It All Comes Down to Enough Time and the Right Weather

I’m writing this post after badgering 6 other people to get their portions of a group assignment in to me so I could cobble the bits together into a cohesive whole. And after writing my portion, plus a 4 page paper.

Matt and his buddy Bill got out a few times for bowfishing during the week (albeit more sober). Bill managed to shoot some gar, which we almost never see. And certainly not at this size.

Bill with his biggest longnose gar

Bill with his biggest longnose gar

They got into a few more gar and carp on Friday night while I was at work. Thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon kept me from fishing like I’d hoped to do while Matt was at the radio station’s golf outing. Instead, I spent Saturday afternoon at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. Not wild by any stretch, but still a fun day.

Bagpiper

Bagpiper

Excellent doughnuts

Excellent doughnuts

Cows on the concourse

Cows on the concourse

Calf

Calf

Pretty Jersey cow

Pretty Jersey cow

My haul.

My haul.

The meats you see are a smoked rainbow trout and a whole butchered rabbit. Domestic, of course. I cooked it for dinner Saturday night. If we ever do take up rabbit hunting, I plan to not cook it on the grill. Even a domestic bunny was kind of tough cooked over the flames. Braising it is.

Only one more week of this class.

Wild Food: Venison Kebabs

Matt had a leftover turkey permit for this week for our part of the state, since he didn’t make it up north to hunt. We only made it out Sunday morning, and heard the birds, but didn’t really see any. For all that the weather is more comfortable for turkey hunting in May, the whole, light-at-4:45 bs is a bit too much for me. I’m happier being chilly in April, but able to sleep until 5:30. Speaking of sleeping, I’m low enough on sleep this week from work and also waking up at 4 to turkey hunt that I managed to literally pass out while sitting this morning. I was getting some micro sleeps, so I re-positioned to being propped on my elbow on the ground. I woke up 30 minutes later curled in a ball on my side, head pillowed on my pack. I must have needed it.

So, since I was so tired today, but sick of not eating at home (dinner at work everyday. Yeesh), I threw together these awesome, quick cooking venison kebabs. Also fulfilling my personal goal of eating more veggies.

The small, long muscle from a hindquarter, squash, onion green pepper.

The small, long muscle from a hindquarter, squash, onion green pepper.

I keep them round, but I've seen it done up pretty fancy as a zucchini ribbon.

I keep them round, but I’ve seen it done up pretty fancy as a zucchini ribbon.

Always soak your skewers.

Always soak your skewers.

Meat cubed and in a - apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, and canola oil.

Meat cubed and in a marinade: apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, and canola oil.

Veggies cut up in their marinade- salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and canola.

Veggies cut up in their marinade- salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and canola.

Skewer assembled

Skewer assembled

Place on a piping hot grill.

Place on a piping hot grill.

Cook 'em until the veggies are just charring a bit.

Cook ’em until the veggies are just charring a bit.

 

Tasty, fast, and they’ll be good cold on a salad later this week. I had mine with a roasted sweet potato. Matt got his own meat-only skewer. I’m so glad the weather’s warmed up enough to grill comfortably.

Feast Your Eyes.

The other day, we had a cookout. Our local Hy-Vee’s meat department makes their own bratwursts. They have your standard Wisconsin fare: bacon and cheddar brats, bacon-cheddar-jalapeno brats, and beer brats. The pineapple pork brats and green onion brats are two of my particular favorites.

SAMSUNG

 

But on this day I also ground up some bacon end fat I had reserved just for this occasion, and I made deer burgers. Last time I made deer burgers, things went a bit… awry. I made up the patties and did not take my eyes off of them except to close the grill. Sorry, dog. No deerburger for you.

You see, I made my burgers up with something special this time. I can’t have cheese really, but Matt loves it. I made him surprise cheese-curd-stuffed-cheddar-cheese-topped-Wisconsin-Burgers.

No prep pictures, as handling and grinding cured hog fat means no camera touching.

