New Protein

Duck season is upon us!!

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A successful harvest so far this season means that I’ve had a fun chance to do something new with a protein I’ve never used.  I’ve had restaurant duck plenty of times, and it’s always been delicious.  But wild duck is a whole different animal, and it really puts a whole new spin on it when you can take something all the way from harvest to plate.

In addition to eating we also have some wings stashed in the freezer for a taxidermy/biology lab style display I want to do for the upstairs loft.  I’m thinking something along the lines of displaying the wings with little tags and their Latin names.  It’s a nice way to blend hunting with science in a stylized way, and it will feature the prettiest part of the birds….in my opinion.  Using as much of what we bring home as possible is something I really put a lot of focus on, The Engineer might say too much focus….but he usually goes along with my ideas! 🙂

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The most shocking part of duck season so far is how strongly Madam Roo has taken to the whole situation.  My usual timid, perpetually nervous girl has taken to charging right through The Engineer when he arrives home that she can go investigate what he’s brought home every morning.  Poor guy just wants to say hello to her, and she can’t even be bothered until she’s accessed the daily harvest.

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I’ve shared this already on Instagram, but it’s just too good and too cute!
“The Stay at Home, Delicate Duck Hunter”

I have grand cooking plans for all sorts of wild game, so I tend to get a bit bossy with home the birds should be cleaned.  Sadly, it’s been a bit too early in the season to pluck a bird for roasting.  They have all been about halfway between their summer feathers and having their dense winter, downy feathers grow in.  This has just led to a mess of plucking, so sadly I haven’t had a bird yet for roasting with my canned apple chutney.  That will come with time I’m sure, but I am antsy to try that and let you know how it goes!

While we patiently wait for the birds to fully plume for winter, and hopefully cleaner plucking, we’ve been breasting out the birds.  I tend to be a bit more skilled than The Engineer in that capacity, so bird cleaning as really become a whole family affair.  We usually try and keep Scout in the house while the knives are flying, but she’s taken to crying like she’s being beaten if we are out with the ducks without her, so we usually cave about halfway through.

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Ummm excuse me iz trying to investigate pleez!

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Pleez do not mind while I investigate these ducks pleez….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My very first adventure into cooking duck was Spicy Thai Duck Burgers curtesy of From Field to Plate.  I’ve used other From Field to Plate recipes before, and I’ve always had really great results.  I really can’t say enough good things about his lime and tequila turkey marinade!  The burgers were alright, but I would defiantly tweak the spices and flavors next time we make them.

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I think I’m just not a huge fan of cinnamon paired with meats.  I know that it’s a normal flavor profile in some Eastern cuisines, but it’s just not my favorite flavor.  Also, I didn’t find it all that spicy, and even The Engineer thought it was too mild.  I will say I did half the jalapeño in the slaw, but usually a single jalapeño is all The Engineer can tolerate spice wise.  It’s so hard to know especially because every pepper is a little different, but it could have used way more oomph.

I would definitely remove the cinnamon and amp up the spice for round two.  Also, I don’t like peanut sauce and it was a Wednesday night, and I was feeling lazy…..so I cheated and bought some peanut sauce for The Engineer.  The From Field to Plate homemade version is probably much better.  If you’re into peanut sauce and give it a try let me know!

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High on list of things you don’t want in your burger patty…..

This week we were a bit crunched for time, so instead of trying a new recipe we went to an old fall back.  Friday night duck taco and nacho night with margaritas was exactly what this week called for!  Just treat it exactly the way you’d use regular ground beef, and no one will even know you’re sneaking waterfowl into the dinner rotation!

I do a bit feel like I’m not really using the ducks to their full flavor potential, and it’s making me a little bummed.  I’m not really in love with the texture of ground duck….it’s a bit soft.  More on the side of ground turkey or chicken then say ground beef or deer.  It defiantly goes better, in my opinion, with something crunchy….slaw or tortilla chips.  But, at the end of the day, it’s all getting gobbled up and that’s really what counts.

Meals do really mean more when you know the time and sacrifice that have been put in to make them happen.  So many people have moved so far away from knowing where their food comes from.  Nothing that arrives on your table arrives by magic, and I’m glad that in this house we are active participants in at least some of the meals that arrive on the dining room table.

Bonus points for not having any shot end up in the taco meat!  I’ll take that as my major victory for the week!!

Cleaning out the Freezer and Hauling in the Veggies

Hunting season has started in states all over the country, and you know what that means?!  You need to get all the old meat out of your freezer before you start adding fresh stock!  Annoyingly, The Engineer and I didn’t draw any deer tags this year.  Frankly we should probably be hoarding our meat for the upcoming winter, but I guess if we have to go vegetarian over the winter that’s what happens.

