Category Archives: recipes

Spicy & Crispy Goose Hearts

Early season goose hunting can be a struggle.  Stale, local birds, a still-limited number of suitable fields for hunting, and heavy pressure from other hunters that, like you, have been chomping at the bit to get started shooting geese again.

This past weekend was one of the starkest examples of this that our group has had; just two geese fell over the course of a series of weekend hunts. High winds and tough field conditions had us flagging and calling to several groups, and some even looked like they’d commit, but at the end of it all they often just moved on to other areas.

So, with just two birds to work with, I took as much as I could off them.  I went slow and methodical in the butchering, getting every last speck of breast meat for grilling or pastrami, the full tenders for a little pan-fried afternoon snack, the legs and thighs for a slow-cooked braise, and in a new adventure I pulled out two plump little goose hearts and after I trimmed the arterial scraps from the top of them, I found myself with two delectable looking morsels.  One had a single pellet hole in it; proof of what brought that bird down from the sky.

The “before” picture.

If there had been more geese (and thus more hearts) I would have thought of something more elaborate, but for having just the pair of them I decided to make a quick little fry-up. The technique is simple enough and when I pulled the two hearts from the frying oil, I could tell I was going to like them.  Speculatively I cut open the first heart, the panko-crust crackling like a potato chip, and I was not disappointed.  It was cooked perfectly and after one taste I was addicted.  I think I ate the second heart in one big bite. These are an absolute “must make again”.

Sure to be a hit with those who like deer, moose, elk, lamb, or beef heart, these go well with the cold beer of your choice.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of 1% milk
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup of Japanese style (panko) breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Peanut or vegetable oil (enough to fill a saucepan or fryer two inches deep)
  • 6 Canada Goose hearts
  • 1 large egg

Cooking Steps

  • An hour before cooking place the goose hearts in a bowl with the milk. Let soak for 30-45 minutes.
  • Remove hearts from the milk, rinse and then pat dry or place on a wire rack to air dry.
  • While the hearts are drying, heat the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Mix the cayenne and flour in a small bowl.
  • Beat then egg in a separate bowl.
  • Add the panko to a third bowl. I added more cayenne to the panko, but that’s strictly optional and more an indication of my level of mental illness than anything else.
  • Roll the goose hearts in the flour and cayenne mixture, then dip them in the egg mixture, before tossing them and coating thoroughly with the panko crumbs. Set aside for a few minutes to let the breading dry.
  • Add the hearts to the hot oil, ensuring not to crowd too many in or the oil temperature will drop.
  • Fry for 6 minutes total, turning the hearts to ensure even cooking.
  • Remove and set on a plate with a paper towel to cool. Season with the kosher salt while still hot.
  • After 2-3 minutes they should be cool enough to eat.
Crunchy, spicy goodness.

I like the crispiness of panko breading, but I’d bet you a shiny dollar that if you dumped a mess of buffalo wing sauce over these they may not be as crunchy, but they’d be just as tasty.

Comfort Food: Deerburger Bowls

In what promises to be a neverending winter I’ve been working my way through the 2017 deer season’s venison supply (although as I write this, a cold March rain riding on the back of a blustery late-winter wind is decimating the snowpack at the end of my driveway).  This past November, the two camps I hunt out of managed to harvest four deer, and since we’ve got to split that meat between up to a dozen hunters, I’ve been stretching what I’ve got as far as possible.

To that end, I’ve started making one-bowl dishes that incorporate venison at their base before I add in other ingredients that I really enjoy.  One of my go-to meals is what I call a Deerburger Bowl; it starts with seared ground venison and then I add in whatever I like and have at hand.  This dish is rich, moderately spicy, and like most preparations of wild game, if treated simply and cooked properly it is ridiculously delicious and ultra-healthy.  The recipe below packs nearly 70grams of protein into a single bowl, is low in fat, and has all the ‘goodies’ inherent in quickly searing raw asparagus and leaving it crunchy. I imagine this would be all the better to the enterprising forager that procures some wild asparagus this spring uses it in making this dish. I’ve also used other seafood and greens, but this is my standard.

