Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teal à l'Orange

Early teal season is nice because it happens in September, when the days begin to cool down and the mornings are neither too hot nor cold. Hunting the first day of the season is a tradition for many families, including Rick’s cousins who are avid waterfowl hunters. Rick went two years ago with the Browns and did well. This last season, I decided to tag along with my camera. 

Though the 2015 opener was slower compared to previous years, Rick and I were able to come home with six ducks. We plucked all ducks and found them to be pleasantly fat and healthy. However, one was extremely shot up, so we decided to use it for stock. I was also able to take some of the excess fat from near the tail area and rendered it down for later use. Here’s a great tutorial on how to render duck/goose fat from Hank Shaw: http://honest-food.net/wild-game/duck-goose-recipes/rendered-duck-goose-fat/ 

For those in need of instruction on how to hunt and process waterfowl, check out our book Hunting for Food

This recipe was adapted from bon appetit’s Duck à l’Orange, a classic French dish. Cooking time was adjusted for teal, which is a small duck that takes little time to cook. We also made some tweaks to suit our tastes. This recipe is a winner! It was an ideal treatment for these tasty, little birds. 

Servings: 2 

Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cooking Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes 
- 4 whole teals, plucked and wings removed (reserve) 
- 2 tablespoons of duck fat or oil
- Quarter of an onion, roughly chopped

- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 3 cups of water
- 1 duck carcass of shot up duck, optional
- 3 naval oranges
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 1/4 cup of port
- 1 tablespoon of cold butter
- 1 teaspoon of lime juice
- Paprika

1. Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit. If available, cut up duck carcass into smaller pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat or oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown duck carcass pieces and wings, onion and 3 sprigs of thyme for 5-7 minutes. Next, add celery, carrot, peppercorns, chicken stock, and water. Simmer for 1 hour. 

 2. Slice off the peel and pith (white part) of one orange. Remove as much pith as you can from the peels using a fillet knife. Add the peels to the simmering stock. Cut out the orange membranes over a bowl and reserve for later. Juice the other two oranges.
 3. Pat ducks dry and prick them all over with a toothpick-- this will allow the skin to render more efficiently. Season them well with salt, including inside the cavity. 
Place ducks breast side down in a cold, heavy skillet. Turn up the heat to medium and allow the skin to render and brown. Then turn ducks on their sides and backs to brown. Remove ducks from the skillet and place them on a baking sheet. Do not cook ducks all the way through-- you only want to brown the skin. Set aside.
4. Once stock is done, strain it. Discard all solids except the orange peels. Slice the peels thinly and reserve.

In the same skillet where the ducks were browned, add 1/4 cup of port and reduce to a syrupy consistency; scrape the bottom of the pan.
Next, add the strained stock, orange juice and 2 more sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened and smooth (about 20 minutes)-- you will end up with about 1/3 cup of sauce. Take off heat, remove the thyme and whisk in cold butter and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can complete this step while you bake the ducks in the next step.)
5. Lightly dust paprika over duck breasts and sides. After your oven has had at least a half hour to heat up after it reached 450°, roast the teals for 12 minutes; meat will be pink. Cook longer if you like meat that's more done and crispier skin. (It's a bad trade off either way for me-- I like crispy skin, but I also like pink meat. I haven't been able to achieve both.) 

Allow ducks to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle orange sauce on the dish and lay duck on top. Garnish dish with orange wedges and sliced peel. Serve with roasted vegetables. 


To order our book Hunting for Food: Guide to Harvesting, Field Dressing and Cooking Wild Game visit: 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Garlic and Lime Grilled Whole Bluegill

It's June and the weather has been crazy here in Nebraska. It rained constantly through the month of May and now June has been equally wet, with only a few breaks of sunshine in between. We both wish the best to those affected by the floods in Texas-- our troubles here are nowhere near as bad. It's also getting a lot warmer. The old house we live in doesn't have good insulation, so it does get a bit warm. I shudder to think what July and August will feel like. I just hope we don't get any tornadoes this spring. Some people like them, but I have a VERY healthy respect for weather. I saw what tornadoes did to Pilger, Neb. last summer, which was only 20 miles from me, and I do not ever plan to experience that myself. The bugs are already out in full force, and they eat me alive. Apparently, there are blood-thirsty flies here, and they adore me. I still have scars on my arm from last summer.  We haven't gone fishing at all this spring, due to the constant rain and getting our household together. Wow. That paragraph was so ADD.

