned and oil shotgun. The decoys are stacked in the boat. But what happens when the sun breaks the horizon and you feel a rumble in your stomach? Bloating has got your intestines feeling like they are digesting razor blades. Your only option may be to drop waders in the woods 100 yards back, thus potentially missing that first flock that decides to decoy at first light. 

      We have all been there. It is not a pleasant topic, and because no one wants to talk about, perhaps this is the reason we keep repeating our mistakes.

      Here is a strange fact you may have recognized but have never known the cause: increased adrenaline, perhaps at the sight of a river or upon hearing a flock of geese, can potentially induce the need to release your bowels. Here’s why:
Digestion requires blood to extract nutrients from food. Digestion consumes calories, calories required for other faculties in an emergency. That rise in adrenaline, simply because you are excited or “pumped,” can fool your body into thinking it is in “emergency mode.” Blood rushes to muscles. To get rid of all undigested food that is requiring blood, your body wishes to empty the digestive system. Bowel movements are not uncommon. Because the body has not had the chance to complete digestion and remove all the water from the fecal matter, the bowel movement can result in the runs or diarrhea.
       Ever read about a burglar taking a shit in the home they burglarized? Probably not. But it happens. Ask experienced law enforcement or my former professor Ben Percy who walked in a foul-smelling crime scene at home.
The adrenaline poop is a fact of life. You are not a weirdo because when you first sit down in your tree stand you immediately have an urge to search your bag for a roll of TP and dig a hole far, far away.
But how many of us actually indulge this sensation to shit? More than likely, not many. For the same reason professional bass fishermen have several rods and reels rigged and ready to go on the boat, instead of retying lures, passionate outdoors-men and women will go to extreme lengths, endure extreme conditions, to ensure time afield and on the water is well spent.
Upland bird hunters wear waterproof chaps because they know they could be working moisture-rich draws and  a wet pair of pants means slowed movement and a harder walk. Every hunter and fishermen, when expecting a full day, should always take as many precautions as possible—think outside the box, and think ahead.
The same goes for your stomach. If your body is going to tell you it needs a release, what you decided to put in it the night before will determine how easily you can forget about this inclination.

What to consider avoiding:

·         Certain vegetables containing sugars that formulate gas in your intestinal tract during digestion. Examples include onionsand artichokes, which contain fructose. Others vegetables include asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, which all contain raffinose, another type of sugar.
·         Certain fruits and artificial sweetenerscontaining gas-inducing sugars (sorbitol): prunes, apples, peaches and pears.
·         Acid foods, which can upset the lining of your stomach, such as garlic or oranges and all types of vinegar.
·         Spicy foods, which will also potentially upset the lining of your stomach, such as buffalo wings or jalapeños and most Mexican or Thai cuisine
·         Dairy products containing lactose (regardless of whether you are lactose intolerant) can cause issues during digestion. If you consume too much lactose, by eating such dairy products as soft cheesesand whole milk, these items are digested in the large intestine and therefore may cause bloating and gas. Never pleasant.
·         Fried foods such as fried chicken or beer-battered fish can moved through the body quickly undigested and potentially cause diarrhea or similar digestive issues.   
·         Processed foods such as Slim Jims, hot dogs and sausages or lunch meats high in preservatives lack fiber and contain additives that may upset certain types of stomachs.
·         All types of alcohol serve as a double-edged sword: alcohol dehydrates you while also serving as toxin to your stomach lining.   
·         Though often beneficial to your health, the type of fat found in eggs propels those breakfast proteins through your intestines and could potentially induce a premature bowel movement.
·         Everyone needs coffee to wake up at 3:30 in the morning and get ready to load the truck or haul the boat and make certain we beat the sunrise to the woods or our prime spot of water. Still, too much coffee or caffeine not only speeds you up, it also speeds up your digestive system, which could lead to diarrhea if digesting food isn’t allowed ample time for removal of water.  
·         Finally, though it pains me to say it: pizza. Between the cheeses and acidic pizza sauce containing oodles of garlic, to the myriad gas-inducing toppings, this Chicago favorite should be avoided at all costs prior to a full day of hunting or fishing.