Deerburger Bowls

(Makes 8-10 servings)

  • 3lbs of ground venison
  • 2lbs of 26/30 size (extra-large) shrimp, de-veined and peeled
  • 40 stalks of asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • 1/8 cup of water
  • 5tbsp olive oil
  • 3tbsp sambal hot sauce
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Using a deep, heavy pan or a deep wok over medium-high heat, heat 3tbsp of olive oil.  Add the ground venison, salt and pepper to taste, and increase the heat to high.  Brown the venison quickly and thoroughly before removing it to a separate bowl using a slotted spoon.

Add 1tbsp of olive oil to the same pan and add the shrimp.  Cook over high heat until they are firm.  Remove to the same bowl as the venison and mix the two together.

Add the remaining olive oil to the same pan and add the chopped asparagus.  Sear the asparagus and toss to ensure even browning; it should be hot but still crunchy because no one in their right mind likes stringy, overcooked asparagus.  Once the asparagus is seared, add the water and mix in the hot sauce, browned venison, and shrimp. I stir this over high heat for a minute or two more to coat everything with the hot sauce before I pour the whole thing into bowls for storage for the week.

These bowls are great underneath a couple of sunny-side up eggs for a quick hearty breakfast, or heat one up for lunch or dinner (or both!) and serve it over wild rice before pouring yourself a cold beer.

You’ve earned it.

Fear, Self-Loathing, and Internet Trolls

This week I decided to do something miles away from my comfort zone.

Explaining something…

Since 2011, this little webpage has acted as an insulating buffer between myself and the reader.  My ‘voice’ was expressed through typeface and I had the benefit of time, editing, and occasional proofreading to refine my ethic and message dozens of times before I put it out there. I’ve had all the control so that on the (rare) occasions that hateful or crude comments show up that revile me for being a hunter, or poke holes in my logic, or (to directly quote one aggrieved reader) deride me as just some “city boy pretending to hunt”, I simply delete the offending statements and move on my merry way. Unsolicited hate mail gone forever, just like that.

But this week, I lacked that luxury.  This week I did a television shoot, and went from ‘single voice among thousands of outdoors websites’ to ‘single voice talking straight into a television camera’. Those experiences are fundamentally different, and the public perception of those things are equally divergent.

For context, I was approached by Sang Kim, who is an author, chef, and television personality to talk about hunting and guns, as well as to cook my favourite wild game dish, which in this case was a wild turkey leg confit. I of course jumped at the opportunity because those are things I love talking about and things I love to do. But it did lead me to an existential crisis, and when I’m in an existential crisis, I write about it so here we are.

You see, there’s a chance I might be cast in the all-too-bright light of “expertise” which has always made me uneasy and self-conscious.  For whatever reason, even though televised media (even internet-based televised media) is ubiquitous, there still exists a sense that those with a mass-media platform have expertise. So, by way of full disclosure, here’s what I’m expert at.

  • I’m an expert at sharing my opinions.
  • I’m an expert at shoving delicious wild game into my face.
  • I’m an expert at trying new things with little forethought for how the external reaction is going to be.

And that’s where my head was during the shoot.  I offered opinions and statements on what I thought to be pertinent or what I believed to be valid on a variety of topics, some of which I was prepared for and some that I was not.  But nothing is off limits to me, so I gave it the old college try.  The demographic is non-conventional from a hunting perspective, the platform is non-conventional to typical media, and if anything, I’m not the typical ‘hunter’ stereotype (I think).

Some of what I said and believe will be unpopular with non-hunters and non-gun owners.  Some of it will be unpopular with hunters and gun owners. But all of it sits well with me which is what matters I guess.

Also, there’s that lingering and perverse fear that I have where people are going to ridicule and hate and mock me in a very public forum.  All the tough guy attitude, spunk, and bravado available to me still aren’t going to stop trolls and keyboard-social justice warriors, and other “better” hunters who might feel more representative of the tradition from trying to make me their whipping boy on YouTube.  But I guess that’s their prerogative and not mine.

