Being Direct–A West Texas Approach to Brisket

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Our fourth and fifth baseball rainout inspired me to put Wanda The Marvel of Modern Engineering™ to work, scoring a 16 pound select packer’s cut brisket.

Select is the lowest standard grade of meat, a grade dependent on the amount of marbling, maturity and bone ossification in a ribeye. But I’m cooking the brisket, not the steak so it doesn’t matter. Packer’s cut still has the deckle and the brisket flat which I prefer to trim myself. If like me you are a meat geek, click right here and read up.

I’d planned on doing a fancy smancy rub I’d never tried, but I decided to go with the simple and familiar: cayenne, salt and black pepper.  A BBQ crime in some circles, I cook over direct heat. Done in 7 hours, it’s moist, tender, and didn’t require any caffeine at the start or end for me to finish.

A recent article about a world famous BBQ food truck that’s been around since February said you needed at least an hour and a half per pound and to never use mesquite when cooking brisket.  Huh?   Cooking my 16 pound brisket for 24 hours might work, but claiming mesquite can’t produce a quality brisket is absurd.  Don’t listen to that.   Mesquite’s fine and I like oak, pecan, and hickory as well.

Here’s how to do it over direct heat:

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Sear it on each side for about 5 minutes to set the spices

 

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Move 3-4 feet above the fire
Keep the temperature up. This works.
Let it rest. Show some courage.
Or be weak and dig in.

Recipe: Mesquite Grilled Rattlesnake Stacked Enchiladas

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If you had to pick an animal symbolizing Texas or the Old West, you wouldn’t go wrong picking the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.   By far the most feared snake in North America, and for good reason. 95% of snakebite deaths in the US are from rattlesnakes.  Interestingly, 99.9% of snakes eaten in the US are rattlesnakes.  Of course, 72% of statistics are made up on the spot.

I don’t “hunt” for rattlesnakes, but I do run across them hunting other critters and they are a welcome bonus.   West Texas kids grow up attending Sweetwater’s Rattlesnake Roundup and I was no exception.  It sure gets a bunch of bad publicity, with many outright lies, but it’s a blast to attend.  The snakes killed aren’t wasted-their venom is used to make anti-venom, they fry up the meat, and sell the skins.  A lot of eastern medicine practitioners buy up the internal organs for medicinal use, while other snakes become conversation pieces as taxidermy in homes across the state.

The coolest part is the snake handling.  This is the Texas version, not Kentucky.  You won’t see any poison being drunk, but old men wearing cowboy hats will walk into a pit with hundreds of slithering serpents wanting to sink some poison into them.  They put on demonstrations debunking some of the myths surrounding the rattlesnake, as well as showing you how to safely move about them. Generally, they just play with them to most everyone’s delight.

I only handle them once I’ve removed their heads.  Shotgun blasts being my preferred solution, but any decapitation method will work.  They are easy to skin, just start on their belly and head south.  Be sure to leave the rattles on and save the hide because it is beyond easy to tan.

Rattlesnake is a white meat and can be on the chewy side sorta like alligator and bull frog, but different.  It has more body to it than poultry and fish, yet not the same toughness as squirrel or rabbit.  I find it rather bland, which makes it a good vessel for your favorite flavors.

You can see in the picture below rattlesnake is not as red as the quartered cottontail, but a bit different than the javelina loin.  That’s the javelina heart, not the snakes’.  Like members of Congress, they don’t have hearts.

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Here I’ve chopped the snake into 4-6 inch sections, each section yields about a cup of meat.  I don’t even attempt to serve it still on the bone to snake eating newbies.  Just too much strangeness to get over in one meal.

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This manly rattlesnake recipe is so easy, even the most clumsy culinarist can pull it off.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of snake (I’d stick with rattlesnake, a buddy told me about a water moccasin tasting rotten, and I’ll take his word for it.)
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 pound roasted hatch green chiles
  • 1 purple onion sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 8 ounces of green enchilada sauce of your choice,  I highly recommend this right here
  • 2 TBS of olive oil
  • lard
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • queso fresca or sour cream
  • Salt

Method

  • Fire up your grill.  While in the brush country, I stocked up on some mesquite to use on Wanda the Modern Marvel of Engineering™.  If you have no mesquite, any approved BBQ wood will do.  Or charcoal.  And if you don’t have any other option, gas.

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  •  Oil your grill plate.  Sprinkle on a high quality salt on your rattlesnake and let it reach room temperature.  Slap on the grill hollow side down.  Grill for about 8-10 minutes over a medium hot fire.  Flip it over and cook another ten minutes or so, paying attention to the tenderness of the meat.

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  • Pull the meat from the grill and let it rest for at least five minutes up to half an hour.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions and peppers for about five minutes until the onions are not quite caramelized. Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Remove from the heat.
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  • Debone the rattler, which is surprisingly a lot like filleting a flounder.
  •  In another skillet, heat the lard until its shimmering, but not smoking.  Line a cookie sheet with paper towels and dip the tortillas in the hot grease and set on the towels to drain.  The tortillas should be stiff, but not crunchy like a chip.
  • Warm the enchilada sauce.

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  • Add the meat to the sauteed peppers, onions and garlic and return to medium heat.  Mix thoroughly and add the mozzarella cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted and stack each plate with an enchilada as follows:
    • Tortilla
    • Meat, veggies, cheese mixture
    • Spoonful or two of green sauce
    • Tortilla
    • Meat, veggies, cheese
    • Green Sauce
    • Queso Fresca
    • Cilantro
    • Squeeze of lime

Obviously, other white meats can be substituted if you find yourself short a rattler.  But if you do run across one, try a bite.

