Moose Balls

Yeah, I’d eat Bullwinkle.

Thanks saltywisdom.wordpress.com. Cool blog, BTW

Thanks saltywisdom.wordpress.com. Cool blog, BTW

(What are Rocky and Bullwinkle doing in that picture?)

But anyway, I’d definitely eat Bullwinkle.

Here’s how this is relevant. My most recent dangerous cooking was with some real moose. Our cottage is very close to the Wahta Mohawk First Nations Reserve.

Wahta

(Love the Seven Generations philosophy. I was taught in a First Nations Education course that every decision should take into account how it will affect seven generations into the future, or 200 years, and also that seven generations of the past have brought you to this point, so that history should be respected)

Anyway. Here I was, driving through the reserve with my daughter, when I happened to see a sign for “Moose Pie.”

I couldn’t resist. The guy (whose name I forget, I am completely Alzheimer-ish when it comes to names) was super friendly, which was no surprise to me since I have a close friend who lives on the Kanesatake Mohawk Reserve in Quebec, and anyone I’ve ever met through her has been extremely welcoming. Yes, I’m generalizing, but here’s one example — we went to her house once and got lost (“There are no streetlights and everyone chooses whatever number they want for their house so they’re not in order, but go over the hill, turn left at the baseball diamond…”). We regrouped at the ice cream shop and some strangers heard us talking about what we should do. They asked, “Who are you looking for?” We told them, and they said, “Follow us,” and drove us right to their house.

My friend went on to become a lawyer who works with First Nations communities, and she just got back from a trip to Baffin Island.

Thanks Wikipedia

Thanks Wikipedia

Now that’s North. While she was there she posted pictures from the grocery store — a bag of flour for $14, a box of chicken burgers for $23, and some Frosted Flakes, also for the bargain price of $14.

She brought back some seal meat and just might guest post. This makes me quite excited.

Anyway. Friendly-moose-guy. Moose-guy told me he was a foodie and he was very excited about my blog. He hooked me up with a pie, cooked by a Grandmother who is writing her own cookbook (Grandmother might be literal in this case, but can also mean a wise elder in First Nations traditions which are more matriarchal than ours, I believe.)

This makes me very excited too. Because the moose pie was amazing.

Moose Pie IMG_6958 IMG_6959

I wish I could share the recipe so that you could re-create it. Hopefully you’ll get it after she finishes the cookbook! The gravy was rich, and because it was moose, it wasn’t as fatty as beef — more hearty. It did not taste “gamey” at all. And don’t you just love mention of the “Ugly Crust” on the label? I make ugly crusts too — insider tip: if you’re too lazy to make your own crust, just buy two store-bought ones and slap one flattened on top as your upper crust. I doubt this was her technique, but you’re welcome for the time-saver.

Friendly moose guy also hooked me up with “moose burger meat,” which was just ground moose, as far as I knew. My parents were coming over, so I took my friend’s husband’s advice and turned them into “Moose Balls.” Don’t you just love it when your parents ask you if what they’re eating are actual moose cajones? Just me? If you want to be boring and can’t get your hooves on any moose, you could also try this recipe with regular old ground beef.

Swiss Moose Balls

– 1 small packet of ground Bullwinkle (I don’t think it had a weight on it, but let’s say about two softballs worth)

– 2C garlic croutons, ground to breadcrumbs in a food processor

– 1 handful of parmesan

– 1 egg

– 3 turns of the salt shaker

– swiss cheese, cut into small cubes

– (Wish I’d had a jalapeño and some chopped fresh parsley to add, but I didn’t)

– Prosciutto, 1/2 slice for each ball

Directions: Preheat to 400. Mix meat, egg, breadcrumbs, parm, salt, and herbs/peppers. Roll into small moose cajones, each one surrounding a small cube of swiss cheese. Brown each ball in a frying pan over med-high heat. Bake 10-15 minutes, until cheese begins to gently bubble out. Wrap each ball carefully in prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Moose balls IMG_6969 IMG_6970 IMG_6972

