Fried Smallmouth Bass Burgers

Fishing has always been a great family past time for us.  I have so many great memories catching loads of Bluegill and Crappie on Lake Benton in Southern Illinois with my Dad and Grandpa and am now passing on the tradition to my children with many fun filled days on the Kawartha’s in Ontario fighting some of our favourite fish to catch, Smallmouth Bass.

While the majority of fishing I do now is catch and release it’s nice to enjoy a fresh caught shore lunch or fish dinner from time to time to reward a hard days work on the water.   Here’s a great and simple way to spruce up your traditional fried fish sandwich with a remoulade that packs just the right amount of heat!

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Ontario Smallmouth Bass
  • Ciabatta buns
  • Lettuce (shredded)
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Fish Crisp:

  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (ground)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Kik-a-boo Remoulade:

It’s Fish Burger Time!

1.  Mix all of your ingredients for the Kik-a-boo Remoulade sauce together and refrigerate while you are prepare and fry your fish.

Check out the Kik-a-boo Shop –> HERE

2.  Cut your Bass Fillets into 3″ sections or long enough to fit your bun of choice and pat dry.

3.  Mix together the whole milk and fresh lemon juice and marinade your bass fillets for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes drain off any excess milk

4.  While your Bass is marinating measure off and mix your fish crisp in a large flat dish or dinner plate

5.   Dredge fish until it is coated evenly on all sides

6.  Fry until golden

Remove from oil and let your fish drain on paper towel while you prepare your buns

7.  Toast and lightly butter your Ciabatta buns, add a healthy portion of Kik-a-boo Remoulade on both sides of the bun, add shredded lettuce, fried fish and ENJOY!

This also makes a great side dish or appetizer! 

Sous-Vide Black Bear Steak Sandwich

So there you are. You have black bear steaks in hand, and you march over to your grill. You have heard of trichinosis in black bears and you are experiencing an existential crisis. Maybe you are even having irrational panic of contracting some other unknown illness from undercooked wild game. So, you put those steaks on the grill for a hard sear. You flip them, and press them, and hell, you maybe even cut into them to see how “done” they are. They are still red, so you close the grill cover and wait. Then you check again. Still too pink for your comfort level. Maybe you run in and get a meat thermometer or check the Google machine to research foodborne illnesses, but by the time you’ve done all those things, your poor bear steak is well-done, blackened on the outside and grey and flavourless on the inside. But since you shot it, you choke it down like the ethical hunter you are and then you resolve to not eat bears again.

It is okay, that’s natural, and this happens all the time. But it does not have to be this way, and you are not doomed to a life of choking down overcooked, tough-as-shoe-leather, ashy bear meat. Properly cooked black bear meat is high on my list of the finest wild game a person can consume and with steaks, you can get them perfect every time.

All you need is a sous-vide or immersion cooker, patience, and a trust in science. Armed with those things you can make one of the most delicious and tender wild game dishes you have ever had.

Ready? Let’s go then.

Ingredients

2 bear loin steaks (approximately 1lb each)

½ tablespoon olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Two hamburger buns

6 slices of processed cheese (3 per sandwich)