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Recipe: Canadian Bacon

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I once rated pork loin as my least favorite cut of pork. Since the vast majority of my pork is wild, I felt obligated to cook it done or else. The result being an overlooked dry, lifeless meat.

Canadian bacon has changed everything. Consider the loin last place no more, my friends. A simple brine and time in a smoker has transformed this difficult cut (for me) into my favorite charcuterie dish to date.  With multiple levels of flavor from the smoke and herbs, this Canadian Bacon is not your typical Egg McMuffin meat.

Ingredients 

  • 1 Gallon of Water
  • 1.5 cups of Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 8 tsp of instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • Handful of fresh lavender
  • 8-10 leaves of fresh sage
  • 2 ounces of crushed juniper berries
  • Crushed Black Pepper
  • 5 pound pork loin, leave the fat if it’s sweet.

Method

  • Kill a fat pig and have your minions (if you own any) skin it.  IMG_1176
  • If the fat is sweet tasty goodness (test some by frying up and smell it), leave a good layer on the loin.
  • Combine the sugar, salt and water and bring to a slight simmer to get it nice and dissolved. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  If in the winter, setting it outside and adding a ziplock bag full of ice into your pot will speed the chilling process.  You don’t want to add the loin to the brine when it’s warm because you will slightly cook it.
  • When finally cooled, add the loin and rest of ingredients.  Brine for about three days, weighing the meat down so its fully submerged.
  • Remove and rinse in cool water.  Pat dry and place on a cookie rack back in the fridge for another day.
  • Hot smoke the bacon with your smoker at about 200 degrees to reach an internal temperature of 157-160, depending on your level of trichinosis paranoia.   I used apple wood, but any approved BBQ wood will do.

Canadian bacon is excellent alone, as the featured entree, or to just keep around in the kitchen for sammiches and pizza. Make it as complex as you like by adding more and different spices, or keep it simple. Either way, it’s a good place to start with your next wild pork loin.

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Squirrel Confit

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Apparently the French think true confit, (pronounced “konfee”),  can only be made with goose or duck.  If they had squirrel however, I believe they might just change their tune.   I managed to slip away from my mother in law’s house and had a killer hunt just outside Austin.   As part of a large dinner party menu, I was inspired to give this recipe a try from my friends in the Facebook group Hunt Gather Cook, which I highly suggest you join.  Originally I was going to make tacos from the confit, but at the behest of my friends (who are always behesting me) they decided to eat it with just their grubby little fingers.  It was that good.

Sadly, I killed very few ducks or geese this season, and was left with no waterfowl fat to confit my squirrels.  This recipe uses olive oil, the method used in Provence, but the results were still spectacular.  We’ve used it as leftovers on pasta, salads, and some fried rice.  It’s versatile and yummy.

Ingredients

  • 9 fox squirrels, skinned and quartered.  Rib cage removed.
  • 8 cups of olive oil
  • Bay leaves

Cure

  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of dextrose sugar
  • 1 tsp instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • 2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp course ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS of satsuma zest

 

Method

  • Pat your squirrel dry and put all of the cure in a shallow pie plate.  Press each piece of meat into the cure and set on a cookie rack over a baking sheet to catch the excess juice.  Refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours.  Longer if you like things a bit salty.  029
  • Rinse, pat dry, and place on a cookie rack to dry for half an hour.  Turn your oven to its lowest setting or WARM.
  • In a large dutch oven, stack in your squirrel.  Cover with olive oil or other fat of your choice.  I intended to use lard from wild boar, but opted at the last minute for olive oil.  Toss in a handful of bay leaves if you like.
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  • Place in the oven, and with a digital thermometer ensure the temperature never exceeds 200º.  Cook for 12 hours.
  • Shred and crisp in a cast iron skillet.  You can also leave whole and crisp as well.  Both are delectable.

Confit is a great way to enjoy pecan pirates.  If you like to squirrel hunt, but are looking for something a little different to do with your take, use this old school French approach.

Recipe: Southern Style Roasted Possum

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Pregnancy causes some strange food cravings. Last night I had a dinner party for some friends during the college football national championship.  Many were new to game, so I wanted to trot out some good food without asking them to get out of their comfort zones.   I made a ham and Canadian bacon from a wild boar, a Thai dish with fried dove, some squirrel confit and wild boar gnocchi with marinara sauce. Yummy, but safe.

Meanwhile, my son likes to trap and wants to learn to tan furs.  The other night, I saw a pair of eyes a little too close for comfort to my duck coop, so I had him set out a cage trap.  The next morning–bingo:

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Didelphis virginiana, the ubiquitous Virginia Opossum, growled and hissed at us as we approached the trap.  Named by John Smith in 1604 after the Algonquin word for “white animal,” scientists believe they’ve been around since the dinosaurs.  Of course they are North America’s only marsupial and have more teeth than any animal on our continent.  They are practically immune to snake bites and rabies, are famous for playing dead when threatened, and will burp at you when agitated. Males are Jacks and females are called Jills, and if you run into several, well, you’ve discovered a passel of possums.

With no intention of actually following through with the proposal, I asked my guests in a text if they’d like an additional item on the menu. I followed the text immediately with the picture above. I expected revulsion.  Nope.  In fact, the two pregnant and only non-Southern women delighted at the prospect of possum.   The rest of the party then joined in with demands for possum.

Well, not wanting to peeve the parturients, I skinned and butchered the critter.  For some reason, the prospect of eating Mr. Slicktail kinda got to me.  I don’t know why, but I had trouble envisioning it being food.  Yet, I persevered.