Of course I’m not looking to be a martyr for the cause (although I would be if I had to I suppose) or for personal sympathy, or kudos, or bland affirmations.  Nor is this a pre-emptive disclaimer begging for kindness, forgiveness, or understanding because I waived rights to those things when I opted into this opportunity.  I’m mostly just going through prose therapy or literary diarrhea or whatever this actually is.  But at the heart of the matter, I’m writing this to clarify my hopes.

I’m hoping that I wasn’t too far off the mark in my opinions, hoping that I was representative of my personal ethics, and hopeful that my turkey calling was at least passable; the birds seem to like it anyhow.  I’ve yet to see the finished, edited product yet but the hope (there’s that word again) is that the passion and the simple message I have does not get lost in translation or flogged to death in a comments section.

Having a chuckle.

In all, the only thing I want is to represent hunting and the outdoors and my passion for both of them respectfully, humbly, and clearly. I also liked that I got to get myself a tidy new branded t-shirt with shiny dome fasteners out of the deal.

There were things that may end up on the cutting room floor.  There were things I desperately wanted to share that just never came up. Thankfully, I can honestly say that I never had a moment in the whole shoot (which was amazing by the way and an experience absolutely worth any stress or backlash that may come out of it) where my internal monologue went “Uh-oh, don’t answer that” or “This sounds dumb” or “This whole premise is ridiculous and going to negatively represent hunting and hunters”.

Still, it’s over now and nothing can be done about it anyhow, even if I had contributed something incredibly stupid to the record.  I knew the ‘risks’ about taking it on and did it gladly, because declining this would have led to regret and I like to live with a “what-the-hell” mentality. At best I like to think my opinions and contributions are benign and conciliatory.

Confit Wild Turkey Leg with Morels and Grilled Scallions

For Lucas Hunter, Chef Sang Kim, my family, TagTV and all those that supported this, I quite literally cannot thank you enough.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’m truly glad I did it.  For those that want to actually see it, we’ll post the details once they come available.

Doing Unhealthy Things With Ducks

So in the world of blogs, Instagrams, and tweets, I’ve found a disturbing trend afoot…people are actually exercising in preparation for hunting, and they are actually adjusting their diet accordingly to be lean and trim for hunting season.  I hear it called “Hunt Fit” and it is appearing in hashtag after hashtag.  Now this is all well and good if you are going to go chasing elk or sheep or Rocky Mountain goats at high altitude, but otherwise, to me it smacks of a little too much preparation.  Now the hardcore fitness fanatics may instead refer to it as dedication, or motivation, or some other “-ation” and that is fine….I’m not here to disabuse anyone of their right to do whatever it is that they want to do.

But what I want to do is shoot my own dinner and then make it as decadent and over-the-top enjoyable as I can.  Because I #HuntFat.

So in that spirit, here is what I did with some ducks that I had on hand two nights ago.  I can’t describe how good it was, so I’ll just tell you how I did it and then if you want to try it, you can.  This is how I made what I call pan seared duck with mushroom-tarragon cream sauce with a side of mushroom-cumin risotto.  I’m not much for weights and measures, so you may want to read this whole thing first and come up with a plan of attack to make sure it all comes together at the same time.

The Risotto:
Take a standard package of sliced mushrooms and simmer them in a pot with some salt, pepper, and four cups of water.  Why standard store-bought mushrooms?  Because foraging the ones in my suburban backyard seemed like a bad idea.  Don’t boil them, just let them sort of become a hot broth.  This is the stock for the risotto.  I’ll tell you what to do with it later.