What to consider consuming:

  • Soluble fiber foods. WedMD offers a great explanation of how fibrous foods promote healthy bowel movements. Soluble foods—which absorb water, binding other digested foods and turning them to mush—include oatmeal, regular Cheerios and other cereals, nuts and beans
  • Insoluble fiber foods such as whole-wheat bread or pasta or brown rice also help fit everything together. Imagine small Czech hedgehogs streaming through your intestines—insoluble fiber benefits digestion by unclogging routes and binding mush to get it moving in one solid mass.
  • No matter how great your gut feels, you’re still going to require energy for a full day. Lean meats such as grilled chicken or grilled fish (devoid of excess seasoning) serve as great sources of protein.
  • Finally, it is so common sense it is often forgotten: water. Proper hydration is essential on numerous levels. It promotes healthy digestion, helps avoid cramping during those multi-mile jaunts through brush and woods, while also combating fatigue.

Of course these points are just a set of guidelines. Different foods affect different people differently. You know your body best. Choose to eat what makes for a healthy stomach for you.
A recent source for a Pheasants Forever story I wrote had a great piece of advice: If any piece of equipment detracts from “being in the moment,” you did something wrong. This means if your feet are cold, you chose the wrong boots. Your legs are soaking and slowing down—you wore jeans when you should have worn chaps or waterproof pants. If you cannot simply enjoy being outdoors, appreciate every gift your senses are receiving, then you did something wrong.
Perhaps it was what you put in your mouth at the dinner table. Don’t pay for a supper oversight in the field or on the water. Remain conscious of your stomach—potentially just as much a liability as the gun or rod-and-reel in your hands.

Never settle when it comes to salt

There are numerous differences between table salt and the rest—sea salt, kosher-certified, kosher-style—as well as several reasons why you should never substitute one for the other in recipes.
I have visited friends’ and family kitchens and, in impromptu fashion, offered to help with dinner, only to search their cabinets and find only table salt, then instinctively utter that special word under my breath: “shit.”

      The main problem with table salt when cooking: It absorbs too quickly in the location you drop it, so that patch of meat will later throb with a salty flavor; whereas larger grains of salt (found in kosher-certified and kosher-style) are more easily spread around and will extract moisture (increasing succulence) before settling it.

Think of this analogy: Table salt—that friend that comes over and immediately cracks a beer and plomps down on your couch for the game. Larger grains of salt—that friend that helps straighten up the place then asks permission for a beer for taking a seat on your couch.
Both end in the same result, but one gets more done prior to the finish.
Table salt contains anti-caking agents, such as calcium silicate or sodium ferrocyanide. Some forms of table salt contain iodine, a method that dates back to when goiters (the result of not enough iodine in one’s diet) were a national concern. Since iodine discrepancy in soil is less of an issue these days, and fewer people are walking around with footballs on their necks, iodine in salt is often considered superflous by most chefs.
Still, there is nothing wrong with sprinkling some dust from the salt shaker onto your dinner, though when my wife does it, I always feel like I did something wrong. Through my ongoing sessions of kitchen counseling and with the many self-help tapes I ordered from Amazon, I hope to one day no longer feel salty when someone adds salt to a dish I prepared. 
Baby steps… Baby steps.      
Salt should be considered an anvil in the kitchen, as it determines the balance of flavor in many instances—whether dishes turn out too salty or too bland. I dare say I have seen restaurants go under because the cooks never knew how to properly apply salt.
Chemically, salt causes molecules to “breathe” and further release flavors. Biologically, salt triggers one of the primary sensory nodes on your tongue and, in certain dishes, counteracts other nodes, such as bitterness and sweetness.  
Additionally, the physical construction of different salts greatly varies—from the granular texture of sea salt to the minuscule nature of table salt. This is the very reason you cannot substitute one salt for another when it comes to a recipe description.
Just as rocks stack differently than sand, so do different salts comprise varied space inside a measuring tool. Morton Salt, my preferred source for anything salt, offers a great conversion chart.
So the question remains: what to purchase from the store? We’ve ruled out table salt (non-iodized and iodized) except for a small amount for shakers.
If it’s in a box, that’s a good sign. I have noticed a consistent pattern when it comes to salts in cylinders—regardless of what they claim to be, they always end up containing “too fine” granules of salt for my liking. Maybe that is the result of some stranger coming along and shaking every salt cylinder like maracas.
Makes sense to me.
Still, you never know what a box contains until you get it home. If you can pitch and punch it, consider that a good sign.
Most local stores don’t carry the exotic varieties, but my good friend and former kitchen manager, Kevin Russell (of The Elk Public House) swears by smoked salt. He adds it to most of his grilled meats, feels naked grilling red harvests without it.
Not ready to spend nearly $35 a pound for salt? If you’re spending $35 for a cut of steak, or dedicating hours in the field waiting for that antlered encounter (minimum $70 worth of pay per most minimum wage pay scales), isn’t a tablespoon out of that $35 salt worth it?

