Four veteran game cooks share their favorite recipes for grilled duck, roasted wild turkey, a classic Canada goose, Black Swamp venison, and a wild game sauce.
With the first northeast winds of autumn, wild ducks bob and weave down windswept skies, frosty mornings bring on the whitetail deer rut, and doves rocket through cut corn fields. When the weather cools, outdoorsmen are eager to renew their connection with nature in a ritual seen throughout America.
Each fall, getting outside to explore and enjoy the land is a cherished pastime shared by coastal hunters. The calm and peace offered by wild places is a welcome release from often complicated technological lives.
In the South, where wild game cooking approaches religious levels, outdoor chefs crank up ovens, grills and smokers of every size. From trips afield, nature provides a bounty of birds and animals, and talented cooks are once again back in their favorite environment. Those who haven't tried wild foods are truly missing a unique opportunity.
Wild game is just that ... wild. Game animals taken legally by fair chase are not confined by a fence -- they are truly free-range.
If handled properly in the field and in the kitchen, wild food can be remarkably delicious ... or not. To some cooks it's a real challenge to keep wild game from tasting like a stump-jumping billy goat so rank it could bolt right off the plate.
Venison, for instance, is plentiful in the South but venison dishes often have mixed reviews. There's an old saying around deer camps that goes, "Good venison is better than bad venison, but bad venison is better than none." Hunters who frequent deer camps may well disagree. On occasion, they have all eaten venison that could best be described as shock and awe, and at times they might have wished for a can of Vienna sausage. On the other hand, properly roasted prime venison that has been carefully harvested and handled in the field can surpass even the best roast beef.
Duck hunting is also quite popular in coastal areas. Some say wild duck can taste just like over-cooked liver, but a talented game cook with a fresh teal, wood duck or canvasback, marinated and grilled to medium-rare over hardwood coals, can serve a bird that will beat the best baked chicken.
What is the secret to preparing and serving fish and game that is truly excellent and offers a classic taste while at the same time preserving nature's unique natural flavor? What are the secrets that talented game cooks use to make wild food taste so good? Here are four recipes from outdoorsmen whose families are game and fish centric, and who have been serving up fine game dinners most of their lives and having a great time doing it.
Recipes from Robert Rehder
Wilmington native Robert Rehder is an upland bird hunter and light tackle fisherman.
Roast Canada Goose
2 picked and drawn fresh Canada geese
4 celery stalks (ribs), chopped
2 Vidalia onions, chopped
2 hard Winesap apples, cored and chopped
2 bay leaves
2 oz. olive oil
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 oz. unsalted butter for basting
1 bunch chopped parsley for garnish
Chef Paul Prudhomme Poultry Magic or your favorite dry rub
Dry rub the geese liberally including cavity and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours -- no more. Fire up Green Egg or any hardwood or briquette-fired grill and maintain at 350 degrees. Remove the geese from refrigerator and coat lightly with olive oil.
Stuff each goose with celery, onion, apple and bay leaf. Place the birds breast up on a rack, cover, and grill for 1 hour for medium doneness. Baste with butter every 15 minutes. Don't overcook. Remove the geese to a cutting board, remove and discard the stuffing.
Fillet the goose breasts and slice on the diagonal very thin with a sharp fillet knife, adding a grind of fresh black pepper to the fillets. Arrange goose slices on warmed plates, cover with sauce, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Suggestion: serve with a potato or rice dish, a fresh green vegetable or salad, and crusty artisan bread.
Shallot Sauce for Wild Game
Wild game, whether venison or bird,is very lean and best served with a sauce. Thisis a basic game sauce that is not difficult tomake and complements any game dish.