Put an 1/8 of an inch coat of olive oil in a pan over medium-low to medium heat and add one diced onion and three minced cloves of garlic.  Do not brown these, just keep them moving until they are soft.  Once soft add the arborio rice.  It absolutely must be arborio rice…why?  Because that is what risotto is made of.  If it isn’t arborio, it is just a rice dish.  But I digress.  Add about a large handful of rice for each person you are cooking for.  The above measurements for mushrooms, onion, and garlic are based on about three large handfuls of rice.  Stir the rice with the onion and garlic until the rice is coated with oil and everything is getting along nicely.  Again, don’t brown any of this stuff.  At this point I also added some ground cumin because it is kind of rustic and smokey, and I like that.

Take a splash of white wine and throw it in the pan with the rice, onion, and garlic.  Not too much, maybe half a glass.  Throw some more wine into yourself if you feel it is necessary.

Once the rice is reduced a bit, turn your attention back to the simmering, hot mushroom broth.  Ladle a few splashes of it into the pan with the rice and then just simmer it until the rice absorbs it.  Once the amount of liquid in the pan starts to get low, throw some more in.  If some of the mushrooms you made the stock with happen to fall in, so be it.  They’re going to go in there eventually anyhow.

Keep doing this until you either run out of stock (you could top up with equally hot water, but why would you?) or until the dish is creamy, but not mushy.  Risotto is funny that way…just keep in mind that you aren’t trying to make rice porridge.

Put in the mushrooms you used for the stock and then add some kind of dairy.  I’ve used cream cheese, heavy cream, and all varieties of cheese.  Friday night I shredded half a block of six-year-old sharp white cheddar and stirred it through the dish.  Parmesan is the standard though.

Once the cheese is melted, I added a bit of chopped basil and then I was very happy with myself.

The Duck:
First things first.  Shoot a duck; a couple of them if you can.  Do this in advance of starting the recipe.

Take said ducks and pluck them.  Skin on is critical to this (in my opinion) so later season ducks with few to no pin-feathers is ideal.  Now butcher the ducks, this recipe is just for the breasts so take the breasts of the ducks and get them as dry as possible.  Braise, slow-cook, or otherwise love the legs; but that’s for another post.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Score the duck breasts (that is cut a checkerboard or cross-hatch pattern in the skin), then put them, skin side down, in a hot pan over medium-high heat.  I put just a little bit of oil in the pan to help the browning along.  Sear the skin side until it is a deep gold-brown colour, then flip them over.  By now, your oven should be heated.  Take the pan (did I mention it should be oven safe?  Okay now I have.) and put it in the oven for about fifteen minutes.  After fifteen minutes take the meat out of the pan and cover it in foil for five to ten minutes.

Slice against the grain into pieces about a 1/4 inch think.  Pour the sauce over it.

Wait, you haven’t made the sauce because I haven’t old you how?  Right.

The Sauce:
Take the pan drippings from the duck and add a splash of whatever liquid you like.  I used white wine (since I had some open) but you could easily use red wine, whiskey, cognac, or any kind of stock (if you have any mushroom stock left, as I did, you could add that too, which I added as well as the wine.)  Just add enough to get the brown bits on the pan to dissolve.  That’s duck flavour and you do not want to waste it.

Once I had all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, I added some heavy cream to thicken it and a bit of chopped tarragon.  Basil or parsley or oregano would work here too.  Or no herbs.  Whatever.

Reduce this until coats the back of a spoon (or really reduce it into a near syrup) and add just a bit of butter to make it rich.

Drizzle this over the duck meat, or do what I did and float the duck meat in it.  Don’t judge me.

Vegetables:
There are none.  Don’t be ridiculous.

Libations:
I served this with a double dram of Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve rye whiskey in a nice glass.  You’ll drink what you like with it, just make sure it is alcoholic so you can really feel like a debauched, well-fed epicurean.

So there you have it.  It might sound a bit too over the top when compared with the simple pleasures of a roast mallard or a smokey stick of Canada Goose jerky, and while those are good too, sometimes it is just nice to really spoil yourself, eat 1000 calories in a single sitting, and not really give a damn about how many sit-ups you’ll have to do in repentance for enjoying the bounty of the hunt.

Because if you are hunting and not eating it, then you are missing out on the best part, friend.