Results: Delicious! I have to admit that I was worried this might not work out, because when I thawed the meat it smelled like a moose had given birth in the kitchen. But then somehow after I had cooked it, the flavour was not the same as the smell. These moose balls were drier than beef meatballs — I’ve found this to be true of other wild meats in the past (they tend to work out more than penned animals I guess?). But they weren’t off-puttingly dry. Apparently wild meats are healthier than farmed meats because of their natural diets, as well. I would count my visit to friendly-moose-guy a huge success and will be visiting on a more regular basis. Rating: 5/5 Yums for the moose pie, and 3/5 for the moose balls.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Bullwinkle! Here’s how my thoughts were going at the start of this post. I was thinking about how some people don’t like the idea of eating non-farmed animals, and I don’t love it either. I couldn’t shoot anything myself, and I do find animals in the wild beautiful and a treat to catch a glimpse of. But it’s hypocritical that I’d eat a cow or chicken or pig rather than other types of meat, just because other animals might be too cute or pretty or free. And yes, it’s also hypocritical that I eat meat that I couldn’t kill, but if I’m going to be hypocritical, I might as well go all-in. So I was thinking that I would start this post by playing the devil’s advocate — by saying that I had eaten a really cute cartoon character, because I have not become vegetarian.

But I don’t even like Bullwinkle. He’s annoying and outdated. I’d totally eat him without a second thought, even if that picture does make him seem like a partier. So my whole premise backfired.

Question: What cartoon character would you eat?

I ate Rudolph for Christmas

I had big plans for a Christmas post where I was going to cook Reindeer moss.

Reindeer moss

I was all geared up to use it in place of kale in a recipe, maybe even deep fried to become a crunchy something-or-other. That was, until I read about it. There are videos on Youtube about how to survive on it in the far north, but apparently you have to boil it in baking soda and water multiple times to get rid of its acidity (sounds delicious already?) and then even when you do that, it turns into an unpalatable gelatinous mass that made the tough mountain men in the Youtube videos gag.

Plus it’s extremely high in carbs. Just what we need over the holidays – more carbs.

http://pandawhale.com/post/10521/fat-cats-in-santa-hats

http://pandawhale.com/post/10521/fat-cats-in-santa-hats

So… I pitched it. Recall that my goal is to make weird/creative foods delicious, not host some kind of fear factor challenge.

I was still on deck to create a dangerous appetizer for my cousins, though, so instead of reindeer moss I went for the reindeer itself,

Thanks seattletimes.com

Thanks seattletimes.com

and bought venison tenderloin.

Thanks bowhuntingwildfood.com

Thanks bowhuntingwildfood.com

(I only took a few pictures of my own for this post, because I find it slightly odd asking relatives, “Hey, could you just step out of my shot so that I can snap food instead of you at this holiday gathering? Thanks.” Although I definitely did just that at least twice.)

This recipe is very simple and delicious, so it really doesn’t need much commentary. Since I have some extra blog space as a result, I’ll use it to tell you a quick story that I love about the only person at the party who didn’t love the venison (she actually didn’t try it, but I don’t hold that against her, you’ll see why).

My cousin David is a cop, and he married a girl named Hannah, who is amazing, and is also a cop. She tells stories like, “So I said to the huge guy, ‘Do you want me to take you down in front of all of your friends, or do you want to quietly follow me to the back of my squad car?'” But she’s really very sweet, and this paradox (among many other qualities) makes her one of the coolest people I know.

So Hannah grew up in Fort Francis, which is here:

Fort Francis

See Toronto way down there on the right? And see Jackfish-Hammy’s way up there in the middle? That’s 1690Km, or 1050 miles. It’s 350Km (218 miles) from Thunder Bay, which is kind of Ontario’s northernmost metropolis.

Fort Francis is far. So when David and Hannah got married, I met a bunch of her friends who visited for the wedding. And one of them told me this story about her first date with her husband, who is from somewhere more metro. They were driving in the snow, and he hit an animal with his truck. She yelled, “stop the car!” She jumped out, grabbed the roadkill, and I think prepped it in some kind of way (I want to say she skinned it, but don’t want to be overly dramatic), threw it into the back of his trunk, then got back into the truck while her future husband sat there with his mouth wide open.