No prep pictures, as handling and grinding cured hog fat means no camera touching.

Matt ate two brats and about half the burger, plus a few bottles of Hacker-Pschorr, and declared himself nigh unto bursting. We had a bonfire later that night & his buddy bill polished off the second Wisconsin Burger, along with his half a case of Mickey’s.

Wild Food: Barbecued Venison Ribs

I haven’t written a post in over a week. With most of the seasons we’re interested in closed, and weather that’s making getting out on the ice to at least chase panfish seem iffy, we’ve spent the last weekend or two mostly relaxing and starting to get the house in order.

Case in point- I spent Saturday scooping all the dog poo out of the back yard (two hours and 5 garbage bags. yikes), and then Tuesday afternoon cleaning up the front yard and porch. Random litter, sticks, sweeping, and everything else I could manage with the ground being pretty frozen still. With a wedding in Minnesota to attend this weekend, I don’t really know how much else we’ll get up to.

I set out a side of venison ribs Tuesday afternoon for dinner. Believe it or not, we’re getting down to the end of our venison. There’s a few steaks left, two football roasts, and two more packages of ribs, in addition to some packages of bones to make into stock. I’ll have to start stretching the venison with store bought chicken, pork, and maybe even beef.

The ribs I intended to grill. I figured they’d be tough, though, so I cooked them in foil in the oven for a few hours first. I made a short marinade inspired by a recipe for Korean beef short ribs. They were only in that for about 30 minutes before I sauced them with some altered barbecue sauce (Ray’s with some “Saipan Sizzle” nonsense Matt had lying around, some ginger, and sesame seeds). They cooked for a good long time in there until I had coals in the grill (2-3 hours), then another hour in the packet on the grill, and then I sauced them some more, and let them char a bit over the coals.

In the end, they were pretty tasty. But the next incarnations of deer ribs, I will be sure to trim every bit of fat off- it definitely has an off flavor, even in small amounts. I’ll also wrap it in some bacon ends before cooking. But it did look pretty impressive on my plate. These were from the smaller, younger doe so they were still pretty small. The ones from the bigger doe will be larger and meatier.

Verdict: Barbecued deer ribs will make you feel like a cavewoman (or man).

Awesome Dinner, Great Book, Friendly Author.

I picked up the cookbook at the restaurant.

I picked up the cookbook at the restaurant.

I mentioned about a month ago that I had made reservations for the Duck, Duck, Goose book tour. That was this past Sunday night.  I got back from Illinois early enough in the afternoon to get cleaned up and ready. The last time we’d been out anywhere fancy for dinner had been in June to the local Brazilian steakhouse with a bunch of Marines from Matt’s first deployment in Iraq.

Anyhow. Our reservations were for 6:30, at the bar at Forequarter, 708 East Johnson Street in Madison. Matt grumbled that the dinner was making him miss deer hunting, and it had better be good. The place didn’t have much of a sign, but I’d found it on Google Street View. We parked about a block away, and walked on over. It was already pretty busy, and the relatively small space was pretty full. We sat at the bar, and ordered drinks.

dranks

Matt got a brandy old fashioned, sweet, and I got an apple-pear cider. Matt didn’t care for his old fashioned- he makes his without any pulp, and this place is uber-crafty- it had a leaf in it that I couldn’t identify, in addition to what looked like preserved black cherries (instead of maraschino) and the standard orange. Mint maybe? My cider was tart-sweet, and fizzy. I liked it.  Then we got down to the ordering. Everything was a la carte.

I got three items- the pear and frisee salad with smoked duck liver vinaigrette, a watercress and shaved carrot salad with jalapeno salt and duck jerky, and then the duck steak- done rare on a bed of broccoli rabe, garnished with a deep fried chicken foot. Matt had the fermented duck sausage served with radishes and green onion. He even ate the vegetables (he’s a corn-and-potatoes-only sort of person). It was excellent. The duck liver vinaigrette was probably the best salad dressing I’ve ever tried, hands down. The duck jerky was good- I would like to try and make duck or goose jerky at home. The duck steak was best part though. Good, meaty flavor, with the cap of skin and fat on it to add richness. It was an awesome meal, no question.