(Photo credit; Kevin Russell)

Wild Turkey Schnitzel

I can probably get most turkey hunters to agree the sport satisfies nearly all the five senses – the smell of pine and dew in the early morning, the throaty gobble of a tom, the sight of his majestic strut, the texture of your heart in your throat as he draws nearer. However, when it comes to taste, most turkey hunters wouldn’t rate the bird’s culinary merit any higher than shoe leather. This is where we disagree.

      Last fall season, my friend, Kevin Russell, and I hunted a piece of private land north of Spokane, Wash. Among 40 acres of stone ridges and pine forest, we set up beside a pond that sits between two common roost locations. In this particular Game Management Unit, our daily and possession limit was two beardless turkeys. Ambling hens were our target.

We took our seats in a couple bushes a half hour before sunrise, and waited. Shadows began to take shape. The western sky before us softened. Geese flew overhead, honking as they passed, and their noise spurred the yelps of hens roosting nearby. We sat in the intersection of their conversation. Hens in the ravine behind us carried on with clucks and yelps while hens off to our left, overtop the pond, did the same.
I called only a few times – enough to keep them interested in our spot, curious, but not so much so that they might become suspicious, or even spot the motion of my hand on the slate.
The yelps grew louder to our left. Within minutes the sounds were quieter, off in the distance. I swear, sometimes, it seems turkeys can enter the wraith world, and pass by unseen, unheard.
Once we were certain they were out of range, we stood and assessed our options. While one group of hens had headed elsewhere, we knew there was a good chance we could change spots and try to call in the second group of hens from the ravine.
Certain to stay low and keep ridges between us and the next path or patch of flat land, we spotted a group of hens a couple hundred yards away. Because they were frolicking and moving about, instead having their heads bent to the grass, we knew they would be moving soon. There were only two directions they could go, since we knew they wouldn’t head out to the field where there was no cover and no food or water source.
Kevin and I confirmed the spots where we would post up behind a ridge. Knowing each other’s location, we sat backs against a rock, facing the direction of the turkeys, waiting. A few minutes later, I heard a gunshot. Hunt over for the day.
 I wouldn’t know until I met Kevin in the field that he had taken two hens with his one shot. Because he is a generous fellow, after tagging both birds, he gave me one to take home.  
I butterflied both breasts and lightly pounded them to a 1/8- to ¼-inch thickness. I brined them in six cups of water and one tablespoon each of sugar and black pepper, quarter cup of non-iodized salt. After 24 hours, it was dinner time.
For the gravy, I sautéed my onions on low heat in butter until they were soft then added my sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper, and garlic. I let those simmer for a few minutes then deglazed them with marsala cooking wine. Don’t skimp when it comes to marsala. There is a big difference between the cheap stuff and the quality $12-a-bottle stuff.
While the wine simmered and reduced, I started the canola oil to fry the breaded turkey breasts and also turned the oven on to 425 degrees. I mixed two cups of flour with a tablespoon each of salt and pepper. I beat three eggs and mixed in a half cup of buttermilk.
Once the wine had reduced, I added my beef stock and cream and continued to let that simmer. I took each turkey breast, rinsed and pat dried, and tossed it first in the flour, giving it a nice coat, then threw it through the egg mix and finally, a bowl of panko breading.
With panko now covering square inch of both sides, I laid each breast in the oil and let it cook until the edges and the facedown side were golden brown. I flipped the turkey breasts and placed them in the oven, still in the pan of oil, for two minutes.
I added my tablespoon of flour to my lightly bubbling gravy pan. (Do not add flour unless pan is slightly bubbling, otherwise you’ll get clumps of flour throughout.) Feel free to add an extra tablespoon of flour if you prefer a thicker gravy. Stir often.
After two minutes in the oven, I placed two slices of swiss cheese overtop each breast and let them cook for another two minutes. One finished, I ladled on the gravy, garnished with chives and served with potato pancakes and sour cream.
Never let another hunter tell you turkey just isn’t good eating. My friend likes to cook his wild turkey while never revealing the dish’s true identity. When his friends and family respond with enthusiasm, only then does he reveal the secret.
To recap…
Makes two servings.
2 turkey breasts, 8 to10 ounces each. 
Schnitzel gravy:
1 yellow onion sliced bi-julienne (julienne stylei n half)
1 ½ cups brown mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Marsala cooking wine
3 cups beef stock
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl freshly minced garlic
1 Tbl flour
To Brine: Butterfly both breasts and lightly pounded them to a 1/8- to ¼-inch thickness. Brine in 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon each of sugar and black pepper, 1/4 cup of non-iodized salt. Let breasts sit in brine, covered in refrigerator for 24 hours.
To make gravy: Sauté onions, cut bi-julienne, on low heat in butter until soft then add sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper, and garlic. Let simmer for a few minutes then deglaze with marsala cooking wine. Let wine reduce to half, add beef stock and cream, continue to reduce and simmer. Reduce to one third. Add 1 tablespoon of flour to lightly bubbling gravy. Stir often. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.  
To cook turkey breasts: Rinse and pat-dry breasts. While liquids reduce, heat 1/4 inch of canola in large sauté pan to 350 degrees and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix 2 cups of flour with a tablespoon each of salt and pepper. Beat three eggs and mixed in 1/2 cup of buttermilk. When liquids have reduced, take each turkey breast and toss first in flour, then egg mix and finally, a bowl of panko breading. Place breast in oil and let it cook until edges and facedown side are golden brown. Flip the turkey, then immediately place in oven, still in pan of oil, for two minutes. After two minutes, place two slices of Swiss cheese overtop each breast and let cook for another two minutes.
To serve: Remove from pan, let sit in bed of paper napkins for couple minutes to dry oil. Place on serving plate and douse in gravy, garnish with chives and serve with potato pancakes and sour cream.