To go along with our meat, we suddenly had a small surplus of fresh tomatoes out of the garden.  Late summer is a strange time like that.  Surpluses of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs are all at your disposal, but you freezer might be less with just huge roasts and some less than stellar cuts of meat.  Since discovering that my Kitchenaid is more than capable of grinding up a large elk roast, we’ve become less worried about using up all our pounds of burger meat….we just make more!

I decided it was time to whip up a new recipe, and I really couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out.  It seemed like it had been weeks since I’d spent anytime in the kitchen making dinner, so I decided to really do it up this week!  Due solely to the fact that I don’t every decide to do things until late, prepping dinner actually took 2 days!  Don’t panic, it’s not hard nor does it take that long….I just didn’t have a plan going into things!

STEP 1:  Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I had probably around 2  or 2.5 pounds of large tomatoes out of the garden.  We have two heirloom varieties, Cherokee Black and Siberian Prince, and they seem to have suddenly kicked production into high gear.  I simply blanched the tomatoes whole until the skin started to split and then peel and rough chop.  I didn’t bother to deseed the tomatoes, I just tossed the rough chunks into a medium sauce pan.  If you don’t have access to fresh, garden tomatoes, start with a quart of canned tomatoes.

To my quart of tomatoes I added:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil….our basil plant had a rough go of things this summer 😦
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook on medium until just before boiling before dropping the temperature to low.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  If you’re going to eat it immediately, you may want to let it simmer longer…..longer is always better!  I of course started this whole process around 9pm….so after it simmered I placed it into the fridge for use later!

STEP 2: Elk and Herb Meatballs

I didn’t have a plan for using my tomato sauce when I made it, I just didn’t want that many tomatoes to go bad before I had a chance to use them!  The next night I was sitting around thinking….and it occurred to me….we need meatballs!  After consulting a variety of cookbooks I had laying around I settled on a variation of  Anthony Bourdain’s recipe of meatball sandwich meatballs and Steven Rinella’s recipe for wild game meatballs.

Anthony recommends a blend a veal, pork, and beef….and while I’m sure that makes a delicious, more traditional Italian meatball….those aren’t the meats I have hanging out in my freezer.  Steven’s recipe calls for raw onions and milk soaked breadcrumbs in your meatballs, but Anthony says to sweat the onions and add dry crumbs…..so I sweated some onion and added crumbs and milk!

In a small pan heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano

Sweat the onions, garlic, and herbs together until the onions to translucent and soft.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  You’re maybe sensing a theme here, but trust me you really can’t over do the Italian flavors!  See what I mean when I say if I had planned this out better…..just chop double once and you’ll be able to whip up meatballs and sauce together in no time flat.

In a large bowl add:

  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 milk
  • Cooled onion and garlic mixture

Mix lightly until everything seemed combined and the herbs, onion, and garlic seem evenly sprinkled throughout.  Form into golfball sized balls and set on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I got 13 meatballs from the pound of meat.  Also, I know it’s probably slightly controversial…but I didn’t add any fat to my meat mixture.  I still think they turned out great, but I feel I’m making Italians grandmas the world over shudder in terror!

My next step might also be slightly controversial…..but just stick with me.  We weren’t going to eat the meatballs that night because once again in was much later than one should be making meatballs.  Third day simply had to be the charm for enjoying this meal so I decided I would toss the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker so everything would be ready to enjoy right after work.  Sounds fine, but I was suddenly overcome with fear that my glorious, raw meatballs would dissolve in the crockpot and leave me with a delicious meat sauce.  Meat sauce after I had ‘slaved away’ making meatballs wasn’t something I was willing to risk…..so I broiled my meatballs!

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IT WORKED GREAT!

Simply turn your broiler on Low and give your meatballs 8-10 minutes for form a nice crust.  Turn them every couple minutes to prevent burning and provide an even caramelization.

I put a thin layer of sauce down in the bottom of my crockpot, layered in my meatballs, and then tossed the whole thing back in the fridge.  The next morning I topped them with the remaining sauce and set them to cook on low while I went to work.  8 hours later I came home to delicious smells and a crockpot full of happy meatballs and a sauce that had slow cooked to thick, robust perfection.

Serve with your favorite noodles, or in my case spaghetti squash from the garden, and enjoy.  I added cheese, a hefty slice of garlic bread, and a class of wine.  Perfect easy dinner to come home to, and I promise it won’t take you 3 days to get there!

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Taking Matters into Your Own Grinder

The Engineer and I are facing a slight crisis….our supply of ground elk and deer is dwindling dangerously low.  We have plenty of steaks and roasts, but our tubes of ground meat are quickly disappearing!

