Friday, October 31, 2008

Cooking on TV

Earlier this week I was in Regina to create a series of cooking segments for "Living Saskatchewan" on CBC TV. We shot the segments in the kitchen of Nancy McEwen (pictured here with me - that's her on the left and me on the right). The theme was international dishes cooked with Saskatchewan ingredients. A couple of the recipes are already on this blog -- the others will be posted soon.

- blue potato pakoras
- chicken cacciatore
- prairie berry clafoutis
- fattoosh
- asian coleslaw

Stay tuned -- I'll let you know when it airs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Newspaper Column - VENISON STEW

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 20 Oct 2008.

My husband came home from work the other day with a leg of venison under his arm. He doesn’t hunt but we have plenty of friends who do. And lucky for us, they like to share. I didn’t grow up eating wild meat, but I’ve come to appreciate it in many ways.

Wild meat is pure, lean and healthy—very little meat we eat these days is as naturally-raised and unadulterated as wild game. It’s guaranteed to be fresh and local, something we can’t always ascertain when buying meat at the grocery store. I also appreciate the fact that wild animals live free and unfettered lives, doing what comes naturally to them; that can’t be said of most of the animals raised for human consumption.

Thanks to our friends who hunt, our freezer has been blessed with venison, moose and elk—some in the form of sausage and pepperoni sticks—as well as goose, duck and grouse, all cut and wrapped.

Some people dislike the “gamey” flavour, but I maintain that if the animal is slaughtered correctly and cooked properly, most picky eaters could not tell the difference. Just the other day, I made my husband’s favourite meatloaf with a mix of grass-fed beef and elk. One of my most successful recipes is a slow-cooked stew from Portugal which is flavoured with cinnamon, cumin and allspice. The recipe calls for beef but I make it with moose.

Another successful recipe is beef bourguignon, a traditional stew from France made with bacon, red wine and vegetables. I made it with elk and the meat was delicious. My husband John has a nice touch with venison: cut the meat in 3/4 inch slices, cross-hatch it with the edge of a plate (to flatten and tenderize), soak in milk 5 minutes, shake in a bag of flour, salt and pepper, then quick fry in hot lard.

The goose came to us as a bag of freshly cut breasts which I flattened and rolled with a mix of potato, apple and caraway seeds (a Mario Batali recipe) which we ate at Christmastime. It wasn’t exactly the golden goose of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, but I thanked my benefactor all the same.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try hunting myself. I enrolled in an online hunter education course that could be completed at one’s leisure, but somehow I never found the time—always too busy with my own garden, picking and canning and cooking. Hunting season came and went. Now I’m having second thoughts. Perhaps back in prehistoric times, my ancestors were the gatherers and the farmers, not the hunters of the tribe. Perhaps it is their legacy that I should wield a hoe, not a gun, and rather than take up hunting, I should cultivate friends who do.

So to Jeff, Sue, Vance, Rick, Greg and Mark (of the leg of venison) thank you for sharing your bounty. Would you like some potatoes?

This recipe comes from Saveur magazine (for original recipe, click here). For more recipes with wild Saskatchewan ingredients, click on the word "wild" at the bottom of this post.

Venison Stew
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
4 lbs. venison roast
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup tomato purée
(I use my own tomatoes, peeled)
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 slices day-old soft French or Italian bread
Leaves from 3 sprigs mint

Put allspice, cumin, and cloves on a small square of cheesecloth, gather corners, and tie shut with kitchen twine. Put spice bag, meat, garlic, bay leaves, onions, tomato sauce and purée, wine, ketchup, cinnamon, 3 cups water, and salt to taste into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender and falling off the bone, 5–6 hours. Adjust seasonings.

Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then shred with two forks, discarding fat and bones, and put into a large serving dish. Skim fat from meat broth and discard bay leaves and spice bag. Arrange bread in another large serving dish and scatter mint on top. Ladle broth over bread and mint and set aside briefly to allow bread to swell and absorb broth before serving. Serve meat and broth-soaked bread together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finally, my name in lights... well... plastic letters!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The bean harvest

In keeping with my New Year's resolution to eat more beans, I grew beans in my garden for the first time. (That is, dried beans as opposed to green beans.) Here is my crop in its entirety - navy beans (white), Norwegian (red) and Jacob's cattle (speckled pink). Not sure yet how I'll cook my beans, but it will have to be something really special. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leg o' venison

John came home today with this lovely leg of venison, shot this morning near Saskatoon by our friend Mark. I love wild meat, and I love it when our hunting friends decide to share with us. Just last week, Jeff showed up with a box of venison, elk and moose, including bratwurst and pepperoni sticks. (I made elk bourguignon.) What exactly becomes of this leg o' venison will be the subject of future posts.

(A few days later...) John made this fabulous venison stew with all the little tidbits left over after cutting up the leg. He sautéed them in bacon fat. Added carrots, cooked potatoes and frozen peas, with enough water to simmer everything. I added some chanterelle mushrooms (which had been sautéed in butter and frozen), crumbled sage, fresh thyme and fresh oregano. We also added some of that lovely jelly left in the pot after cooking a ham. Seasoned it with salt and pepper. Yummy...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Patio dinner in October!

Here's proof that this has been an extraordinarily lovely fall in Saskatchewan.

Here we are enjoying an outdoor patio dinner on Oct. 3! (Joanne, Tim and John). The all-Saskatchewan menu included: lamb chops, chanterelle mushroom orzotto (that's risotto, but made with pearl barley), grilled zucchini and for dessert, saskatoon berry streusel. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Saskatchewan Borscht in a Jar

Ever make a soup so good you could bottle and sell it? Elsie Rollie did. Her friend Neil convinced her to go into business and last year, the Yesteryear's Ukrainian Borscht Corp. was born on River Street in Moose Jaw. Elsie says this version is even better than her mom's because it's fat free.

I dropped into her bistro store yesterday -- the very day she launched a new bean and bacon soup she called BAMM because it packs a little more heat than the borscht. (Apparently, Emeril has trademarked BAAM so she used this creative spelling!) John and I opened the jar of BAMM for supper tonight and it was great. By the way, Elsie's bistro is not a restaurant, but she's happy to serve up sample bowls of her soups -- complete with sour cream, of course.