But, I did have these fish in the freezer. I caught these bluegills through the ice last winter, and it was about the only time I actually enjoyed ice fishing. The ice was thick, as we had a frigid winter, but that Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the sun shone brightly and I believe the temperature was 60 degrees. The Game and Parks office where I used to work up in Norfolk has a tradition of going ice fishing every MLK Day. The last time I went before that, it was about 5 degrees, the wind was howling, and I had just moved to Nebraska literally a week before from SoCal. It was shoddy fishing. I didn't understand all that trouble and the suffering in the cold to catch nothing, so I hadn't been on the ice until last January. 

The weather was fair, as I am a fair-weather hunter and fisherman -- unlike Rick -- so I decided to give it another shot. I sat with my good friend Scott Wessel (also my co-worker, a wildlife biologist), whom I fished with the last time I was out. That was also the first day I met Scott, and actually, one interesting thing did happen two years ago. Scott caught a bluegill, I think it was, and I asked him to show it to me for a picture. He moved too close to the heater in the ice shack and his elbow caught on fire. Scott panicked and quickly put the flame out, but it had burned clear through his sweater. Not knowing Scott too well, I sat there in silence, wide-eyed, not knowing how to react. You can imagine the awkwardness I felt. I hadn't even started my duties as Regional Editor in northeastern Nebraska yet; I didn't know any of these people; I was was sitting in the middle of a frozen lake for the first time and listening to the terrifying "thwong" of cracking ice; I had never ice fished before, an activity that is still odd to me; and then I watch this stranger catch on fire. News traveled fast and poor Wessel became the butt of jokes for months. We are good friends now, but he knows to stay away from heat when I'm around. Anyway, Scott and I did really well last winter. It wasn't an exceptionally fast-action day, but we caught a good number of bluegills, enough for a couple meals. I also tasted Kipper for the first time that afternoon, which looked a lot like cat food, but it didn't taste so bad with crackers. 

As small as bluegill are, I think they are a good-tasting fish-- sweet and firm. They cook up quickly and are especially delicious marinated and grilled, which gives the meat a smoky flavor. And because they are small, they are great whole. 

Book Update: Good news! Our book is now available for pre-sale at Shop Deer Hunting: http://www.shopdeerhunting.com/hunting-for-food , and will be officially released July 15. According to the website, it should ship on 7/13. You can order there, or you can also order the book from us. Once we figure out when we can get our shipment in, we'll have a Paypal shopping cart on our website. The book includes 176 pages of instruction of how to hunt, field dress and cook 13 different species. Step-by-step photos are included, much like how we have run our blog, and they are full color. We hope you all get a chance to see the book. Thank you all for supporting us over the years! We'll post more updates as the release date gets closer.

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 6 pan-size bluegills, gutted and scaled
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 lime, juiced
- lime wedges for serving
- 1 tablespoon of cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 2 green onions, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Roast jalapeno pepper under broiler or stove top until charred all over. Once blackened, place in a zipper lock bag or in a small bowl covered with a towel. Until cool enough to handle, scrape off charred skin and cut off stem. Mince pepper and set aside. 

2. Wash bluegills under cold water and pat dry. Score fish three times on each side 
Sprinkle well with salt and pepper all over and inside the cavity. 
3. In a small bowl, combine minced jalapeno pepper, garlic, chili powder, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil and green onion. Pour marinade into a gallon zipper bag and add fish. Massage to evenly distribute the marinade, then refrigerate for 2 hours. 
4. Prepare grill to high heat. Clean grill grates thoroughly to avoid sticking, then brush with oil. Remove fish from marinade and then grill for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. 
Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Morel Bacon Chowder

Since moving to Nebraska and discovering morels, spring just isn't complete without some morel hunting. I had been moping around this spring because Rick and I moved about two hours south from where we were living in Norfolk. We ended up renting a cute farmhouse out in the country, which came to us by mere chance, right before we were about to sign a lease on another cramped apartment. It was a rush move. I was recently promoted to associate editor at NEBRASKAland Magazine and Rick was starting a new job at Bass Pro Shops. It's nice living out in the countryside, but it was a lot of work, which left no time for hunting of any kind. The house needed a lot of work when we got here. And it took us two U-Haul trips on our end

We've been absent because of the move and because we still don't have any internet. Please be patient-- we're still here, just been busy. Check back from time to time, or sign up for updates on the right to receive recipes by email. We are also looking to move our website soon to accommodate our new book, but we'll let you know when that happens.

Bekah hunting for  morels with her niece.
Back to the morels-- after I had resolved to not go mushroom hunting this year, my friend Bekah took me to her grandparents' property in northeastern Nebraska to pick some morel mushrooms after work one day. It was a beautiful property, the sun was shining and the ground was freshly moist with rain. A prime location for morels, Bekah found 12 pounds the weekend before and was kind to share your spoils with me. It was getting towards the end of the season in Nebraska, but I found about a pound, enough for two meals!