Hannah’s friend told me this story while in a hot dress with her makeup all done looking super girly. They’re kind of hard core.

So when Hannah said she wasn’t into venison because she ate it nearly every day of her life, I took her word for it that she truly didn’t like it. In the same way that some people don’t like chicken, you know? I’d bet ten bucks she’s tried reindeer moss and eats it as dessert.

That was a long way to go for that story. But just as most people like chicken, you would most definitely like venison tenderloin. I didn’t have to move the knife to slice it, and I don’t think it was because the knife was extra sharp.

Here’s the recipe. Please enjoy the craisin Rudolph noses I added as garnishes because I have a very sick sense of humour.

Venison toasts with saskatoon berry mayo (makes about 14 toasts)

  • 1 venison tenderloin
  • 1 baguette
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 6Tbsp mayo
  • 2Tbsp saskatoonberry compote or cranberry sauce
  • Craisins for garnish

Marinade:

Mix the following ingredients together, and add them to the thawed tenderloin in a bag, with the air squeezed out:

  • 1/2C orange juice
  • 1/2C olive oil
  • 2Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 or 4 turns of black pepper

Marinade in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

I fried the tenderloin because that was the heat source that happened to be available, but barbecued would be optimal if you could do it. Broiled would work too.

Heat a few Tbsp of olive oil to med-high heat. Add tenderloin and flip a few times without piercing, until it loses some of its jiggle when you poke it so that it will end up medium-rare (about 15 minutes).

While the tenderloin is cooking, mix 6Tbsp may with 2-3Tbsp of saskatoonberry compote, or cranberry sauce. Slice a french stick thinly and broil 5 minutes until toasted. Rub each one down with a half clove of garlic. Mix the mayo and compote/jam together and spread across each toast. When the tenderloin is finished, cover it with foil and let it rest a few minutes. Slice thinly, and top each toast with venison. Garnish with craisin Rudolph noses.

Venison

Enjoy the rest of your holidays!!!

Question: What was your first date with your husband/wife like, or what was the weirdest first date you ever had?

The Bison Saskatoon Burger-wich

Oh, the burger nerd is going to be maaaaad at me.

You see, the burger nerd is into burgers. I mean, really into burgers. We’re talking blog posts about McDonald’s developments and burger horoscopes and zombie and cat burgers. Oh, and a gajillion creative burger recipes. So when some ground bison smiled (snarled?) at me from behind the butcher’s counter I knew he was the perfect person to bring in as backup.

He moved his burger to his non-typing hand and replied promptly to my tweet asking for bison burger ideas. I took him up on his very first suggestion, which was to develop a theme around First Nations foods. He suggested a burger on bannock bread with Saskatoon berry mayo and dandelion greens. Amazing. I had obviously gone to the right guy.

I was determined to find Saskatoon berries – not just because Saskatoon is such a rockin place, known for its… wow, I can’t even find a claim to fame for Saskatoon. The best I can do is that they are leaders in potash, which sounds a lot more interesting than it is. Please, someone reply and tell me what’s awesome about Saskatoon. But I was determined to find them because I had never tried them and that’s my thing. Turns out they’re high in antioxidants and other anti-aging stuff. Saskatoon berries will be my Christmas gift to my wrinkles. For my 10th anniversary with them they’re getting botox shhhhh.

Anyway, I Googled to find Saskatoon berries forever and was about to pay four times their price in shipping (because I LOVE a dangerous food quest, and this is not sarcasm), only to find out that a vendor at the market at the end of my street sells a compote they make with them.

Saskatoon berry compote

Plus, that vendor is extremely chatty and an expert at foraging, so I walked away with two other dangerous foods. Things were getting better and better.

Until tonight, when I tried to make the burgers. I thought I had time to pull it all together but then I was reminded that it was hockey night for my guinea pig, I mean, husband. So I started the bannock, but ended up having to use plain ol’ bread, which I thought would technically make it a “sandwich” rather than a “burger,” but burger nerd says the only criteria for a burger are ground meat and a patty shape. I don’t know, man. Check out my picture and tell me that doesn’t look like a sandwich.