Dill pickles, sliced

Your favourite hot sauce

Any other optional toppings and condiments you prefer

Preparation

  1. Set your immersion or sous-vide cooker to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (we went to 145 to be extra-cautious) and place it in a large stock pot of water.
  2. Season the bear steaks with salt and pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil, and seal either in vacuum-sealed bags, or very tightly in zip-top bags. We use the latter and I actually use a thin straw to suck out as much air as possible.
  3. Once the water is to temperature and holding, place the bags in the water. Since I use the zip-top bags, I like to hang them from a wooden spoon using bulldog clips, but if your bags are vacuum-sealed, they can be clipped to the side of the pot or in some cases just dropping them in whole is fine. The best practice would be to ensure you follow whatever method your sous-vide cooker manual recommends.
  4. Set your sous-vide timer for at least two (2) hours. Be patient, trust the process.
  5. While the meat cooks, prep the pickles, cheese and buns, as well as whatever other garnishes and toppings you like.
  6. After two hours, remove the bear meat from the sous-vide and either pre-heat your grill or prepare a cast iron pan over high heat. We went with our backyard grill and had it heated up to over 600 degrees, but without a doubt the hot cast iron pan option would work just as well.
  7. Remove the meat from the plastic and apply a hard sear on the grill for 1 minute on each side or just enough to get some solid, crispy browning.
  8. After searing, set the steaks aside to rest for five (5) minutes. Slice in half.
  9. Put cheese on each side of your bun and one slice on one of the steak pieces.
  10. Stack up the whole thing with pickles and hot sauce (we are loving Bunster’s “S**t the Bed” 12/10 hot sauce lately) or whatever you like for toppings, and then enjoy one of the most delicious and tender steak sandwiches you’ve ever had.

What can we say? This sandwich blew our minds. The toasty buns with the melty cheese and the absolutely perfectly done, juicy and tender bear meat was just a higher level of awesome than we were prepared for. The pickles and hot sauce were bright and offset the richness perfectly. This was a sunny-day burger that screamed out to be paired with a cold beer, which is what we did.

After we made this sandwich, we posted some pictures and a review on a couple of wild game social media sites. While the feedback was overall to the positive, we were still a bit surprised by how many people came back to chide us for under-cooking our bear meat and that were warning us about how sick we were going to get. Multiple reputable sources stated that the “kill temperature” for trichinosis was in the 135-140 degree range, so we went just a bit beyond that to 145 and held it for two hours there. We were confident that we would be fine.

That was two months ago, and we have had no issues at all, so the lesson may be to exercise patience and trust the science. Still, that reaction speaks to a lot of the fear and misinformation around eating black bears and if we can do our part to dispel some of those myths, we are happy to do so.

Wild Ramp & Potato Soup

While hunting we enjoy taking advantage of seasonable edibles and turning them into some delicious home dishes that often accompany freshly harvested wild game.

If you have a secret spot to harvest your wild ramps, come across them while spring turkey hunting or have them gifted to you from a fellow forager there are a wealth of great recipes for you to look up and try… Here’s one of them.

In about 40-45 minutes you’ll have 2 dinner size portions or 4 started size portions to accompany your spring turkey dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of wild ramps, including the leaves/chopped
  • 2 cups of your choice of potatoes, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of flour, all-purpose
  • 4 or 5 slices of bacon
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Chili Peppers, if you like a little heat!

Let’s make some soup!

  1. Gather your ingredients

When storing fresh ramps we suggest cleaning them immediately, drying them and sealing them in a Ziploc or air-tight freezer back and placing in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.  If you are not using them within 2-3 days you can freeze them for use at a later date.

2. In a Medium or Large Skillet crisp bacon and set aside.  Add chopped ramps and potatoes to bacon grease and cook on medium heat until the ramps are tender.

3. Once the ramps are tender mix in your flour and slowly add in your Chicken Broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat again and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.

4.  Once your potatoes are cooked through add in your heavy cream, salt/pepper or additional spices to taste.  Be careful to avoid boiling your cream during this step.

5. Serve your soup hot topped with your crisped bacon or store in the fridge and serve cold at a alter time.

Most importantly… ENJOY!

Canada Goose Paprikash with German Spaetzle

I was laying in bed the other night, thumbing through Instagram in a state of voluntary social distancing, when I came across a post from @TheFreeloadingGoat showing a very appealing plate of Hungarian goulash. Canada Goose Hungarian goulash.

Now I do like goulash, but if there is one issue I have with it (and I’m really quibbling here) it is that it is not quite hearty enough for me. I’ve had excellent goulash dishes in Hamilton, Ontario at the venerable Black Forest Inn, as well as at the very generous Two Goblets in Kitchener, Ontario and both were as authentic as you could find. But I wanted something just a little heavier, a little more emphatic, and I remembered another Hungarian dish, Chicken Paprikash, that was just a little more substantial. The flavors stronger, with thicker gravy that was, as I recalled, more tomato-based.

