Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vietnamese Catfish Braised in Clay Pot

Called "Ca Kho To," this is a common dish eaten in Vietnamese households. My mom rarely made it, because she said it was always too "fishy" when she did. I bet the reason was because the fish at the Vietnamese grocery store was not always fresh. So she bought it from delis or to-gos, and it was always a treat whenever we had it. Like most Vietnamese meat dishes, this catfish dish is eaten with a lot of white rice. A traditional meat dish that's eaten by itself is rare in Vietnamese cuisine. To stretch meat further, it is usually heavily spiced, making it a perfect accompaniment with filling rice or French bread. 

The catfish we used came from the 5-pounders we caught out of the Niobrara River. Some people think catfish are "fishy," but I don't think so at all. It depends on where you get them. Fish them out of clean, flowing water and they will taste fresh, meaty and clean. It's one of my favorite fish, up there with walleye for me. Instead of filleting them, like the usual, we sliced one of the catfish into steaks, with bone and skin. Just gut the catfish, and slice it across its body into 1 to 1 1/2-inch steaks. You may need a cleaver or kitchen shears to cut through the spine. When braised, the catfish and its skin absorb the sweet and spicy sauce, which turns gooey and delicious when cooked. It's amazing! 

If you don't have a clay pot, no worries. Just use a Dutch oven or a thick pan with a cover. Though, it's much more fun cooking in a clay pot. We got ours for 7 bucks at an Asian grocery store. 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- 1 pound of catfish steaks
- 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 inch of fresh ginger, sliced into matchsticks 
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of caramel sauce (or 1/4 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of table sugar)
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 1 can of coconut juice/soda (Coco Rico Soda preferred)
- 1 thai chili (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil

- cooked jasmine white rice, for serving

1. In a medium-size bowl, combine fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, ginger and black pepper. Add catfish steaks and marinate for 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator. 
If you can find caramel sauce in the Asian store, go ahead and use it. But we couldn't find any. 

2. To make caramel sauce, heat 1/4 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar to a rolling simmer. Mix frequently and wait until it turns a dark brown-- do not burn. As it cools, it will harden up. To soften, add a little bit of water and slowly reheat. 
3. Heat olive oil in clay pot (or thick pan) over medium heat. Remove fish from marinade and sear for 2 minutes on each side in the oil. Sear in batches if pot is not big enough. 

4. Place all the seared fish back into the pot. Pour caramel sauce over the fish, then pour coconut juice to slightly halfway up the fish. Scoop out some of the ginger, garlic and shallot from the leftover marinade and add it to the pot, then discard the used marinade. 

Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure sauce does not reduce too much, which will make it burn. Add more coconut juice if necessary. 

Courtesy of
We prefer to use this CoCo Rico Soda instead of coconut juice, but we can't always find it.
Adjust seasonings with more fish sauce or sugar. Garnish with sliced green onion and thai chili (optional).

Serve with lots of white rice. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grilled Rainbow Trout Wrapped in Bacon

We've got a lot of trout in the freezer at the moment, which is a good thing! Here is Rick's recipe for grilled trout. It's wrapped in bacon and stuffed with thyme, lemon slices and lots of garlic. The green onion that gets wrapped in with the bacon gets charred, aromatic and creamy.  

It is very helpful to have a fish grilling basket for this recipe. It will help keep the bacon, lemon and green onion together and will make flipping easier. We don't remember where we put ours. It got packed away in a box when we moved out to Nebraska and is mostly likely sitting somewhere in the garage. We made do with cooking twine. 

Anway-- this is a great summer recipe. We hope you all get the chance to fish for trout this spring and summer!

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
- 2 whole rainbow trout
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 large lemon, half of it cut into slices and the other half in wedges
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 to 4 green onions
- salt and pepper, to taste
- vegetable or canola oil, for brushing

- cooking twine or fish grilling basket

1. Prepare grill to medium heat. 

Wash trout thoroughly. Salt and pepper the insides well. Stuff the body cavity with minced garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme in each fish.
It's preferable to have a fish grilling basket to to keep all the ingredients neat and together. We couldn't find ours, so we were only able to lay lemon slices and a green onion on one side of the fish before things got too messy. We tied everything together with cooking twine-- something you won't need with a grilling basket. 
2. Wrap everything together with bacon, however way you want. Just make sure the lemon slices and green onion stay in place. 
Oil grill basket, if using. Or lightly brush fish with oil, if not using basket. 