1 large cast iron skillet
1 medium saucepan with cover
1 stainless steel mesh strainer
1 wire whisk
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp or 1 whole shallot, chopped coarse
1 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped coarse
1 celery stalk (rib), chopped coarse
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp tamari or premium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp plain flour
3 cups low salt chicken stock
1 oz cognac (or substitute brandy, sherry, or red wine)
Melt butter in skillet on low heat and lightly saut? the shallot, garlic and celery until just tender but not browned. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of plain flour and make a roux. On low heat, stir the roux with a wire whisk 1 minute until it is thick and fully blended. Increase the heat to medium and slowly add chicken stock, whisking the entire time. Simmer 3 minutes.
Add bay leaf, nutmeg, tamari, Worcestershire, cognac and pepper and simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce into the saucepan, correct the seasoning. Cover if not using immediately and keep warm, whisking again before serving.
Note: The sauce has ample salt due to the ingredients so don't add salt.
Recipe from Kit Taylor
Wilmington native Kit Taylor is a deer, waterfowl and turkey hunter, licensed U.S.Coast Guard captain, and veteran surf and bluewater fisherman.
Black Swamp Venison Roast
3 pounds of boneless venison roast or backstrap
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 envelope Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix
1 15-oz. can Campbell Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
Place the venison in the crock pot or pan and cover with the chopped onion. Sprinkle on soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic salt and pepper. Combine the dry soup mix and the canned soup, mix well, and pour over the venison. Cover your slow cooker and cook on a low for six hours, or until tender. Can be served over rice.
Recipe from Cleve Nordeen
Cleve Nordeen is a hunter, fisherman and camper who has cooked ducks, dove, fish and wild game for over 15 years.
Island Wood Fire Grilled Wild Duck
8 to 12 boneless breast fillets from wood ducks or mallards
6 strips thick sliced Cherrywood smoked bacon cut into quarters
1 pack of round wooden toothpicks
1 jar of Mt. Olive Sweet and Hot Peppers
Marinade (see below)
1 package McCormick Island Woodfire Grill Marinade
1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
Mix all the marinade ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl.
Place each duck breast in a stainless or glass bowl and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for no more than 2 to 4 hours.
Broil or fry the bacon pieces until hot but not crisp and remove.
Remove ducks from marinade and place two peppers on top of each duck fillet with a square of bacon and secure all with crisscrossed toothpicks.
Preheat a grill over medium heat, place a hand full of soaked cherry wood chips on the coals, add duck and cook 10 to 15 minutes turning once until medium rare or your preference but do not overcook this delicacy.
Remove ducks from the grill, transfer to a serving platter and serve with sticky jasmine rice and your favorite vegetable.
Recipe from Rick Stoker
Bow hunter and holder of a Turkey World Slam, Rick Stoker loves to hunt and to fish, rarely missing a tournament. He says he's in love with turkeys and loves to gig flounder.
Roasted Wild Turkey
One whole wild turkey, skinned or plucked
2 heads of garlic crushed
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 lemons, juiced
2 lemons, zested
2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
2 Vidalia onions, quartered
1 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs of sage
12 slices of thick smoked bacon, (some would say this is optional, but there is never an optional for good Southern bacon)
3 Tbsp kosher salt
2 1/2 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
Kitchen shears, or large sharp knife
I cook my turkey outside on a gas grill from the Wilmington Grill Company. Preheat your grill, lid closed, to 350 degrees. Spatchcock the turkey, removing the backbone with kitchen shears. Turn the turkey over and press down with pressure to completely make the turkey flat. Put half the crushed garlic under the bird. Melt butter, mix a paste of all the remaining ingredients, except the bacon, to baste the bird. Keep it warm so it stays liquid.
Cover the bird with Montreal seasoning. Cover it with the bacon. Place it on the grill, tented in foil. Baste with a brush every 20 minutes. After about the third basting increase the temperature from 355 to 375 degrees. Test the bird occasionally until it reaches 160 degrees on the temperature probe. When it reaches 160 degrees, take it from the grill, crush the foil down tightly, and let the bird sit 20 minutes before carving.
In the oven: Heat oven to 350 degrees, and maintain the temperature. Follow all other directions. Your turkey will be beautiful and wonderful in about an hour and 50 minutes.