Whether you prefer the shade of large redwoods or waking up to a cool ocean breeze, the great outdoors have the ability to bring people back to the core of what it means to be a part of this incredible place we call Earth. When it comes to food, chefs and foodies alike are breaking out some innovative ways to manipulate the innumerable bounties to be discovered in the wild.
While roughing it in the great outdoors may not be for everyone, most of us can appreciate the rugged tastes it inspires. Chefs across the nation are becoming increasingly inspired by the bounty of farm fresh ingredients available at their local farmers markets, such as locally raised rabbit, bison, and ostrich. Outdoor inspired, farm to table dishes are something even the tamest palates can enjoy.
Bison Carpaccio (Edmonton, AB)
Canada is known for its wild game, which takes center stage at many of Edmonton’s local restaurants. Normand’s is known for featuring nightly specials featuring local catches and wild game nights with selections such as Wild Boar Ribs, Bison Carpaccio, Musk-Ox and Crocodile. Dining at Normand’s is every adventurous foodie’s dream come true. They slice up the cuts right in front of you with their sharp knives, a delightful experience.
Simple and easy recipe for Seared Bison Carpaccio:
¼ cup mirin
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Two 6-ounce bison steaks
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mirin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the steaks, turning to coat evenly, then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.
When ready to cook, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until very hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear on each side for 1½ minutes. Transfer the steaks to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.
Once the steaks have rested, thinly slice them across the grain. Fan the slices onto 2 serving plates, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Squeeze 1 or 2 lemon wedges over each. Serve immediately.
Crispy Duck Breast with Pear and Green Peppercorn Sauce (Fargo, ND)
Chef Ryan Nitschke and his team at The Hotel Donaldson pride themselves on honoring local producers and artisan farmers. Specializing in the use of bison meat as well as other locally sourced fish and meats, daily specials are often exotic, featuring everything from Goose Fat Poached Shrimp to Catfish Taco’s. What looks especially delicious? The Wild Acres Farm Duck with a peach bbq glaze. Yum!
Here’s a delicious recipe for Crispy Duck Breast with Pear and Green Peppercorn Sauce to try at home!
1 1/2 pounds boneless duck breast* (4 boneless breast halves, cut from two 5 1/2- 6-pound ducks)
1 firm-ripe Bosc pear
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Calvados or Armagnac
1 tablespoon green peppercorns packed in brine, drained and crushed lightly
1 tablespoon duck or veal demiglace* or 1/2 extra-large vegetarian vegetable bouillon cube
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs
Trim excess fat from duck breasts. Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Pat breasts dry and season with salt. Put breasts, skin sides down, in skillet and reduce heat to moderate. Cook breasts 20 minutes, or until skin is crisp and mahogany-colored, removing fat from skillet as it is rendered with a metal bulb baster (or very carefully pouring it off). Turn breasts and cook about 2 minutes for medium-rare or to desired doneness. Transfer breasts to a plate and keep warm, covered loosely.
While duck breasts are cooking, peel pear and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and sauté pear until lightly browned, about 1 minute. In a measuring cup stir together apple juice and cornstarch. To pear add Calvados or Armagnac. Stir in cornstarch mixture, peppercorns, demiglace or bouillon cube, and thyme and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Serve duck breasts, sliced, with sauce spooned over them and garnish with thyme sprigs.
Quaglie Del Contadino (Buffalo, NY)
San Marco Ristorante has long been known as Buffalo, New York’s top Italian restaurant, featuring regional dishes from Northern Italy. Owners/Chefs Frank and Nancy Grimaldi have delighted guests with their modern translation of Italian Cuisine, featuring wild game such as Cinghiale Alle Brace (fresh tenderloin of wild boar marinated in extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and juniper berries) and Quaglie Del Contadino (fresh quails pan sautéed in cognac and shallots finished on the grill with a porcini mushroom sauce, roasted peppers and risotto). San Marco has maintained a reputation for serving up some of the best food, and wild game dishes, in town.
Try this rustic recipe for Braised Quails with Wild Mushrooms at home!
4 quails, cleaned and trussed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
1/4 pound bacon, cut into slivers
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup veal stock
3/4 pound assorted mushrooms, trimmed and halved (1/4 part trompettes de la mort, 1/4 part chanterelles, and 1/2 part cremini)
Small handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
Season the quails with salt, and pepper. Melt half the butter with a drop of oil in a heavy casserole, and brown the quails on all sides over medium-high heat. Cook’s Note: you could also use lard. Remove the quail from the pan, and set aside. Add the bacon to the pan, brown it, and remove. Finally, fry the onion until golden, adding more fat to the pan beforehand, if needed.
Stir the flour into the onions, and cook 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring up the good bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the onions, bacon and quails to the pot. Pour over the stock, cover, and simmer until the quails are just cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter (a little more if you like) and cook each type of mushroom separate, as the various types cook differently. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper as you go, then, at the end, toss them all together with the chopped parsley.
When the quails are done, remove them from the cooking liquid and keep them warm while you boil the juices, uncovered, to reduce to thin sauce consistency. Add the mushrooms to the sauce. Tilt into a serving dish, set the quails on top, and serve.
Until next time.. Crawl on.