I’ve always said the best bait for catching a possum would be a saucer full with drippings from the back of a dumpster truck.  These animals eat anything.  Dead horse?  Not only a months worth of meals, but a house to live in as well!  It was common knowledge in Camp County in the 1930’s you needed to keep a possum under a potato crate, fattened on a diet of sweet potatoes for a month, before you had prime eating.

The meat was pink, not unlike pork, but more tender.  They only live to be about 4 years old, so maybe they don’t have time to get tough.  I decided to brine it, and keep the spices on the sweet side.  I expected it to yield the aroma of soggy wet trash, with hints of vomit.  I guess you could say the bar was set pretty low.

Turns out I was wrong. During the roasting time, it smelled like a pork roast.  Everyone dug in.  The two preggos went back for seconds.  I’d say if a pig and squirrel could have a baby, it would taste like possum.  In fact, during my research I discovered the appropriate way to butcher a possum is to scald it like a pig, leaving the skin on.  Maybe next time.

 

Ingredients 

Brine

  • 1 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground all spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

Possum

  • 1 grinning possum, quartered
  • 4 sweet potatoes sliced in 2 inch chunks
  • 4 apples cored
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 2 cups of water
  • Flour
  • Dried Thyme
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 1 TBS all spice
  • 1 TBS grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

Method

  • Simmer brine to dissolve salt and sugar, allow to cool to room temperature.  Add the possum and brine for 24 hours. If necessary, add a plate to keep the meat fully submerged.
  • Remove from brine, rinse and pat dry.
  • Combine the flour, salt, pepper and thyme.  Coat the possum with flour mix. Place in a roasting pan at 350 degrees, uncovered for an hour and add the wine and water.
  • At the end of the hour, add the sweet potatoes.  If necessary, add more wine and water.  Cover and cook another 45 minutes.
  • Add the cored apples, and the rest of the spices and return and cook covered for another hour.

 

This was a pleasant surprise.  If you are adventurous, give this one a go.  So, any of you ever dined on possum?

 

Recipe: Écureuil Sauce Piquante

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About every 6 months I escape to South Louisiana.  I have several friends there, it’s relatively close, and I have read many enchanting love stories about Louisiana vampires love the food.  If you browse my cookbook collection, almost half of them are based on pelican state cuisine.  The cool thing about food from Louisiana is its adaptability to game.

So as a consequence of my ambitious goal to kill a squirrel in every state, I have a freezer full of limb chickens.  I love gumbo and etouffee, but this time I decided to make a sauce piquant.  A Spanish influenced Cajun staple this is also good with venison, gator and rabbit.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds of squirrel (about 5 fox squirrels, 7 gray, or 10 red)
  • 1/2 cup of bacon fat
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups of chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups of stock (I used duck–chicken will work)
  • 2 pounds of mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 cups of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 1 cup of  jalapeno stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 cup diced Tasso Ham

 

Method

  • First, make a roux.  Combine bacon fat and flour and cook over medium heat in preferably a cast iron dutch oven.  Stir continuously until the roux has reached the color of dark caramel and smells feintly like popcorn.  If you prefer a dark roux, continue until the color of chocolate.  However, start all the way over if you burn it.  Trust me, it won’t work.
  • Stir in the onions, bell pepper, green onions and celery.  Cook until the onions are soft and clear, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the parsley and garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
  • Introduce the duck stock slowly, stirring constantly.  The consistency should be creamy, like a thick gravy.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer four hours or until squirrel meat begins to separate from bone.  If desired, remove the squirrel from the pot, debone the meat, and return to pot.
  • Serve over rice, spaghetti, or fresh French bread.

This recipe is enough for 10-15 people, so share it with your friends or freeze some for later.  Do any of you make a sauce piquant? I’d love to hear about your version.

 

Recipe: Cajun Fiya Tasso Ham

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It is known, bacon makes everything better. Yet, I’ve discovered bacon’s Cajun cousin and let me tell you, she can dramatically spice things up.  She is definitely a ham.   Her name, is Tasso and she wants you to cast her in your next dish.

When Oliver and I both shot the same pig, one of our bullets caught the shoulder.   After cutting away the ruined portion, I was left with a a few oddly shaped hunks of meat.  Tasso didn’t mind.

Cut from the shoulder of a pig, Tasso is  heavily spiced  and hot smoked.  This is an easy afternoon project.  Moreover, commercial spice mixes work well with her.  My buddy Coby from near Rayne, Louisiana is making his own spice mix called Cajun Fiya and it’s out of this world good.  Lots of spice but not overwhelmingly salty or hot, I’ve been eating this on everything from steaks to popcorn.  Today I used it for my Tasso.

Anytime your dish could use a little more spice, smoke, or fat, invite Tasso. Remember, she brings her own salt, so reduce the salt in your recipe.  She’s accustomed to supporting roles in dishes like red beans and rice, gumbos, and jambalayas–but don’t typecast her because she’s shines in soups and stews, cornbread, and sliced thin as part of a charcuterie plate with fruit.