Bison burger

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great sandwich. Burger nerd is going to be PO’d though, because I’m sure this picture will make him have to edit his post and add some carb criteria.

Also I couldn’t find dandelion, which was odd, but seemed to align with the rest of the karma for this burger project. So I used kale, because I had some. Also I later found out that the bannock I made (but didn’t use) is the Scottish bannock, which is like a crumpet, rather than the First Nations fried bread type bannock.

But the good news in all this is that I ate an insane quantity of bison sandwich, and it was delicious. And my little guy ate a ton too (but without the sauce). Thanks burger nerd! It didn’t exactly work out as we first pictured but happy tummies means a job well done in my books. (The guinea pig liked his too, from what I could tell in the 20 seconds it took him to scarf it down).

So here’s how to do it.

First Nations inspired bison burger

  • Bread. Or Scottish bannock. Or First Nations bannock, which I’ll try another day, maybe over a campfire
  • Ground bison, enough to make patties to serve your party
  • Seasoning, made of 1Tbsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder (per Burger Nerd’s advice)
  • 2 Tbsp mayo (I didn’t make mine from scratch)
  • 1 tsp Saskatoon berry compote
  • Kale or dandelion greens
  • Olive oil

Directions: Heat the barbecue to high heat. It’s cold here, so I let ours rip for at least 15 minutes. Brush grill with olive oil.

Form balls of meat.

Balls of meat

Put them on the grill, squish them flat with a spatula, then sprinkle with seasoning. Flip when cooked and season the other side.

Mix mayo with compote. Rescue burgers from grill when finished, and dress them with mayo, kale, and pitiful bread.

Enjoy!

Results: 4 Yums. This was a super enjoyable burger for me. If you can’t get hold of Saskatoon berries, make sure to flavour your mayo with another jam, or cranberry sauce. Why haven’t I always been flavouring my mayo? This post just upped my game in that department forever after. And I loved Saskatoon berries. Think redder blueberries.

Question: What is your favourite burger?

It’s not easy being green – How to cook frogs’ legs

Why does it make me feel so bad to eat this…

Thanks disney.wikia.com

Thanks disney.wikia.com

When I eat this…

Thanks geeksdreamgirl.com, which is hilarious on its own

Thanks geeksdreamgirl.com, which is hilarious on its own

…all the time. Maybe it’s because she’s such a beeyatch.

And now, for a little story. When I still worked for “the man,” there was a big reorg, and suddenly I was responsible for supporting three team members from Quebec, who had never worked much with others outside of French Canada. Luckily, they were fantastic people, because my limited French might not have gone over very well if they had been jerks. When I met Alain, he confessed that the first time he had visited Toronto (I think when he told me the story it might have been his second time there) a bunch of teenagers had yelled, “FROG!,” at him. He didn’t know what it meant. I think I told him (embarrassed for my linguicity, if that’s a thing) that the French are called frogs because they ate frogs’ legs, and the English thought that was disgusting. I just Googled this now, though, and learned that there are many reasons the French might be called frogs, including:

  • The original French flag had 3 black frogs on it, which later became the fleur de lis. This was ages and ages ago
  • Because Elizabeth I used it as a term of endearment for boyfriends, and one of these was her representative in France
  • Because Paris was surrounded by swamp, so the French themselves used it to make fun of anyone who didn’t live in the city
  • Because during WWII the French were able to hide like frogs from the Germans, who had difficulty finding them

As a point of interest, while I was reading about this, it also came up that a “Dutch Oven,” is a derogatory term too – not an oven, is it, just a lesser little roasting pan. Damn those Brits were creative in their bigotry.

Anyway, all of this comes down to one thing. Let’s pretend I didn’t Google the history of the term frog, go back to my original explanation, and bring it back to this.

My husband and I can now very proudly call ourselves frogs. Vive la grenouille!

IMG_4876

Here’s a dangler for you so you can get the full effect.

IMG_4878

I like to think that the little how ya doin between his legs was coincidence. This isn’t that kind of blog.

