Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vietnamese-Style Roasted Quail

This kind of dish is called "mon nhau," Vietnamese drinking food or pub grub. They're small bites and appetizers shared around the table with beer, casual conversation and sometimes horrible singing. My parents did not frequent these Vietnamese karaoke pubs often, but their friends did and sometimes we'd get invited. Having to sit through a whole night of drunken karaoke, the only consolation my brother Ngoc and I had was the bar food. Some dishes were great, while others were odd-- like duck blood salad, fried intestines and pickled pork sausage. But one of our favorite dishes were the roasted or fried quail, which we happily gnawed and picked at while trying to ignore the horrible singing. When the food was gone, both he and I were ready to leave. 

This recipe can also be grilled or fried. We chose to roast the quails because it's healthier. The lemon, pepper and salt dipping sauce is a standard in Vietnamese pub food. It's also great with seafood like crab, crawfish and calamari. 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Cooking Time: about 10 minutes
Ingredients:
- 4 whole quails
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of Ponzu sauce
- 4 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons of Shaoxing rice cooking wine (or dry sherry)
- 1 green onion, white and light green parts chopped
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon of oil
Dipping Sauce
- 1 tablespoons of lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper



1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, Ponzu, sugar, five-spice, ginger, rice wine and green onion. 

Rinse quails under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Salt well inside and out and place in a zip lock bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, massage the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours. 
2. Take birds out of the refrigerator to come to room temperate before cooking. 

Turn broiler on to high. Oil the grates on a roast pan with rack and place it in the oven to heat up.

Remove quails from the marinade and paint the birds with butter or olive oil. 
3. Then roast the quails for 5 minutes breast-side down. Flip quails breast-side up and roast for another 2-3 minutes, or until skin turns golden. Finally, turn them over on their wings and roast for 1 minute on each side. Do not leave the oven, because it does not take long for the broiler to burn food. 

Combine dipping sauce ingredients and serve on the side. This recipe is also perfect for grilling and frying.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flattened Dove

Grilled whole doves are delicious, but sometimes it's not worth firing up the grill when you don't shoot your limit, especially if you've got a charcoal grill. Instead, broil your doves in the oven. With a few simple ingredients, you'll have perfectly roasted doves on the dinner table in less than 15 minutes. 

Oftentimes, we have trouble getting birds to turn golden brown in the oven. Here's a tip. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika on the skin, and it will help the skin brown and also add a bit of smokiness to your birds. We don't have much else to say about this recipe other than that it's easy and straightforward. We prefer to eat doves whole and not breasted out, which is 100x more tasty. Plucking a dove is so easy, there's no reason not to do it. Though small, the legs are tasty and surprisingly satisfying to chew on. What do doves taste like? They taste somewhere between a white and dark meat bird. They are so good... 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 7-10 minutes
Ingredients:
- 4 whole doves
- kosher salt, to taste
- few pinches of Herbes de Provence (or your choice of seasoning)
- few pinches of paprika (Hungarian paprika, preferred)
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of melted butter


1. To flatten a dove, cut along the back of the dove with kitchen shears. With the now open cavity facing you, gently bend the sternum toward you until you feel a soft crack, which will flatten the bird. 

Turn broiler on to "low." Place a roasting rack with a roasting pan in the broiler to allow it to heat up for a few minutes. 
2. Rub doves with olive oil. Then generously sprinkle salt all over doves on both sides. Rub Herbes de Provence between your fingers then rub it over doves. Place doves breast-side down in the broiler and cook on "low" for 5-6 minutes. 

Then take roasting rack with doves out of the broiler and increase heat to "high." Turn doves over so that the breasts are facing up. Paint breasts with melted butter then evenly sprinkle with paprika. Place doves back into the broiler and cook on "high" for 2-3 minutes, or until breasts are golden brown. Do not overcook; meat should be slightly pink inside. 

Serve doves by themselves, with a salad, rice or pilaf. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Roasted Teal with Wild Plum Sauce

Rick and his cousins shot some teal(ducks) the other day. He brought home six of them and we plucked every bird but one. The one was soaked, probably from sitting in someone's wet pouch in the marsh for too long. When a duck gets too wet, the feathers will break, leaving the quills under the skin when you go to pluck it. Since I didn't want to sit there tweezing a bird that was all shot up anyway, we just breasted that one out-- which kind of sucks because teal are tiny and you need to eat them whole to be fully satisfied. So there's a tip for you-- do not let your ducks get too wet! 


Roasting a whole duck isn't hard. Because it's so small and best eaten at medium rare, it takes 15 minutes max for teal to roast in the oven. If you want the skin to be golden and crispy, you'll need a good oven that will get hot enough. Our oven stinks-- so that didn't work too well for us, judging by the photo. (Electric stoves and ovens... BOOO!) Still, it tasted good. With a better oven, maybe you'll have better luck. If not, searing the breast quickly in a hot, oiled skillet before putting it in the oven will work, too. It'll be like finishing a steak. 