 

Ingredients

  • Deboned shoulder of a pig, cut in portions 1 -3 inches thick.
  • 1 pound of kosher salt
  • 13 ounces of dextrose
  • 3 ounces of pink salt
  • 8 ounces of Cajun Fiya

Method

  • Combine salt, dextrose and pink salt.  This basic dry cure is the same I used in my wild boar bacon recipe.
  • Dip the pork shoulder in the cure, making sure to entirely coat the meat.  You will have more dry cure than necessary, so save it for the next batch.  Cover and refrigerate for 4-5 hours.
  • Remove from fridge and rinse under cool water.  Pat dry.
  • Cover each piece with Cajun Fiya and hot smoke to an eternal temperature of 157.  I chose apple wood for my smoke flavor, but hickory, pecan, or oak would be acceptable too.
  • Vacuum seal or package in saran wrap and butcher paper.  It keeps well in the freezer and for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

 

Recipe: Venison Scrapple

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Today, if you offer someone a little hunk of meat pudding you are more likely to be given a restraining order than a “thank you.”   However, this meat pudding from Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic states should be made by hunters at least once in their lives.  It’s mostly a breakfast dish–think maltomeal pancake with a crispy outside and creamy inside with bits of meat–and makes an excellent vessel for your favorite jam, preserves, or syrup.

I’m fond of old recipes and this meat pudding is a close relative to the Irish white and black puddings, the Scottish Haggis, and German panhas.  It is definitely a working man’s recipe intended to make the best use of the entire animal and packing a days worth of calories into a meal. I eat it like I would French toast or pancakes.

Traditionally it’s made with pig, but I decided to take the trimmings from the doe I killed with Clayton and give scrapple a go. Don’t hold yourself to the exact amounts of cornmeal and flour I listed, because you are cooking it to texture.  I ended up using all of what I listed, but the amount of stock you finish with will vary from mine thus making the dry ingredients differ as well.

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds of deer trimmings and bones
  • 1 deer heart
  • 1 deer liver
  • 1 deer head
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 6 bay leaves
  • I cup of fresh rosemary
  • 10 pounds of cornmeal
  • 2 pounds of Buckwheat Flour (Can substitute Oat Flour or Quinoa Flour)
  • 1/2 cup of grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup of coarse black pepper
  • 2 TBS ground cardamom
  • Salt

Method

  • Save the trimmings, offal bones and head from your deer.  Sadly, my heart shot placement left me with only the liver to use.  092
  • Combine the well salted meat, bones, and offal with the vegetables, rosemary, and bay leaves.  Cover with water and bring to a simmer for at least 4 hours.
  • With a slotted spoon and tongs, remove the bones, meat, and veggies and allow to cool.  Discard the bones and veggies. Strain and save the stock.   DSC_0984_zpsee3c0270
  • Chop your meat to no larger than a quarter.  Skin the tongue, remove any gristle.  Mix the rest of the spices with the chopped meat and return to the stock.  Bring to a gentle boil.
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  • Slowly mix in corn meal, stirring constantly.  Stop adding cornmeal when consistency approaches “soupy maltomeal.”  Now begin to add buckwheat flour, careful not to allow clumps to form.  Your arm should now begin to hurt from stirring so much and for so long.  Do your best not to allow the scrapple to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • When your stirring instrument, I used an over sized BBQ spatula, can stand up on its own, it is ready to be poured into a wax paper lined square loaf container.  I ended up using every single container I owned, regardless of shape.  Next time, I’ll buy some of those cheap aluminum rectangle containers from the store.  004
  • When ready to serve, slice off a piece, dust in flour and fry till crisp in some bacon fat.  Drizzle some maple syrup,  add a piece of ham , fry an egg and then dig in!

Have you eaten or made scrapple?  What do you think?

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Recipe: American Wild Boar Christmas Ham

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Some things are just simple.  I’d like to tell you this is a complicated recipe and only really accomplished cooks should attempt–but the truth is making the classic holiday ham is ridiculously easy. The most complicated part of this is acquiring the equipment you need–a giant bowl, smoker, kitchen scale, and refrigerator space.  Still, not that difficult.

I prefer the leanness of feral hogs to commercial pork.  It’s less greasy and the muscle fibers are more dense, so if you’ve got access kill a few.  When butchering, I leave the bone in because I don’t want to tie anything. Plus, hambones.  This is from the big boy my son and I shot in August.

This recipe is for a 10 pound ham, so use your math skills to match the ratio for salt, sugar and water in the brine; and for how long to brine if yours isn’t ten pounds. Everything else can be adjusted to taste.

Equipment

  • Big bowl
  • Refrigerator space
  • Smoker

Ingredients 

  • The back leg of a wild boar, with shank removed.

Brine

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 235 grams of kosher salt
  • 250 grams of brown sugar
  • 28 grams of pink salt

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of Whataburger Mustard
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 3 minced garlic cloves

Method

  • Dissolve the brine ingredients in the water and add to the bowl with the ham.  Make sure it’s fully submerged.   by putting a couple heavy plates on the meat.  Let it soak for 7 days in the fridge.
  • After a week, remove from the brine and rinse with cool water.
  •  Dry off the ham with a towel. Place on a cookie rack and let dry for 24 hours in the fridge.
  • Smoke the ham at 200 degrees for about 2 hours.  I like orange wood’s flavor and highly recommend it.  Hickory, pecan, mesquite are all bueno as well.
  • During the initial smoke, mix up the glaze ingredients until smooth.
  • Remove the ham, slap on the glaze and continue to smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 157. Add more glaze about every hour.
  • When done, add the remaining glaze.  Serve immediately, or allow to cool and refrigerate.  Rewarm it in the oven if you want.

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Recipe: Bohemian Lavender Sulc (Czech Head Cheese)

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Before I moved to Matagorda County, I was not aware of the local Czech population.  Now, many of my friends have a D, J, K, and Z in their name somewhere.  You better not call a pig-in-a-blanket a kolache, and their sausage rocks.  The Czech Mafia, as I call the locals, do not give away their recipes.  After a little investigation, I got a few key ingredients and fused it with Hank Shaw’s French version of head cheese.