How are we supposed to make tacos without ground meat!?!

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Accurate depiction of The Engineer and I as I demand avocado on my tacos….except he is a crunchy taco and I am a soft taco!

Now I know that I could make steak tacos….pulled pork tacos…chicken tacos…fish tacos……

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ALL OF THE TACOS!

Trust me, we make tacos a ton and in a wide variety of flavors and styles.  However, some tacos require planning and forethought.  I’m not always the best at taking things out of the freezer to thaw in advance, but a pound of frozen solid ground meat is just easy to toss straight into a frying pan!  Basically, having a reliable stash of ground meat in my house is a requirement.

The Engineer bought me a grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aide for Christmas because I had grand visions of getting into sausage making.  I have yet to make a batch of sausage, and so the grinder had just been waiting patiently in a kitchen cabinet to be used for something delicious.  Last weekend we decided to test out the grinder and tackle our meat issue head on!

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First things first….thaw out a giant roast!  When The Engineer had his elk processed in Canada, it was cheaper to just get it cut into large roasts.  This makes total sense and is fine, except that the two of us don’t necessarily need to cook up a 4-5 pound roast for a nice dinner at home!  Also, don’t worry if the meat isn’t totally thawed.  The colder, even still slightly frozen, the better.  Also, if you’re going to add additional fat into your ground meat….that fat needs to be frozen!

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The little lurker quickly noticed that tasty meat scraps come out of the grinder after every round of processing….there is always a little morsel left in the auger!

 

The grinder worked great!  I had read some questionable reviews so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I had emotionally prepared to spend most of the day fighting and struggling to get the meat processed.  It was such a smooth process I wish we had thawed out more meat and we could have just done it all at once.  We ground the meat twice, once through the coarse blade, and a second time through the fine.  I’m not sure that a second grind is required if you’re just planning on tacos, chili, casseroles, and such with the meat, but it’s the typically recommended procedure.  Between the rounds of grinding I took apart the grinder and cleaned it out.  It had built up a little ring of tendon, fat, and meat right behind the grind plate, but it was easy to just clean out.  Also, once the flow of meat stops moving down the auger, a small chunk was left that couldn’t be pushed through the grind plate….no biggie and Scout really appreciated the snacks!

The only slight issue we had is that no store in town stocked the “Sausage Kit” with the filling nozzles.  Minor setback, and it worked pretty well to just hold the bags and let the ground meat sort of just fall into the bottom.  Actually, once the bags had some meat in them they sort of just sat themselves up.  Easy peasey lemon squeezey!

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4 beautiful little tubes of ground elk all ready for delicious things!

Now, if you’re looking for a tasty way to use up some ground meat….might I suggest Mexican Stuffed Peppers!

Ingredients:

  • Drizzle of olive oil (Only needed for wild game as it is super lean and sticks)
  • 1lb ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 can Original Rotel
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper…or to taste if your spice sensitive
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese, plus 2/3 cup additional for topping
  • 3 large bell peppers

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add meat and onion.  Cook over medium until the meat is fully cooked and the onion is soft.  Add the garlic, Rotel, rice, beans, and all spices to the skillet and mix to combine.  Turn heat off and allow to sit to cool and the flavors to meld for a couple minutes.  Divide peppers in half through the stem and remove all seeds.  Immediately before “stuffing”, stir 2/3 of cheese into the meat mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between all the peppers….don’t worry about being too neat.  They will be large and in charge!  Sprinkle the tops with the additional cheese, if desired, cover with foil, and bake at 370 for about 30-35 minutes.  I like a crispy, brown, cheesy crust so I uncovered them for an additional 5 minutes.  The cooking time will be reduced if you have smaller peppers, just cook until the peppers are soft and tender.

Serve immediately with any of your favorite taco toppings!  I did avocado….OF COURSE!…..and The Engineer likes his with taco sauce and sour cream.

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Stags and Scotch

What do you get when you mix a lazy Saturday morning, venison sausage, a hungry me, and my over ambitious ideas?!?!?!!  

Scotch Eggs!!

I had never attempted a scotch egg before, but I have pounds and pounds of breakfast sausage from The Engineer’s deer and eggs are a constant staple in the fridge.  It seemed like a perfectly reasonable breakfast idea!  So, Friday night I googled a quick explanation from Gordon Ramsey and decided that fancy British breakfast was just the thing we needed Saturday morning.  This is exactly the sort of thing that happens when I watch cooking shows.  If Gordon can do it….I obviously can do it!  If I can’t do it as well as Gordon, I can certainly do it better than his stupid contestants on Hell’s Kitchen….but that is a different matter entirely.

