Fat of the Land

Jan 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

French chef Auguste Escoffier was a founding father of haute cuisine and a serious lover of wild game. In Outside's January 2004 feature story, "If You Are What You Eat, He's Dead Meat," Steven Rinella snags an old Escoffier cookbook and tries his hand at preparing a multi-course meat feast that would've made the master proud. Rinella's meal, which took days of preparation and required ingredients like snapping turtle, swallow's nest and perch milt, was definitely not a novice-level culinary adventure. But for those of us eager to taste the fat of the land (and not quite ready to go out and harvest fish sperm) Rinella shares some of his favorite simple game recipes.

Bluegill Chowder

2 pounds bluegill fillets
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped sweet onions
1 cup chopped celery
6 cups fish (or vegetable) stock
2 cups sweet white wine
1.5 teaspoons thyme
a bay leaf
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds peeled, drained and chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped parsley
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced

Cook onions and celery in butter until tender and lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients except white wine, bluegill fillets, and one cup of the stock. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are very tender. Meanwhile, bring white wine and cup of stock to a low simmer, and stir in fillets until the meat is white, firm, and flaky. Correct the soup's seasoning to taste. Add the drained fillets just before serving time, and allow them to simmer in the pot for one minute.

Corned Elk

4 pounds elk roast (or deer, moose, antelope, black bear)
3 quarts water
3 cups Morton's Tender Quick
2 tablespoons pickling spice

In a large glass container, dissolve the Morton's Tender Quick in the water by rapidly stirring the mixture. Add pickling spice. Submerge the roast in this solution and refrigerate. After three or four days, rinse the roast thoroughly in clean, cold water. Place roast in pressure cooker, and cover it halfway in water. Cook at ten pounds pressure for forty minutes. Cut the meat in thin slices, serve with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, or use it on sandwiches with spicy mustard.

Braised Duck in sweet Guinness honey sauce
(by Tom Siegel, University of Montana Dining Services)

2 mallard breasts, plucked
1 cup Guinness Stout Beer
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Sprinkle brown sugar in a saucepan, then add nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme, cloves, honey, and Guinness. Heat to simmer, then set aside. Trim the duck breasts by removing excess membrane from the inside and scoring the fat side in criss-cross fashion. Place in a skillet on high heat. Season duck with salt and pepper. Brown duck breasts skin-side down. Once browned, turn breasts over and place in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. While the duck is in the oven add the stock to the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce sauce to the point that it nicely coats the back of a spoon. Remove the duck from its skillet and pour off excess fat. Add the sauce to the duck skillet and de-glaze. Add the butter and shake the pan to blend. Strain sauce then drizzle over sliced duck.

Rabbit Hasenpfeffer

2-3 pounds cottontail rabbit
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup flour

Combine water, vinegar, seasonings, onion. Marinate rabbit in covered bowl in refrigerator for at least 12 hours, preferably 2-3 days. Remove rabbit and drain. Coat in flour and brown in heavy skillet. Remove excess fat. Add marinating liquid. Cover and simmer 1-2 hours, or until tender. Remove rabbit. Thicken liquid with crushed ginger snaps. Pickled giblets

2 cups trimmed gizzards and hearts from duck, pheasant, grouse, or goose.
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 medium onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the giblets in salted water until tender, drain and put in glass canning jars. Mix all other ingredients and pour over giblets. Refrigerate for 3-4 days. Serve cold.

Poached Trout in Vegetable Broth
(Jacques Pepin)

2 small trout, gutted and heads removed
1 pound all-purpose potatoes
1 cup sliced onions
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 scallion, peeled and cut into one-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1 spring fresh thyme
2 strips lime peel, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dry, fruity white wine
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover them with water, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and boil the potatoes, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes until they are tender. Drain off the water, and set the potatoes aside until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices in an ovenproof receptacle and keep them warm in the 180-degree oven. Place all the remaining ingredients except the trout, butter, oil, and chives in a large saucepan, preferably stainless steel. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and boil gently for three minutes. Add the trout, return the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the trout from the stock, and place them on a plate. Remove and discard the skin from the trout, then remove the two fillets from the central bone of each fish, and discard the bones. Arrange the fillets in an ovenproof receptacle and keep them warm in the preheated 180-degree oven while making the sauce. Add the butter and oil to the stock and vegetables in the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a strong boil. Arrange 2 or 3 slices of potato in the bottom of each soup plate, and place 1 trout fillet on top of the potatoes in each plate. Spoon some of the stock and vegetables on top and serve immediately.

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