You might remember my son and I tag teaming a big old boar, but it was August in Texas.  Hot.  We skinned him and got him on ice as fast as we could.  I didn’t save the cabeza, which I now regret.   But in October, I shot a pig right before church and I did save the head.  Only problem was he was a bit of a noggin shot.

So last Saturday I dug the skinned head from the freezer and made this Czech head cheese.  This is different than the bland stuff you sometimes see at the grocery store.  Sweet spices and hints of bread are offset by the fresh onion.   The result is a meat jelly miracle.  Dude if you are into making Alpha Male Food™ — this is it from start to finish.  Regardless of meat source, the first step is always, “Cut the head off of your pig/stag/bull/enemy/bear/goat.”   Lastly, wash it down with Ale.

Here’s what to do between the decapitation and downing it with beer:

Ingredients

  • The head of a wild boar
  • A handful of fresh lavender
  • A handful of rosemary
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 white onions rough chopped
  • 1 white onion finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 6 tsp of grated nutmeg
  • 1 TBS white pepper
  • 1 TBS black pepper
  • 3 cups of chopped celery
  • 2 cups of chopped carrot
  • 32 ounces of Shiner Bock or other equally fine Czech beer
  • 1 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 2 gelatin packets
  • Water
  • Salt

Method

  • Place the head in your biggest pot, and cover with water.  Add lavender, bay leaves, rosemary, black pepper, rough chopped onions, carrots and celery.  Keep at a simmer and scoop off the dark brown scum that forms at the top. This is also a good way to clean your skulls for a European mount.  Be sure to never let it boil, because you will cook the fat into the bone leaving it stained.
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  • After 4 hours, add half the red wine vinegar.
  • At 6 hours, check to see if the meat is separating from the bone.  If so, set out to cool and begin to pull the meat off the bone.  This is where I realized a shot to the dome makes head cheese a bit more complicated.  I had to pick out some small bone fragments and the skull lost its structure.  I couldn’t quite tell brain from meat.   Didn’t matter.   I just cut up everything soft into tiny bits.  You have to skin the tongue, before cutting it up.  Dice the ligaments, cartilage and other little bits leaving nothing larger than a quarter.  I voted to not include the eyes.
  • Put all the chopped meat into a bowl and toss with the rest of the spices.
  • Strain a quart of the stock, combine it with the beer and boil it down to half the original amount.  I add just a few drops of olive oil to keep the beer from foaming over.
  • Then add the meat to this liquid.  Salt to taste, making it a little saltier than you prefer.  This way, when it’s cold this will make it just right.
  • Simmer for another 15 minutes to half an hour.  Mix in gelatin packets.
  • In a saran wrap lined mold, layer meat, parsley and onion.  Don’t pack it down, you want a little space for the gelatin to do its magic.
  • Pour in liquid mixture just covering the surface of the meat.
  • Refrigerate.  After it sets up, enjoy with crackers, beer and mustard.  This makes an awesome sandwich and goes great with pickled onions, peppers and okra.

 

Do you get rid of the heads on your pigs and deer?   After making this, I totally encourage you to keep your head at all times…

Recipe: Roast Joints of Venison in the English Style with Yorkshire Pudding

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20140313-213418.jpg I’m a history buff.  I like old things–be they Clovis arrowheads, Viking shields, or fishing and hunting pictures from a century ago.  This explains why a dish from the book The Whole Duty of a Woman, published 1737,  has made its way into a blog about doing manly things. During a recent freezer defrost, I ran across some deer shanks from 2012.  They are still  fine to eat, but as a good manager of the deep freeze, it was up next in the batting order.  Thumbing through my copy of Le Guide Culinaire, another old text written by the king of chefs and chef of kings–Auguste Escoffier– I decided use my shanks in recipe number 3894, which reads thus:

3894 Roast Joints of Beef in the English Style with Yorkshire Pudding.

“These are cooked rather well done and are always served accompanied with Yorkshire pudding.”

Easy right? So with Auggie’s guidance, this is how I did it:

Ingredients

Roast Joints of Venison

  • Venison Shank per person
  • Bacon
  •  3 tablespoons of bacon fat, rendered
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup of diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Sprig of Thyme
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • 4 cups of venison stock

Yorkshire Pudding

  •  1 cup of flour
  • 1.25 cups of milk
  •  pinch of sea salt
  •  3 tablespoons of bacon fat, rendered.
  •  3 eggs
  •  pinch of black pepper
  •  pinch of grated nutmeg

  Method

Roast Joints of Venison

  • First, melt your rendered bacon fat over medium high heat in a dutch oven.
  • Season and lard your shanks with bacon.
  • Brown your well seasoned shanks on each side, about 5 minutes each, then setting each aside in a large bowl.
  • Deglaze with red wine, scraping all the bits of flavor from the pan between each shank.  Then pour the juices into your reserve bowl until all shanks are browned.
  • Add veggies and cook until glimmering, about ten minutes.
  • Deglaze with the remainder of the wine and return shanks and drippings to the bowl.
  • Braise for 4 hours at 275 or until meat begins to separate from the bone.

Yorkshire Pudding

  • Turn your oven to its highest setting, or about 550 degrees.
  • Whisk eggs, milk, salt, spices and flour into a bowl and let it sit for half an hour in a pitcher that’s easy to pour.
  • Drop your bacon fat into a well seasoned cast iron skillet, add a spoonful of juice from your roasted joints
  • Turn your oven to its highest setting, and insert dish into the oven for about 5 minutes
  • Carefully open the door and pour the batter into cast iron skillet and cook for 15 minutes
  • After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and cook for 15 more minutes
  • Remove and serve immediately.