If you wanna take a stab at making your own scotch eggs, here’s what I used to make my jazzed up, cheesy version.  They turned out crispy and delicious, although they are a bit of work, so they aren’t going to become an every weekend activity anytime soon even though The Engineer really liked them…

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Ingredients

  • 5 eggs plus one for an egg wash
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage of your choice
  • Flour for dredging
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese
  • Any spices you like….get creative!!!
  • Olive oil for frying

First things first, you must boil the eggs.  Gordon recommend a 4 minute and 30 second dip into already boiling water.  I don’t love super runny eggs, so I opted for an almost 6 minute boil.  Apparently British eggs cook faster?!  My 6 minute eggs were still runnier than I would have liked, and it made them a bit hard to peel and wrap in sausage without breaking open and oozing yoke.  The Engineer likes runny eggs, and I don’t horribly mind them as long as I have plenty of stuff to wipe them up with so we made do.  Next time though….I’ll let them go a couple minutes more.  I was worried that cooking the sausage would cook the egg inside more, but I don’t think that is the case.  Be sure you just cook your eggs to as hard or soft of a boil as you’d like.

While your eggs are boiling it’s time to get creative with your meat!  Our sausage blend is a bit under-spiced so it takes some jazzing up.  If you have a better blend or are just feeling lazy feel free to leave your sausage as it comes.  There aren’t a lot of rules, so add what you’re feeling!  Gordon apparently adds blood sausage and shredded apple to his pork sausage base.  I added cheese!!  The Engineer loves cheese with his eggs and I figured this would be an easy place to add it……plus the following pyramid of spices

1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Tablespoon each of Garlic and Onion Powder

2 Tablespoons each of fresh, frozen Thyme and Oregano from my garden

Get everything in your sausage all mixed up, and be sure to get your breading stations set up.  I added some salt and pepper to the flour mixture and a splash of water to the egg so it whipped up nicely.

Once your eggs are cooked, cool them down with some cold water and commence the peeling.  I find that peeling the eggs under a little running water really helps the shells come off easier.  I had one egg not survive the peeling intact, so I did end up just frying some of the sausage as patties…..but that’s our little secret so don’t tell anyone!  The recipe would have made 5 scotch eggs otherwise!

To prep your eggs, squash a “large golfball sized handful” of meat into a very thin patty.  I get that that isn’t a super exact amount….but I guess you’re looking for 5 even sized balls.  Try and keep it as round and thin as you can.  Carefully place your peeled egg in the middle and warp the sausage around it.  A couple times I had to grab a bit more meat mixture to bridge any holes, just make sure to get everything covered in the sausage layer.  I found the rolling and forming them in my hands the way you’d make a snowball was the most effective, although don’t squeeze too hard because if you break your eggs, and you like them a little runny, you’ll end up with exploding yoke everywhere.  Not only will this mean that someone will get a mystery scotch egg with no yolk, but it’s also hard to get everything stuck together with all the yolk oozing around!

Gently roll your delicious meat ball in the seasoned flour….transfer to the egg wash….and then finally roll in breadcrumbs.  If you’re ball has gotten a bit amorphous or wonky by this point don’t worry…..just pick it up carefully and reform it in your hands.  According to Gordon it is helpful to press in the breadcrumbs anyway so don’t worry too much about it.  It’ll be a bit messy….but the good things in life are usually messy anyway.

Scotch eggs are traditionally deep fried, but I don’t have a fryer and I didn’t feel like using that much oil just to fry up 4 egg balls in a large skillet.  So….I broke with tradition slightly and just added a generous drizzle of olive oil to my largest, deepest skillet and let it get hot.  Once hot, carefully place in the scotch eggs and cook until brown and crispy!!!  They get oh so deliciously crispy…..must be the cheese at work!  Once they are cooked on one side, grab carefully with tongs and flip over.  Once the top and bottom were golden and delicious, I set them on their sides and slowly worked them around until they were perfectly cooked little brown orbs of goodness.  You might think that a hefty drizzle in the bottom of the pan won’t be enough oil, but remember that sausage will loose grease as it cooks….use that to your advantage!  The cheese and the fact that you aren’t actually deep frying them does cause them to stick to the pan a tiny bit, so just be gentle when you’re working with them.

Serve piping hot with your choice of breakfast sides and of course some coffee…..mimosas if you have them!  If you like your eggs runny you’ll probably want some toast to help soak up all the deliciousness.  They are a bit heavy….in a good “old school, stick to your ribs, keep you full for a long time” sorta way…so I’d steer clear of anything like pancakes or hash browns.  I eat a ton, but even I think that’s too much to take on.  Some fruit, maybe some tea, and pleasant thoughts of the English countryside should be more than enough to start your day off on the proper foot!

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Glorious lil scotch eggs and some apple butter toast!