And I had plenty of Canada Goose meat in order to make this happen.

Paprikash is pretty simple when you get down to it, but it is in the simple use of good ingredients that have ended up as some of my favourite plates.  This stew was rich, filling, and paired perfectly with a Pilsner Urquell.  Of note, this recipe uses smoked paprika because that’s what prefer, but mild/sweet or hot and spicy paprika could be substituted in based on your personal taste.

Where I absolutely agreed with the post I saw was that this rich stew was going to have to go over spaetzle. That meant making some spaetzle, and I have always failed horribly at those elusive but oh so yummy German noodles.  I once tried to make them using a colander, but I ended up less with noodles and more with little boiled dough-balls. Another time I found a ‘hack’ saying that a box cheese grater would do the trick. I won’t speak of the outcome other than to say it did not do the trick I thought it would.

Undeterred I resolved to try again, and this time I found success. My trick? I cut the corner off a zip-top plastic bag and made it into a sort of piping bag.  From there I just piped the noodle batter into simmering water and waited for the magic to happen. Turns out spaetzle is pretty simple too.

As we all find ourselves (hopefully temporarily) social distancing, hunters are uniquely positioned in that we are not as fully at the whims of the supply chain, and we can often rely on some of our own wild caught or shot protein when heading out to grocery stores is less of an option. If you have some Canada goose breasts in your chest freezer, pull them out and turn them into this. You won’t be sorry.

As an added bonus, this recipe makes a big pot of paprikash, so there will be extras. I re-heated the leftovers tonight, then poured them over some savory pancakes and put a fried egg on top of the whole thing.  I can assure you this dish gets even better after a couple of days in the fridge.

Goose Paprikash

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 medium sized Canada goose breasts, chopped into rough cubes

1 large onion, minced

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium red bell pepper, chopped

4 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp caraway seeds

1 can tomato paste (156ml)

1 can of diced tomatoes (796ml)

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Heat 1tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven or stock pot.
  2. Add the goose meat, browning it on all sides in batches, ensuring not to overcrowd the pot. Set aside the browned meat.
  3. In the same pot, add the remaining oil and heat the onions and peppers until they are softened, but still slightly crisp.
  4. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, stirring it until it starts to soften, then re-add the meat.
  5. Add the can of tomato paste and stir the meat and vegetables together until they are all coated.
  6. Add all of the paprika and the caraway seeds, and again stir until everything is coated.
  7. Pour in the can of diced tomatoes. Depending on the size of your pot, the goose and vegetables should be just barely covered, but if not, add a little water or red wine.
  8. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least two hours, or until the goose meat pulls apart easily with two forks.

Spaetzle

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

½ cup of water

2tsp kosher salt

2tsp butter

  1. In a mixing bowl, stir the flour and salt together, then make a little well in the center.
  2. Beat the eggs with a fork and add pour them into the well, along with some of the water.
  3. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, stir this until a thick, stretchy batter begins to form. Add some, or all of the rest of the water if it is too dry.
  4. Heat four cups of salted water to just below a boil.
  5. Stir for five minutes until it begins too look stretchy, then put it into a large, sturdy, zip-top plastic bag.
  6. Snip one corner of the bag, leaving a hole roughly the size of a pinky finger.
  7. Squeeze the dough through the hole in the plastic bag slowly, snipping off noodles about an inch long.
  8. When the noodles float and are firm to the touch, remove them to a colander and let them drain.
  9. Heat the butter over medium heat until it melts completely and foams.
  10. Add the spaetzle to the butter, tossing for two or three minutes until they are coated.

Serving

  1. Put a layer of spaetzle on a big plate.
  2. Pour the paprikash over top.
  3. Sprinkle with parsley.
  4. Eat it greedily while not speaking to anyone else at your table.

Hunting. Not Hype.