Marinades champion flavor, help fight cancer

When it comes to a perfect marinade, the search for the right ingredients has more to do with science than taste buds. In addition, the same science responsible for flavor infusion and tenderness may also help keep you healthy.
For most home cooks, the process of marinating is quite simple: grab a jar from the same aisle where they sell barbecue sauces, follow the instructions on the label. Few realize, buried in the list of ingredients and nutritional facts, chemistry is afoot.
Marinades improve the flavor and moistness of cooked meats, but scientists have also proven marinated meats reduce the risk of cancer. Studies have proven marination prior cooking has an overall reducing effect on heterocyclic amines, cancer-causing compounds known as carcinogens.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meats are cooked at high temperatures. Research has proven marinades cut HCA anywhere from 90-99%. Eating meats at lower cooking temps, such medium-rare or rare, also decreases carcinogens.
Marinades are typically acid-based solutions designed to denature (in this case “soften” or “tenderize”) meat. The lower the pH of the solution, the more acidic the marinade, the more denaturing that occurs. For example, a marinade with balsamic vinegar (pH of 3) as its main ingredient will significantly denature proteins in the meat, especially over longer periods of time. On the contrary, a marinade with mostly pineapple juice (pH of 6) will less affect the composition of proteins.
For a reference chart on acids and alkali, check out the following website:
When it comes to wild game, such as deer, hunter cooks like to marinate tougher cuts of meat—leg or shoulder steaks—in order to tenderize and enhance the flavor of their meal. Acids in marinades open up outer protein cells, allowing flavors to penetrate deeply into the meat. During this process, these same acids break down muscle tissue on the exterior of the meat, thus creating a tender texture. Food scientists assert, however, marinades rarely penetrate more than an 1/8-inch per day. Some experts claim marinades will never penetrate more than a 1/4-inch.
Perhaps they have never cooked with Coca-Cola.
My former kitchen manager, Kevin Russell, of The Elk Public House in Spokane, Washington, has an amazing pulled pork recipe—sear cube cuts of pork shoulder on the flattop, place in a 4-inch hotel pan and cover with a few cups of Coca-Cola and pineapple juice, diced onions and hot peppers, minced garlic, cover with aluminum foil and roast in oven for two hours. The result was some the most tender and flavorful pulled pork one has ever tasted. Tossed in a house-made barbecue sauce, needless to say, it is a hit.
Granted this is more of a braising and roasting method, rather than a marinade, but the same marinade science applies—the low pH of Coca-Cola infused the pork with sweetness while also creating a succulent sensation with every bite.
Another popular recipe at the restaurant is the roasted lamb sandwich. The Elk marinates shaved legs of lamb in a balsamic vinegar-based marinade for a minimum of a few hours. Because I believe lamb and venison have similar flavors and textures, I have applied a similar marinade recipe to venison, in such dishes as baked venison-stuffed acorn squash.
Regardless of what food scientists claim in regard to the penetration strengths of marinades, it is important to consider the thickness of your cuts of meat when soaking them in your favorite marinade. Roasts, for example, won’t benefit very much from a marinade, no longer how long you leave it in there. On the other hand, thinly shaved slices of shoulder steaks, such as the recipes mentioned above, will accept the flavors more readily and soften in texture.
Veteran cooks may argue marinades, especially more acidic ones, will turn meat to mush. As with most arguments, there is some validity to this view. Again, keep in mind the thickness of your cuts, the overall acidity of your marinade, and the time for which you marinate it.
When making your own marinade, it is important to remember the pH principles. Will the addition of alkali (or bases) such as lemons or watermelon reduce the pH of your marinade? (Keep in mind, though fruits such as lemons and pineapples are alkali, when combined with water, as in lemon juice, they become acids.)
Marinades are a game of balance. Know what you are putting together. Bases with a pH of 10, such as onions, perhaps pureed and added to your marinade, will affect the overall acidity of your marinade. However, if your main ingredient, which should far exceed any other ingredient, is soy sauce or some sort of vinegar, you have nothing to worry about—the marinade will doctor the meat.
The pursuit continues endlessly for the best in class marinade. Still, it is good to know we have science on our side, and, as cooks, we can enlighten taste buds and elevate levels of happiness in bodies and minds. 