Lay fish in grill basket and secure snugly. If you don't have a grill basket, you can tie everything up in cooking twine, like we did. 

3. Once the grill is ready, lay fish down and cook for about 7-10 minutes on each side, or until bacon is cooked and fish is flaky. Cooking times will vary. We found that spots where the fish was covered with bacon took longer to cook. 
Once cooked, discard cooking twine (if used) and serve immediately with lemon wedges and your favorite sides!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rainbow Trout Fried in Lard

We went to the little pond at Ponca State Park the other day and caught our limit in trout. That night, we fried up the smallest ones, dredged them in our own mixture of seasonings-- and fried them in pork lard. YES. Pork lard. You heard that right. It was delicious and I was as happy as a clam.

A lot of people catch trout but don't keep them. If people do keep them, the trout is usually smoked. Smoked trout is delicious, but we enjoy them fried just fine. However, trout is different from other fish, and they can be hard to eat if you're used to nice boneless filets from more coveted fish like walleye or crappie. But we like them. Trout are beautiful fish, fun to catch, and they've got a unique taste compared to most other freshwater fish. They fry and grill up beautifully. 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
- 2 whole trout
- kosher salt, to taste
- pork lard, enough to cover trout halfway in a 12-inch cast iron skillet
- 1/2 cup of cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon of Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of Lawry's Seasoned Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence
- lemon wedges


1. Combine cornmeal, paprika, garlic powder, seasoned salt and Herbes de Provence. Rub the Herbes de Provence between your fingers to make it more fine. Melt pork lard in a 12-inch cast iron skillet and heat it to between 350 and 375 degrees F. When lard is ready, rinse fish under cold water and salt the body cavity. Then dredge wet fish in the cornmeal mixture and gently lay them in the lard. Fry for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until fish is cooked thoroughly. Timing will depend on the size and thickness of your fish. Drain fried fish on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dam Cats!

Went catfishing last night and Rick caught these babies! Two of them! Both channel catfish were around 5 pounds, which is the perfect eating size for catfish. Bigger catfish get fatty and muddy-tasting. 

We cleaned them this morning, because we didn't get home till midnight last night-- in the pouring rain. We kept them in a cooler with ice and they were fine the next day. One was filleted and the other was gutted and cut up into steaks. Fried up one fillet in beer batter tonight for dinner-- nothing fancy-- and it was delicious! The meat was light, sweet and so moist. Nothing beats eating fish that was just pulled out of the river. You can literally taste the freshness in the meat.

Most people fillet their fish, but I'm planning on making a Vietnamese dish soon with the steaks we cut out. It was a dish I grew up eating. It would be a pleasure to recreate it using catfish we caught ourselves. Still need to get some special ingredients at the Asian market in the big city though.

Some people have asked us if we've stopped blogging because of our inactivity. No, we're still here. It's depressing that people would ask that, but it's a valid question. Since moving to Nebraska, there have a few more distractions-- fun distractions. We're still struggling to settle down into some kind of routine, but it's been tough. Rick's work schedule is constantly changing. Mine is constantly changing. We're also in the middle of writing a book. There's always something to do. It's because there just aren't enough hours during the day--

But even I know that's no excuse. I read a meme on Facebook today that said, "Saying you have no time is the adult version of 'the dog ate my homework.'" It's true, and we thank you for your patience all the same. Here's to hoping that we can get our act together one of these days, but know that we are still here to listen to any comments or questions you may have about cooking wild game. Don't forget to refer to our Recipes section for a list of links to all the recipes we have to date. 

Please do keep up with us on Facebook! We post photos and quick updates regularly on Facebook of our life in the outdoors. Much easier and faster to post updates on Facebook via smart phone than trying to blog something that's supposed to be brief. We appreciate you all! Thank you for following Food for Hunters! 
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