Stalking the wild kitchen

whitefish fillet


By Jeanne Tallman

When we built our first house in Whitefish at Resthaven on the east shore of the lake, there were few houses and lots of game. I remember the fall that a she-bear and two-year-old cub decided to live in our front yard. They kept us prisoner in our living room until the rainy night of the Great Bear Hunt. It was my first experience of a hunt - and the last. I wasn't cut out to be a hunter, but I was a cook, and the hunter of the household kept me supplied with the fruits of the forest. 
We hadn't even heard of bad cholesterol in those days, but our table was loaded with the meat-lover's holy grail - venison. In the search for meat that's lean and tender, high in protein, low in fat and delicious grilled or embellished with an elaborate sauce, wild meat is the ammunition in the American battle to cut down on fatty foods. And hunting wild game, wild mushrooms and the wily huckleberry is a passion in 20th-century Whitefish.
     In my search for recipes to include in our Feast From The Forest, I roamed in my recipe books, from a 16th-century Berlin wedding feast described in my elegant Time/Life German cookbook, to the current issue of Eating Well magazine. Our Western palate might balk at pickled goose stomach, but we would lust after the heavy black bread it was served on. Fresh trout is abundant in our lakes and streams. Wild fowl, game birds and big game abound in our forests. For the faint of heart, stalking the wild mushroom and filling buckets of huckleberries answers the call of the wild.                                                                              
     From the bounty of our woods it is possible to produce hearty peasant fare or elegant feasts. Family dinners around our dining room table might have been venison chops smothered in mushroom soup, sprinkled with Lipton's Onion Soup, covered and baked slowly in my big iron kettle, or elk liver sliced thin, floured and fried quickly in a bit of bacon grease - served with onions, mashed potatoes, rot kraut (red cabbage), and crusty hot sourdough bread. Or a hike around the head of the lake to Lazy Creek would mean a creekside feast of little brook trout caught, cleaned and cooked over an open fire in the black iron frying pan. Our mouths would water just thinking of those crisp succulent delicacies as we raced through the woods gathering wood for the fire. By the time a drop of water sizzled in the frying pan, the fish were cleaned and ready. If we were lucky, morel or chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms were added to the feast.
We ate our fill of brookies, licked our fingers, scrubbed the pan with sand from the creek and headed back through the woods.
It's all here - right under our noses. Let's plan a feast.                                                          

Marinated Chanterelle Mushrooms                                                                             
Goose Liver Pate with Green Peppercorns                                                                   
Minestra Di Anitra (Duck Soup)                                                                            
Roast venison with dried cranberry gravy                                                                  
Mashed potatoes                                                                                           
Rot kraut                                                                                                  
Fresh steamed green beans                                                                                
Sourdough French bread                                                                                    
Huckleberry cheesecake

GOOSE LIVER PATE WITH GREEN PEPPERCORNS (The Silver Palate Cookbook)                                                     
6 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2c finely minced yellow onions 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup celery tops
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
6 cups water
1 pound goose livers
2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
5 teaspoons water-packed green peppercorns, drained
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook covered, over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until onion is tender and lightly colored.
2. Meanwhile add celery tops, peppercorns and bay leaves to 6 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Add fat-trimmed goose liver to water and simmer gently for about 10 minutes; livers should be slightly pink inside.
4. Drain the livers, discard celery tops, bay leaves and peppercorns, and place livers, butter, onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add cognac, salt, pepper, allspice and 4 teaspoons of the green peppercorns. Process until smooth.
5. Pour in the cream and process again to blend. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining teaspoon of green peppercorns.
6. Scrape mixture into a 2-cup terrine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Let pate stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving on crisp toasted bread or crackers.
        Yield: 2 cups, at least 8 portions.

Minestra di Anistra (duck soup)
(From Feasting in the Forest by Dave & Nancy Brannon) 
A satisfying winter soup ... rich with cream, tender duck meat and root vegetables.

1 whole duck, cleaned
2 cups diced turnips
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
1-1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chicken flavored soup base
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 large bay leaves
Coarse ground black pepper to taste
1 quart heavy whipping cream
Enough Gold Medal Wondra' to thicken as desired

The day before you'd like to serve the soup, place the duck in a large stock pot, cover with water and simmer (covered) for at least 2 hours or until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning, the excess fat from the duck will have solidified on the top of the broth. Remove and discard the fat. Take the duck from the broth and remove all fat, skin and bones. Reserve meat, chop and add it to the broth, along with all but the last two ingredients and simmer for at least 1 hour. Add the cream and bring to a gentle boil. Thicken to the desired consistency with Gold Medal Wondra. Serve hot. Yield 3 quarts.

Roast Venison with dried cranberry gravy
(from Eating Well, Jan./ Feb. 1997)

2-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)                                                                                       
2 cups dry red wine                                                                                                       
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
10 juniper berries
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper, plus more to taste                                                                    
1 3-pound boneless leg of venison, trimmed of fat and tied into a roast
1 cup defatted reduced-sodium beef broth
1 cup dried cranberry juice cocktail                                                                                        
1/3 cup dried cranberries                                                                                              
1 tablespoon tomato paste                                                                                                  
1 teaspoon cornstarch                                                                                                    
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of sugar or to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat 1-1/2 teaspoons oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring             until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, juniper berries, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil and
simmer until reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Place venison in a shallow pan just large enough to hold the roast. Pour cooled marinade over venison and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 2 to 4 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.                                                                                      
4. Remove venison from marinade and pat dry, reserving marinade. Rub venison with remaining 1 teaspoon oil.             5. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sear venison, turning with tongs, until browned on all sides, about six
6. Transfer venison to a small metal roasting pan. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the roast registers 125 degrees F. For medium rare, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, strain reserved marinade into a medium saucepan. Add broth, cranberry juice, dried cranberries            and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until gravy is reduced by half, 15 or 20 minutes.             8. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and one tablespoon water; slowly whisk into the simmering gravy until               
slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Keep warm.
9. Remove strings from venison and carve meat into slices. Serve with gravy.                                                ~ 
Yield: 10 servings.                                                                                                      

Rot Kraut (My grandmother's recipe)                                                                                      

1 large head red cabbage                                                                                                  
2 tablespoons bacon fat                                                                                                  
2 tablespoons lemon juice                                                                                              
1 teaspoon sugar                                                                                                         
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                                                        
1. Heat bacon fat in black iron kettle.                                                                                  
2. Add chopped red cabbage, lemon juice, sugar and salt.                                                                    
3. Stir over high heat until steamy.                                                                                   
4. Reduce heat to simmer and cover pan.
5. Cook at least 45 minutes, stirring often.                                                                               

Huckleberry cheesecake (Katherine Askevold's famous recipe)                                                               

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar                                                                                                   
32 crushed graham crackers
4 cups fresh or frozen huckleberries                                                                      
3 cups sugar                                                                                              
6 tablespoons cornstarch                                                                                 
16 ounces cream cheese
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream

1. Melt butter, add powdered sugar and crushed graham crackers. Reserve 1/2 cup and pat the rest into a large
springform pan.                                                                                         
2. Cook until thick the huckleberries, 2 cups sugar and cornstarch. Let cool.
3. Cream together cream cheese, eggs and one cup sugar.                                                 
4. Spread cream cheese mixture over the graham cracker crust, put berries over cream cheese mixture.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until firm.
6. Remove from oven; spread with sour cream and sprinkle remaining graham cracker mixture on top. 
7. Cool; remove sides of springform pan; place on a plate and serve.

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published