Here's a simple recipe, in case you're craving for something warm, creamy and savory. It's a basic chowder recipe. We hope many of you had the chance to look for mushrooms this year!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- 6-10 4-inch morel mushrooms or equivalent
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 3 strips of thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 1/2 cups of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 32 ounces of chicken broth
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- 2 cups of half and half
- 3 tablespoon of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. Cut mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Run under cold water to wash away dirt and debris, then drain. 

2. Render fat from bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon pieces and set aside. Turn heat to medium-high and add mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms give up their juices and brown slightly. Remove mushrooms and reduce heat to medium.

Add butter, onion, celery, carrot and a pinch of salt, and sweat vegetables for 5-7 minutes. Do not burn.  
3. Add white wine to vegetables and allow it to reduce by half.

Next, add potatoes, the rendered bacon, cooked mushrooms, broth and water. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until potato is cooked through. Then add chopped parsley. 
4. Heat half and half until steamy, but not boiling. Whisk in corn starch and try to get rid of as many lumps. Mix heated half and half mixture into soup. Simmer soup, uncovered, for another 15 minutes to allow it to thicken. 
5. Taste to check for seasoning. Add freshly cracked pepper. 
Serve with more fresh parsley sprinkled on top and crusty bread.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Venison Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls are common in several cuisines, including the Balkans, Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, and even in West Asia. There are many Germans and Eastern Europeans in Nebraska, and although I have never had the pleasure of having it authentically prepared-- because no one has invited me over to dinner at their oma or babička's house yet (hint, hint!)-- I thought the idea was basic enough and a good way to use up some venison scraps in the freezer. Though I can't claim that these are "authentic" by any stretch, I did opt to simmer the rolls in a tomato sauce, which does point to an Eastern European persuasion. In other parts of the world-- cabbage rolls in Finland and Sweden are often served with sweet and tart lingonberry jam. And in Lebanese cuisine, they are like the shape of cigars and served with yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice.

The cabbage rolls I made here are stuffed with freshly ground venison, bacon and long grain Jasmine rice. And because I spent so much money on a jar of saffron, I try to use it whenever I can. Plus, it's a great addition to anything that is tomato-based; I believe the Greeks use saffron in their cabbage rolls. To add a salty touch, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese finished the dish-- I probably broke some rule there, but it was so good! I bet Feta cheese would be awesome. All-in-all, this recipe turned out quite tasty. I hope to be able to eat real cabbage rolls one day to compare. 

Servings: 4-5
Prep Time: 45 minutes 
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- 1 pound of venison roast meat, cubed and partially frozen
- 3-4 ounces of bacon, chopped and partially frozen
- 1 head of cabbage
-  1 tablespoon of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus extra
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup of uncooked long grain white rice 
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes 
- 1 14-ounce can of low-sodium beef broth
-  3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 pinch of saffron
- freshly cracked pepper 

Weston Pro Series Electric Meat Grinder
1. To grind meat, make sure its partially frozen to allow the grinder to do its job more easily. Bacon, especially, catches on cutting blades if it's too soft. Run the cubed venison and bacon through the course grinder once. 

We love our Weston Pro Series Electric Meat Grinder

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ground meat with chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, garlic powder and freshly cracked pepper. 
Then mix in the uncooked rice and egg. Set meat aside in the refrigerator, covered.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Discard discolored or dried out outer leaves of cabbage. Core out the cabbage. This will allow you to easily detach the leaves later. 
 4. Place the cabbage in the boiling water, turning it occasionally. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes, then check to see if the outer leaves are pliable and can be easily peeled with tongs. 

Peel off leaves as they become more pliable, run under cold water and drain. You should end up with 12-15 leaves. 
5. With a small knife, shave away part of the lower rib on leaves to make the leaves evenly flat. 
Next, place about 2 tablespoons of ground meat towards the bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold in the two side, the bottom and then roll it all up. Repeat until you run out of ground meat. 
6. In a French or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add tomato paste and stir for another minute-- do not burn. 
Pour in crushed tomatoes and beef broth to the onion.
Add thyme sprigs and a pinch of saffron. Bring sauce to a simmer. 
7. Finally, gently lay rolls in the sauce in one layer, seam side down. Sprinkle lightly with more salt and pepper. Ladle some sauce over rolls, cover and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. 

Check halfway through to make sure sauce doesn't reduce too low. If so, add more stock. 

Check to see if meat is thoroughly cooked. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top of the rolls. 
Serve warm with sauce and onions. If desired, sprinkle Parmesan or Feta cheese on top. 

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