20140313-213606.jpg This quintessential British dish is tremendous.  With an eggy custard like middle with crispy crust at the edges, akin to savory French Toast, Yorkshire pudding is a wonderful medium on which to serve braised venison.  There’s a reason this dish has lasted so long.  Get after it!

Recipe: Thai Fish Karaage

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DSC_0007A couple months ago, I met up with my friend Guillermo at a fine pub in Austin.   After a few micro-brews,  I got hungry and the smells wafting in from the psychedelic food truck in the parking lot weren’t helping at all. East Side King is the outfit slinging food from the open window and had a menu from start to finish of item’s I’d never had.   The dish I settled on, Thai Chicken Karaage, blended explosive fresh herb flavors with the salty satisfaction of well fried meat.  I took pictures, called my close friends and relatives, and had a near meltdown as the last bite was travelling down my gullet.   I knew I had to learn to cook this amazing recipe.

Strangely, I didn’t think to Google the recipe until I set down to share this tremendous recipe. Obviously there are differences between my recipe and ESK’s beyond choice of meat.  But I created a very close approximation and how I did it was pretty cool.  I turned to my new favorite book, The Flavor Bible** by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  In their book, they give you flavor profiles that are known to go well together.  I couldn’t remember every flavor I tasted from East Side King’s dish, but distinctly remembered the mint, cilantro and Jalapenos.   Then when I read where basil went well with all three, it triggered my taste bud memory and I knew I had it close.  A spicy sweet sauce, something crunchy, and a perfectly fried mild protein and I was on my way.

Ingredients

Thai Sauce

*  1/2 cup rice vinegar

*  1/3 cup brown sugar

* 1/3 cup karo syrup

* 4 cloves of minced garlic

* 1 tbsp of fish sauce

* 1 tbsp soy sauce

* half cup of water

Fish Fry

*  Fresh Fish Fillets (whiting, speckled trout, redfish, bass, crappie, maybe even hardhead?)

* Bottle of Brown Ale

*  Salt and Pepper to Taste

* 2 Cups of Rendered Bacon Fat

Garnish

*  1 Bunch of Fresh Basil

* 1 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro

* 1 Bunch of Fresh Mint

* Thinly sliced Jalepenos

* Shredded Carrots

* Lime Wedges

Method:

Sauce

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring regularly.  Once boiling, reduce heat to lowest setting and continue cooking for 20 minutes.   Allow sauce to thicken and adjust to your taste preference.  Add more sugar or some dried chilies if you want.

Fish Fry

Heat bacon fat in a Dutch oven until gleaming but not smoking.  Wash and pat dry fish fillets and dump into a bowl of brown ale.  Dredge the fillets in seasoned flour and fry in the bacon fat till golden.  Be sure to not overload your Dutch oven because it will drop the grease’s temperature and result in soggy rather than crisp fish.

Serving

While still hot, place the crispy fillets on the plate and add garnish.  Drizzle sauce over the fillet and serve. Prepare to have your taste buds rocked.

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** Without the The Flavor Bible I never would have been able to work through the complex flavor profile on my own.  This book’s uses are many–sausages, ethnic foods, and a multitude of spices.  I don’t want to give the impression its just for copycatting a recipe.  I use a lot of spices in the fish and game I prepare and it’s really widened my horizons in terms of ingredient usage.

Turning Wild Pig Into Bacon: A Mess Worth Making

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“Andy, you are the man in the kitchen,” is what I thought I heard my wife say. I’d just put the packaged bacon in the deep freeze and strutted back into the kitchen not unlike a spring turkey.

“So you dig my bacon, do you?” I cockily said as I slipped a little on some bacon grease in the kitchen.

Reality set in when she repeated herself, “Andy, you are banned from the kitchen.”

I admit, cutting up bacon is a greasy affair and I have certain gift for making monumental messes. Current kitchen restrictions aside, my bacon turned out scrumptious. As a bonus, never have our wooden kitchen floors shined quite like they do now.

I gave you the tools you’ll need to make bacon the other day, here is the process in pictures:

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First, shoot a nice fat oinker.

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Next, skin said oinker. Be careful not to contaminate the belly.

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Plop it down on a big old cutting board.

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Trim it up a bit. Might as well save those ends and pieces, they will cure too.

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Sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of Ruhlman’s basic dry cure mix.

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Smear it with the finest Wisconsin maple syrup you can find. I’m not saying you have to tap your own tree, but don’t use corn syrup being passed off as maple.  Add some brown sugar as well.  `

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Look at it from eye level while whispering sweet nothings to it. Then toss in a 2 gallon zip lock bag. Massage and rub every day for a week or until firm.

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Gently bathe after seven days.

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Smoke until internal temp reaches 150 and not a minute later.

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Allow it to cool.  Then slice into whatever size floats your boat.  We like half the commercial length and about twice as thick.  Some we leave in squares to grill and to cut into lardons.

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Scoff when people say wild pigs are too lean for bacon.

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Be ready for a massive amount of grease to be everywhere or risk losing kitchen privileges

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Finally wrap in Saran wrap and butcher paper, then into the freezer. We will go through this fast.

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Roasted maple brown sugar bacon–like my other slab, just no smoke. Sliced and ready for breakfast.