Seared steelhead with Pinot Grigio cream sauce

I have reeled in far more twigs than steelhead, but when I get lucky, I really enjoy bringing home dinner for the family.
This particular steelhead recipe is for two people. It has become a classic in our home and is my wife’s favorite. The only real work lies in the sauce.
Start by reducing two cups of Pinot Grigio to half, then add a tablespoon of freshly minced garlic, a teaspoon each of salt, white and black pepper. Next, add 1 pint of heavy whipping cream and one teaspoon of lemon juice. You are welcome to add more lemon juice later if that sauce doesn’t have the zing you’re looking for.
Let the cream sauce continue to reduce while you prep the rest of the meal (at least one hour of simmering). 
For the rice, I chose jasmine. I took 2 cups of jasmine rice and 2 and 3/4 cups of cold water and set the pot (covered) to boil atop the stove. Once boiling, I let the rice simmer on the lowest setting. When it seemed most of the water had been absorbed by the rice (this usually takes 17-20 minutes on my home stove), I turned off the heat to the burner and kept the rice covered to ensure a perfect texture.
     I cut the filleted steelhead into approximately two 8-ounce pieces. I didn’t get fancy with spices atop the fillet – just your typical sprinkling of salt, pepper, and cayenne (maybe a little granulated garlic). I seared the fillets in vegetable oil (preheated to 350 degrees) presentation-side-down until I achieved a nice golden brown. 
Next, I flipped the fillets and placed a lid over the sauté pan and let the fish continue to cook for about five minutes. I prefer my steelhead to be as close to a medium cook as possible, though others may prefer their fish flaky and well-done. Usually once the oils and fats of the fish start to bubble white atop the pink flesh, that is when I consider my fish “done.” (Please note cooking time varies depending on cut and weight of fish fillet.)
After about an hour of simmering, the sauce had reached a nice creamy texture. A good test for proper cream sauce reduction: dip a spoon into sauce. If the sauce coats the spoon when withdrawn, you’re set, compared to a drippy texture that might run off the spoon. 
I added four tablespoons of capers (drained) to add to the flavor and served the fish over the rice, then ladled on the sauce.
This recipe of course can be made with salmon or any trout. It is also a reliable standby year-round, as wild-caught store-bought steelhead or salmon, or even trout, can be just as delicious.
Pinot Grigio cream sauce
2 cups pinot grigio wine
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice (more if desired)
4 tablespoons of capers (drained and added at very end)