Mr. Shaw was also making the rounds that night- he wanted a chance to talk to everybody, and he made his was around the bar to us. He grabbed me a copy of the book, and talked to us about the menu a little bit. Then we got to brass tacks- we were of the handful of hunters-and-eaters in the establishment. We talked for a bit about duck hunting and the varieties found here in the Midwest, and on the California coast. We even talked about burgoo stew and squirrel hunting for a little while. He let us work on the duck steak when it arrived. After we finished up, I decided to get the book right then, and asked him to sign it for me as I told him that his video on dry plucking waterfowl was how I learned to do it myself. He obliged.

To Amber- A fellow duck chaser and lover of burgoo and other awesome, if mysterious, foods. Hope you get years of fun cooking from these pages. Enjoy!- Hank Shaw

To Amber- A fellow duck chaser and lover of burgoo and other awesome, if mysterious, foods. Hope you get years of fun cooking from these pages. Enjoy!- Hank Shaw

As to the book itself- I’ve read through the first 25 pages or so- the Basics section on handling your birds in the field, domestic breeds, wine and beer pairings, plucking, gutting, the whole nine yards. I haven’t quite gotten to the recipes section yet, though. But I plan to make a few of the recipes with the ducks we currently have. We had our first frost Sunday evening- maybe the more seasonable cool weather will get the birds up and moving, and we can shoot some more. Or I can check Madison’s Farmer’s Market for ducks.

Wild Food: Smoked Goose

Back in February, I made those smoked ducks. I opted for a long, slow smoke because the first time I had waterfowl had been smoked. Another reason was that last year in December, my dad had been up for a visit. I had wanted to make a nice big dinner, and we had the larger of the two geese from last year in the freezer. I brined and roasted it. Only, I was used to cooking domestic turkey and chicken. I figured that, like poultry, it had to be done to 165F to be safe to eat.

Matt and my dad were really good sports about the whole thing. This in spite of the fact that I basically served them jerky still attached to a skeleton.  So, I smoked those ducks and they turned out well. We needed some room in the freezer, so I pulled that goose out Sunday to thaw. I brined it as well, since geese are typically lean and this one was no exception.

The brine ingredients

The brine ingredients: a small onion, half a lemon, bay leaves, salt (lots), pepper, lemon thyme

The goose breast down in the brine

The goose breast down in the brine

People brine chickens over night, and turkeys for a day. This goose just brined for about 4 hours yesterday afternoon. Could it go longer? Probably. I let it sit while I did some cleaning and yard work. Then I got the fire going. While it had been brining, I had picked up some apple wood chunks to cook it over. My fire was a blend of plain charcoal and apple wood. Once it had burned down a little bit, I set the brined goose on the grill to one side of the fire to cook slowly.

DSCF4881

Then I closed the lid and the chimney cover to let it puff away. It still ran a little hot, so I made sure to open the lid and vent the heat now and again, and I monitored the internal temp a bunch. Overall, it cooked for about two and a half hours.

I had mine like this. For Matt, it went back on the grill for a while.

I had mine like this. For Matt, it went back on the grill for a while.

It turned out very well. Much more firm than chicken or turkey, or even the ducks. But the brine helped it stay juicy, as did a quick bacon grease coat I gave it halfway through cooking. The flavor was good, too, even with how simple I kept the herbs and seasoning. I served it with baked red potatoes and summer squash from my garden, both done on the grill.

Wild Food: Grilled Venison Tacos

To make up for this weekend’s mishap with the venison burgers, I decided I was making some sort of venison something tonight. On top of that, I have to be at work pretty dang early tomorrow, so I wanted something to post late this evening. Midway through my lunch shift, it hit me. Venison tacos. On the grill.