There are wild plum trees all over Nebraska. We're not sure what the distribution is, but they seem to grow along highways, roads and trails. They ripen around August and September for us, though it probably depends on how long your winter lasts; the last two years, Nebraska has been having very late springs. The wild plums here are reddish orange with yellow/orange meat and may be different in your area. They are the size of large cherries. Astringent, we don't find them good to eat by themselves, but they're great in sauces and jellies. The recipe below is an easy, quick way to make a plum sauce that would be tasty with any wild game. We thought we'd serve it with teal because both are in season right now. 

But before you go eating things from bushes, please make sure that you correctly identify wild edibles before using. 

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
- 4 whole teal, plucked
- extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste
- 4 small wedges of onion
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 cups of whole, wild plums 
- 1 small sprig of rosemary
- 1 teaspoon of ginger, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- dash of nutmeg
- dash of white pepper
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce


Tip: For the best chance of getting crispy duck skin, the duck has to be dry. After plucking and rinsing, pat ducks dry with paper towels. Line a large plate or tray with 2 layers of paper towels, lay ducks on top and loosely cover with another piece of paper towel on top. Leave in the refrigerator overnight or longer. The cold, dry air in your fridge will help dry the skin. 



1. First, take ducks out of the refrigerator an hour prior to roasting. Preheat oven to 450-500°F, or as high as your oven will go. 

2. To make the plum sauce, place washed plums in a sauce pan. Pour in a little bit of water and bring to a gentle boil to soften plums. Use a potato masher to squeeze out as much juice as you can from the plums. 


Once well mashed, pour plums through a strainer or food mill to get as much juice out of the fruits as possible. Discard leftover skin and pits. Place juice (it will be pulpy) in a container and set aside.

3. In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté shallots until lightly browned. Pour in the plum juice and add ginger, rosemary sprig, nutmeg, white pepper, soy sauce and sugar. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes-- add water if too thick. Add more sugar or soy sauce if necessary. If too sweet, which usually won't be the case for Nebraska wild plums, add some white wine vinegar. Reheat and remove rosemary before serving. 

4. Ducks should be dry from being in the refrigerator overnight, but if not, dab dry with paper towels. Rub with olive oil all over skin and inside the cavity, then generously sprinkle kosher salt inside and out. Place a wedge of onion and 2 sprigs of thyme in each duck. Lay ducks breast up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, preferably a flat one; we had to use a celery stick to separate the ducks because we used a turkey roaster. Roast at 450-500°F for 12-15 minutes, or until meat is medium-rare (internal temp of 135° F).


5. Allow birds to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Reheat plum sauce and serve on the side. Eat ducks with wild rice, roasted veggies or anything that you like. 

If serving to guests, please warn them about the possibility of finding shot and blood from bruising. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Persian Venison Shank with Saffron

Shanks after 2 hours. We were running out of light, so we had to photograph it earlier. 
When we lived in Southern California, we loved going to Persian/Iranian restaurants to get the braised lamb shank. The shanks were slow-cooked in a delicious tomato-ey broth that had a unique, fragrant smell and taste to it. The lamb was fall-off-the bone tender and the broth was great spooned over rice. It was always a treat to have this dish. We love Persian food because it is warm and inviting, especially with its heavy use of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cardamom and saffron. They make up flavor combinations that are distinct from other types of food we've eaten. 

When we shot our deer last winter, we kept the shanks on the front legs whole-- in hopes that we will get to recreate this dish. And that's what we did this weekend. It was difficult because there aren't many recipes to draw from online. But we put two and two together, and the dish turned out way better than we both imagined. I'd say it tasted just as good as the restaurants'. If you don't have venison, you can buy lamb shanks at the store. However, lamb may not take as long to cook, so check your meat after 2 hours. 

This is an easy dish that uses few ingredients and steps. You may find yourself debating on whether to spend the money on buying saffron, which is on the expensive side, but we say go for it. It's well worth it and will last you many meals because it is used so sparingly. It's also great in all sorts of dishes. 
Next deer you shoot, we recommend keeping the front (smaller) shanks whole to try out this recipe. You can use the hind shanks too, but make sure you have a pot that's big enough to cook them. After you taste this dish, you may have to think twice about grinding those parts of your deer. Last night, Rick declared that we will never grind the front shanks of our deer ever again. 

This was also a great dish to break in our new Le Creuset 9 qt. French Oven (Dune), which cooked the venison shanks beautifully. We are so excited and grateful to partner with Le Creuset, which makes some of the best cookware in the world. After hearing so much about their French ovens, we are now believers in its magic. It cooked the meat perfectly, and after 4 hours, there was still enough broth in the pan to eat. The problem we had with other Dutch ovens is ill-fitting lids, which allowed too much moisture to escape. When that happens, food begins to dry out and even burn only after 2 hours in the oven, over-concentrating flavors and making food way too salty. We did not have this problem with our new Le Creuset French oven. Those who have failed at braising venison will know that it can dry out easily, so a quality Dutch oven is essential to braising venison correctly. This time, the meat came out tender and juicy. The silver skin melted away, and the gristle turned soft and delightfully edible. It goes without saying that I am completely in love with my new toy. If you like to cook, a Le Creuset French oven is a must-have item in any kitchen.

Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Ingredients:
- 2 venison shanks (front)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more
- all-puprose flour for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
- pinch of saffron threads
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 can of low-sodium chicken broth
- water
- kosher salt, to taste
- cracked pepper, to taste
- freshly chopped parsley, for garnish


1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.
Rinse shanks under cold water and dab dry with paper towels. Remove the top, thick layer of silver skin, which holds the muscle groups together, but leave the rest of the silver skin on. Remove any fat. Salt and pepper all sides well. 

Combine turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom, and rub it all over the shanks. 
2. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in French oven over medium-high heat. Dredge or dust seasoned shanks with flour and brown both sides, about 3-5 minutes each side. 

Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to brown shanks one by one. 

Set browned meat aside. 
3. Add more oil to French oven, if needed. Add sliced onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until onions become translucent, 5-7 minutes. Adjust heat if necessary-- do not burn onion.

Next, add 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, and stir for about 15 seconds. Do not burn. 
4. Pour in chicken stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Return the venison shanks to the pot and pour in enough water to cover the shanks 3/4 of the way. 


5. Next, sprinkle a pinch of saffron into the broth. A little goes a long way.


6. Cover, and cook shanks in a pre-heated 300 degree F oven for 3-4 hours, or until tender. Flip shanks over every hour. Add water if broth gets too low. The meat should fall away from the bone, and the gristle tender. 

Serve over rice-- basmati saffron rice if you want to get fancy. Garnish with fresh parsley.




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Monday, August 11, 2014

Snapping Turtle Braised in White Wine, Rosemary and Thyme


Some say that that there are 7 different types of meat in a turtle, but we call BS. There is dark meat and there is white meat, and the tastes are unique in their own way. The closest description is a combination of pork and alligator. Some also say that tastes like chicken, but I had a piece of fried chicken alongside with my turtle the other day, and I also think that's not true. Turtle is turtle, and it is what it is. You have to try it to know it. 


We're not going to cover how to butcher turtle, because it's not usual in our posts. It's also pretty gnarly. If you really want to know, email us or look for step-by-step photos and instructions in our upcoming book, which will be published in 2015 by F+W Media, Inc. (title to be determined). Or, you can also go to Youtube. You'll basically end up with meat from the four legs, tail, neck and if the turtle is large enough, there will be meat in the pockets under its upper shell. To improve its taste and smell, purge the live turtle by placing it in a large container, like a steel drum before butchering. Cover the turtle with water, but not so much that it can't stretch its neck to breath. Change out this water every few days to keep it clean and remove any feces for a week. This will allow the turtle to empty out its system before you go to butcher it. Don't worry about starving the turtle. Turtles have slow metabolisms and can go for a long time between meals. Once butchered, you can brine it or simply soak the meat overnight in water and salt to clean out any off tastes and to also flavor the meat. 

Our friend Kim Rutten taught us the basics for this recipe, and it's an easy, fool-proof way to get fall-off-the-bone meat each and every time. Kim's recipe was more of a steam, and ours is more of a braise with herbs and spices added. To make Kim's recipe, dredge turtle pieces in flour. You should not need much salt if the turtle was soaked in salt water beforehand. Brown pieces in oil and place them in an oven bag. Add a splash of water, seal up the bag according to package directions and bake at 250 degrees F for 3 hours. 

We hope you get the chance to try turtle! 

Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Ingredients:
- 3 pounds of turtle meat on the bone, cleaned and cut into smaller pieces
- all-purpose flour for dredging 
- kosher salt, to taste
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/3 cup of dry white wine
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 slices of lemon
- fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- large oven bag


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 

Rinse turtle pieces under cold water. Dry with paper towels, then lightly sprinkle salt over the pieces. You should not need to add too much salt if you have already brined or soaked the turtle meat. 
2. Lightly dredge pieces in flour. Shake off any excess flour. 
3. Heat up about half an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, fry turtle pieces (in batches) until browned on both sides. No need to cook all the way through. Drain on paper towels.
4. Place browned turtle pieces in a large oven bag, or two if you have smaller ones. Pour in wine and add the rosemary, thyme and lemon slices. Divide ingredients evenly if using more than 1 oven bag. 

Close up the bag according to package directions. Place in a a pot or baking dish to keep bags upright and for any leaks, and bake in the oven for 3 hours at 250 degrees F.


5. Check if turtle is tender, then remove from oven bag. Discard the spent lemon, rosemary and thyme. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

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