Fortunately, my kitchen embargo was short lived, not in small part to the sweet salty masterpieces the afore mention mess produced.  But I say, embrace the grease.  Revel in the fact you are bringing back a lost art and making quite possibly the most flavorful meat in existence.  Just be sure to clean up after yourself.

Recipe Review: Drago’s Char-Broiled Oysters

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With several dozen oysters needing to be cooked, I reached out to the interwebs in search of the best recipe.  Like its city of origin, this oyster dish has an interesting history.

In the mid to late 19th century, economic recession and perhaps a little religious persecution brought Croatians from the edge of the Adriatic Sea to Louisiana.  Also known as Dalmatians, these people were skilled in mariculture –growing stuff in the sea.  They settled in Plaquemine Parish and are credited with starting the commercial oyster industry in Louisiana.   Some settlements still speak Croatian today, and there was  a time not long ago that if you bought an oyster around New Orleans, you bought it from one of these Dalmatians.  Pretty cool.

Included in this wave was restaurateur Drago Cvitanovich.  Loyal to his expat countrymen, Cvitanovich would meet the oyster men down at the wharf in New Orleans and buy the premium oysters reserved only for him.  Later his son Tommy would be inspired to create the famous recipe Drago’s Char-Broiled Oysters.  Here is another version, and yet another.

My criterion for determining a Tremendous Recipe is threefold: complexity, taste, and manliness.  So with that, lets review:

1.  Complexity

The most complicated part of this recipe is getting the right oyster.  Freshness is paramount and size, species, and ease of opening are all important considerations.  I wholeheartedly suggest getting them yourself.  If not possible, visit a trusted fishmonger.  You can also take your chances at the supermarket, and sometimes you will score big because they are cheaper.  But if you smell sulfur run.

The method is simple.  Shuck.  Place on the half shell over a hot fire.  Mop in melted garlic butter.  Cook 5 minutes or until plump.  Remove and add mixture of cheese and parsley.

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2.  Taste

As the oyster enters your mouth, melted Parmesan and Romano cheese, with rich and deep smokey undertones, greet you initially. Then, as your teeth  cut through the oyster a salty sweet explosion of flavors rushes over your tongue.  Chewing the rest is almost painful it tastes so good.  Good French bread is the appropriate accouterment, and dipping a hunk into the  shell of left over oyster flavored garlic butter is a five star appetizer in and of itself.  The best tasting seafood dish I’ve experienced.

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3.  Manliness

Cooking over fire is always manly.  Moreover, gathering and shucking oysters is dangerous work.  Champion Shucker Patrick McMurray, in his wonderful tome Consider the Oyster: A Shucker’s Field Guide, notes that the French treat about 2000 injured oyster lovers every Christmas due to shucking mishaps.  Combine fire, danger and the known effect oysters have on the amorous, and you’ve created a manly dinner.

Until you can make it down to New Orleans and stop by Drago’s, do yourself a favor and make this dish soon.

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Recipe: Nachos Corazon

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Ingredients

If you’ve gone to the effort to chase down an animal, kill it, skin it, and bring it home you simply should eat its heart. Cooked of course.  It is a dense meat due to the tight junctions of the myocardial cells giving it a snappy crunch, and heart’s rich flavor lends itself well to bold spices. Cleaning them is easy, just remove the great vessels and anything that doesn’t look like meat. These simple, quickly prepared nachos are perfect for worn out hunters who need a satisfying meal to celebrate their victory in the field.

Serves: 1

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • (1) Big game heart diced
  • (1) Yellow Onion diced
  • (4) Chile Peppers diced (I used my Rain Forests, but jalapenos work fine)
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TBS of bacon fat
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Pinto beans (here is a tremendous recipe)
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

  • Melt your bacon fat in a heavy duty skillet.
  • Salt and pepper your diced heart.
  • Add the heart, peppers, onions, and garlic to your skillet and cook until veggies are soft and heart is cooked to preference.
  • Arrange the chips on your plate and ladle warm pinto beans over chips, add the heart and veggies, then sprinkle with cheese.  I like mozzarella  and cheddar.
  • Garnish with sliced lime, guacamole, queso fresca and/or pico de gallo.

Straightforward and easy this is a tremendous way to stuff your gullet and revel in the completeness killing your own meat brings.  What do you do with hearts?

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Recipe: Dove Dirty Rice

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After a blown oyster trip, I needed a warm comforting meal. I’ve been trying different takes on the classic dirty rice and have found most to be pretty….meh. I finally found what I was looking for in this approach. Instead of your typical bird broth alone, I used shrimp stock and of course the dove hearts, gizzards, and livers I got from a fine hunt earlier in the year.

Shrimp stock is easy to make, simply save the heads and the shells from your next shrimp purchase. Simmer these for about half an hour in a half gallon of water per half pound of shells. The resulting pink broth is amazing.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

*  3 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
*  30 dove hearts, livers, and gizzards
*  1/2 pound pork breakfast sausage
*  1 chopped yellow onion
*  1 chopped green bell pepper
*  1 cup chopped celery
*  2 teaspoons minced garlic
*  1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
*  2 tablespoons of your favorite cajun seasoning
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
*  2 cups shrimp stock
*  1 cup turkey stock
*  2 bay leaves
*  8 cups cooked rice

Method

*  Make sure you’ve cleaned your gizzards appropriately.

*  Melt your bacon fat in a well seasoned dutch oven.

*  Cook your sausage and dove parts for about 5 minutes, then add the veggies and all spices except the bay leaves and cook another 10 minutes, softening the veggies up.

*  Pour in your bay leaves, shrimp and turkey stock and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.

*  Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly rewarming the rice. Let rest for about 10 minutes and serve.