Whenever we were butchering up our deer quarters, I took a couple parts of all 4 haunches and butterflied them out as thinly as I could, so that it was something akin to flank steak. Now, this is way more tender than flank steak, but I had something exactly like this in mind.

I ran to the store to get the fixings for tacos. I made the cashier and the lady in line behind me extremely hungry. Once I got home, I got my marinade together

That is, zest and juice of one lime, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, red pepper flakes, paprika, dried pasilla peppers

That is, zest and juice of one lime, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, red pepper flakes, paprika, dried pasilla peppers, and oregano.

DSCF5295

Like I’ve mentioned, I only measure when I’m baking. But it was a healthy dose of all the seasonings and spices. I also made two foil packets. One was corn- I used a can of DelMonte SummerCrisp, which I like because it’s packed in very little water. I mixed the corn with paprika, cumin, butter, garlic, and red pepper. The other was just a can of refried black beans. I think they go better with venison, and I use them when I make venison chili. I rubbed the venison down with the marinade, and let it do its thing. Then I lit the grill and scrounged up a margarita.

DSCF5301

 

While I was letting the foil packets steam away, and the meat marinade, Matt called to tell me he’d be later getting home than expected. I told him I’d save a plate, but it was too late to turn back now. Once the coals were good and hot, I slapped the meat on, careful not to leave it unattended within canine reach.

DSCF5308 DSCF5309

 

When everything had cooked as much as I wanted it, I removed it from the heat, and took it to the safety of the kitchen counter. The corn turned out exceptionally, if spicy. DSCF5313 DSCF5315

A very nice medium.

A very nice medium.

Now, I’m lactose intolerant (and yes, yes, I live in Wisconsin, it’s weird). A great cheese sub is avocado, which I can eat plain with a spoon. I piled my taco fillings on a plate, and took that and the corn tortillas back outside to the grill. Then I put the tortillas over the coals. After that is was merely the natural progression of such things. 

DSCF5317

Taco one

Taco one

Taco Three. I was a little too busy to photograph taco two. Taco four was an afterthought.

Taco Three. I was a little too busy to photograph Taco Two. Taco Four was an afterthought.

 

 

Wild Food: Finally Got Some Venison on the Grill

Last night, I cooked dinner for the first time in a month or more. I work nights, and we are pretty busy on the weekends. Luckily, we’re just two young folks, and we can get by on cold sandwiches or whatever else we find.

But somehow, it got to be late May, and I still hadn’t grilled any venison. Wild meat requires a kiss of the flame from time to time, I figure. So, I rubbed some of my Wisconsin Strip Steaks with salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic and let them rest while I got some yard work done and started the grill.

Once the coals were ready and the potatoes had been on for a while, I slapped the steaks onto the hot grate. As usual, mine were intended to be more rare than Matt’s. His got to be medium well, and mine about medium rare. I would have preferred a bit more rare, but charcoal doesn’t have  a dial to control the heat as much. They got some really nice grill marks on them, and the smoke flavor was great with the venison.

DSCF5232 DSCF5233

Those shots are a bit too rare, even for me. This is the finished products.

DSCF5238

Wild Food: Smoked Duck in Late Winter

I recently found out I’ll be having a bit more free time in the evenings. At least, for a month or two. When that happens, I like having more time to actually cook rather than eat cold sandwiches at 9pm because I got off work late and so did Matt. So, today, I made something rather ambitious, which I hadn’t done in a while. I decided I wanted to smoke some duck.

Something about snow on the roof and a fire inside

The old grill hasn’t been touched since probably early October.

So, last Fall, Matt and I took on both of our first waterfowl seasons. Duck and Canada Goose. There was definitely a learning curve. I never did shoot any birds, as my shotgun is completely unmodified. It’s a little grouse hunting gun. So my pellet spread is… wide. I think I took maybe three shots in three months of bird hunting, knowing I wasn’t going to hit anything. It worked great with a slug for deer hunting. Not so much with bird shot. Matt, however, borrowed, and then bought, a very nice 12 gauge from someone he knows. He put a full choke on it, and actually hit a couple birds. I think in total we got 4 ducks, 2 geese, and maybe 5 or 6 coots. Not bad for first timers on their own, hunting literally within city limits.

Anyhow. I’d made the first two ducks we got right away- two little green-winged teal. They’re small birds, a little smaller than the cornish game hens you can buy at the grocery store. They were great. And I made the bigger of the two geese when my dad came to visit. No one told me goose, particularly wild, does not need to be cooked to 165F like chicken and turkey. It was… dry. And chewy.

So, today, when I was deciding what to do with my ducks, I opted to go for the way I’d first had duck ever: smoked. A friend of my dad’s when I was little was a big sportsman. My dad only hunted deer, but this guy hunted everything. Much like me and Matt. He brought us some smoked duck and goose, and it was heavenly.

Gettin' 'er goin'

Gettin’ ‘er goin’

So, I stuffed my feet into some snow boots, tromped on over to Menard’s, and picked up some lump hickory charcoal and apple wood smoker chips. I came back home, got the grill set up, and the charcoal chimney lit. I came back inside, and started to prepare the ducks.

Here's the rub.

Here’s the rub.

I mixed up a rub to go on the duckies. I am horrible at measuring when I’m winging things and not baking. So, it was a good deal of sea salt. Maybe 1/8 inch of it in the bottom of that little white container you see on the counter. Plenty of black pepper, plenty of red pepper flakes, a few (2-3) half-spoonfuls of minced garlic (I use the stuff in a jar because I’m lazy, and I can only fit half of a spoon in the mouth of the jar), and then a good spoonful of Thai/Vietnamese garlic chili sauce. The hot stuff that’s like chunky Sriracha. I also put in a touch of dry rubbed sage. I mixed all that mess up into a paste, and I added 3-4 spoonfuls of “robust” molasses. I mixed that together and then set it aside. While that sat and kind of melded, I took some more salt, probably a teaspoon poured into the palm of my hand per duck, and rubbed it into the skin of the ducks to dry them out a bit faster. Ducks and geese have a lot of fat in their skins- more than chicken- and drying out the skin and salting it will help make it crisp.  Then I set them aside too, and went to check the grill.

Salty birds

Salty birds

After I dumped the now-white-hot coals, I rubbed the rub into the ducks, and let them chill out some more while the grill got hot.

Rubbed up ducks

Rubbed up ducks

Once everything was going the right temp on the grill- about 200-250, I set the ducks on the grill to cook for about 2-2/12 hours.

DSCF4865.

I checked the grill every 20 minutes or so to make sure it was the right temp. The birds were to one side of the heat so it was indirect. Which was good, since I couldn’t keep it below 300F. After about an hour, at 120F, they looked like this:

DSCF4864

 

I had to spread the coals out a bit to cool it down from 350, then I left everything go some more. I came in and put together a potato to bake for Matt, a sweet potato for me, and some pasta salad. I left them go for another hour to hour and a half. And then. Then.

Delicious smoked ducks

Delicious smoked ducks

The skin didn’t crisp as much as I’d hoped, but they were done through, and I learned the hard way not to over cook wild fowl. It was delicious. Duck and goose both are all dark meat. Which on birds is my favorite kind. The longer, slower cooking process really let the fat in the duck skin render out into the meat, keeping it pretty moist. And it was tender.

With the breast sliced out.

With the breast sliced out.

There’s still a good deal of meat on the carcass. I like to keep small carcasses like this to make soups and broth out of. Duck noodle soup is excellent, especially in winter. These were two mallard drakes that we got in October and early December respectively, that we plucked and cleaned, then froze. They’re mid-sized as far as ducks go, but we never did see any of the bigger ducks, like pintails or canvasbacks. So mallards are about as large as we’d get here.

Have you ever had duck or goose before? Much less wild fowl?