 

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Rain Forest Pepper Hot Sauce

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I dig hot peppers.  During my residency I grew some Chocolate Scotch Bonnets and they were in excess of 400K on the Scoville Scale.  They would make your ears ring, literally.  You’d get the normal mouth-on-fire sensation and then a horseradish surge through your Eustachian tubes clearing your sinuses and making you reach for a chaser of some sort.  I liked the flavor, but the heat was too much even for my manly senses. photo (2)

If you like the flavor of scotch bonnets and habeneros, but want to tone the heat down a notch, check out the Rainforest Pepper.  Brazillian in origin, my Rainforest Pepper pepper plant is now two years and she had a great year.  I just picked about half gallon of this member of the Capsicum Baccatum pepper family, which checks in a respectable 30-50K Scoville Units (about 10 times hotter than a jalepeno).

Here is a solid hot sauce recipe.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 10-20 fresh hot peppers, stems removed
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 TBS salt
  • 1 cup of distilled vinegar
  • 2 TBS olive oil

Method:

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  • In a nonstick sauce pan, saute the olive oil, salt, onions and peppers until soft (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  • Add the water and simmer, stirring as needed, until most of the water is evaporated (about 20 minutes).
  • Remove from the heat, and let it stand until room temperaturephoto (4)
  • Pour into your blender, and slowly add the vinegar and blend until a silky smooth texture.photo (5)  Taste and add salt if needed.
  • Pour into your clean bottle and age about two weeks in the fridge.

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And that’s it.  This is a basic all around hot sauce you can put on everything.   If you’d like to grow some crazy peppers, I order all mine from http://www.peppermania.com.  Her seeds are first rate and she gets them to you quickly.  Do you have any hot sauce recipes?

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Cooking Method: Fireplace Spun Wild Pork Butt

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Nothing is more manly than a roaring fire in the fireplace, unless you are cooking a hunk of wild game on said roaring fire.   The temperature dropped to a brutal 39 degrees here on the Texas coast, and it reminded me of one of my favorite methods of cooking.  The following  has its origin in the medieval French countryside.  Any 4-6 pound hunk of meat will do, so don’t feel limited to just using wild pork.  If you do use a rather lean cut of meat, do plan on larding it.

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 6-10 hours

Ingredients:  Use any herbs and spices you like,  a large hunk of meat, pork fat if a lean roast, and lots of extra virgin olive oil.

Method:

1.  Lard your 4-6 pound roast if necessary.  This is basically poking holes through the meat and stuffing with fat.  I do this to my venison roasts and other lean meats.  Most pork and lamb won’t require this step.

2.  Purchase some butcher twine and netting and stuff your roast. Coat in olive oil and season.

3.  There are a few ways you can spin your meat in front of the fireplace.  The easiest, but most invasive, is to put a strong nail into your mantle.  You may have a nail already for hanging Christmas stockings, but you want to make sure its strong enough to hold your meat.  Falling meat is a catastrophe.  I have a portable metal grill with a swinging hand I place in front of the fireplace and hang my string from the handle.  I’ve also seen tripods set up like cowboys use to cook a pot of beans over the fire.    The longer your string is, the less often you must twist your roast.  Be sure to place a metal bowl beneath the roast to catch the drippings and olive oil baste.  I baste about every 30 minutes and oil the twine to keep it from drying out and breaking.

4.  Cooking time depends on your meat, fire, and taste.  Bear and wild pig needs to be done, whereas lamb and venison of course is better medium rare to medium.

5.  Let it rest 20 minutes at least.  This is where I fail so often, but it really should be done.  Be strong, ignore the guests rumbling.   Slap hands.  Do what it takes, trust me.

We don’t get much cold weather here in Southeast Texas, but when we do I love cooking on the fireplace.  Have you cooked anything on the fireplace?

Recipe: Verde Bear Pozole

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Pozole is a manly dinner on its own.  It has a stick to your bones quality that rides with you all day, and has pulled me through some long hours in the winter. Make it out of bear and you are talking about an Alpha Male Meal deluxe.  But today is the summer solstice–traditional pozole would ride you just a little too hard, so this recipe is a tad lighter.  Try this with your next bear (or pork butt if you don’t have a bear shoulder handy).

Serves: 6

Prep Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

  • Bone in bear shoulder roast (about 5 pounds)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • TBS oregano, fresh best
  • 8 cups of venison stock (or chicken)
  • 4 15 oz cans of white hominy, drained.
  • 1.5 pounds of tomatillos, husked and washed
  • 5 jalapenos
  • 2 bunches of cilantro

Method

  • Preheat oven to 300.
  • Dissect the shoulder’s various muscles and reserve the bone.  Salt and pepper it generously. In a large Dutch oven, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.  Add  half the onions and a half teaspoon of salt, cook about 5 minutes until soft and then add garlic and cook for about a minute.
  • Add the bear and bones and cook, don’t brown, till no longer pink.  Remember, you cook to cook and brown to brown, you don’t cook to brown or brown to cook!  Add another teaspoon of salt, the oregano, and stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and put in the oven for a couple hours.
  • While it cooks, blend the tomatillos, jalapenos,  cilantro and onion until the consistency of a smoothie.
  • After two hours, remove Dutch oven and add hominy.  Cook over medium for about an hour.  With a fork and knife, shred the meat in the pot.  If you want, remove the meat and let it cool then use your fingers to shred it to the consistency of pulled pork.  Return the meat along with the verde sauce and simmer about 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with lime wedges, fresh onion, chopped cilantro and diced avocado. Chips and flour tortillas are a nice addition as well.

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