Of course I had to use a French recipe to cook up les hoppy jambes. I found one here. Simple, but drenched in butter. Of course, French women don’t get fat, so eat as many as you want. Chase it with wine so you forget you’re eating frog legs.

French Frogs’ Legs

  • 12 pair frog legs, thawed and snipped to separate
  • 1 1/2C milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1C flour
  • 16Tbsp clarified butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • Parsley garnish (I always skip garnishes. Like I’m going to buy parsley just for that, but to each his own)

Directions: Prepare legs by snipping apart and thawing, or by chasing some hoppy suckers down and showing them who’s boss. Soak them in milk in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Dry them with paper towel, salt and pepper them, then dredge them in flour. Heat a few tablespoons of the butter, and over high heat, cook the first batch of legs (I think I did this about 2 minutes/side).

IMG_4881

Dump leftover butter, and melt more for a new batch. Keep going. I have to admit that I didn’t dump any butter, just added olive oil after the first batch to keep the butter from burning and didn’t add more butter, which I hope reduced the unhealthy fats. This left the latter batches nice and brown. C’est tout!

Results:

IMG_4882

 

Is it wrong that as I was preparing and eating these I was jealous of their leg muscles? Yes, that’s right, I was jealous of a frog’s quad and calf definition. Squats for me tomorrow, I guess. Anyway, the recipe was great. Simple, quick, and tasty – if you can get past the thought of what you’re eating, they’re meatier than chicken wings, while the flavour is a cross between that and dense fish. You could dip them in nearly anything. Serve them as an appy before your next menage a trois for sure (KIDDING! This is NOT that kind of blog!). Rating: 2 Yums

Beer and Biltong

This is my first post where I’ve cheated.  Cheater cheater biltong eater.

I’ve cheated because I didn’t actually cook anything this time, even though this is a cooking blog.  A while ago on Twitter, someone suggested I try biltong as one of my dangerous foods.  I didn’t get around to trying it, but always kept it in the back of my mind, and only got around to ordering some last week.  Apparently you can make it yourself (here’s how to do it), but how would I know if it tasted right if I didn’t try some of the good stuff first?   I may use this logic to order in cool stuff from now on.

If you’re not from South Africa, you might now be wondering what biltong is.  It’s a special form of dried, cured meat,

similar to jerky, although it’s not sweet or spicy, includes coriander, and is usually thicker (and South Africans say that labelling biltong ‘jerky’ is an insult).  Apparently when the Dutch migrated to South Africa in the 1600s they brought the process of drying meat with them, which was handy because it took a while to build up herds of farmed animals, and large game kills could have gone to waste in the hot climate.  South Africans biltong-ize just about anything now – game, fish, shark (yes, I know shark is a fish, but it’s cool enough to mention on its own.  Hey, did you know sharks pee through their skin?  An aside, yes, but one of the few nuggets I recall from my university education so had to share), ostrich, but most commonly, beef.  According to the wise old Internet, biltong is South Africa’s national snack, always present at sports matches, and best accompanied by beer.  You had me at beer.

I ordered some online from Eat Sum More, a South African food store north of Toronto run by SA immigrants who come from a long line of butchers.  I ordered a half-kilo for $28.75 without having a mental image of how much a half-kilo was.  It was a lot.  So I had to figure out what to do with it.  Of course my mind leapt to “baby shower,” which was where I was going yesterday.  I chopped some into bite-sized pieces and brought cheese and crackers to go with it to decrease the weird factor, ready to biltong-ize my Aunt Sharon’s house full of women.

I walked through the door into a world of pink, in honour of my cousin’s new baby Madelyn.  There were gorgeous pink cupcakes, a table full of different sized jars of every pink candy you could imagine, and a table full of carefully chosen lovely luncheon foods.  I pictured myself slapping my dehydrated wrinkly brown meat sticks

into the middle of it all and chickened out.  Imagine a bunch of ladies daintily gnawing their way through some sinewy meat carcass?  Entertaining, yes, but I became concerned I may have become excommunicated from my family.  I sheepishly snuck my biltong back out the door again, un-unveiled.

I’m kind of glad I reclaimed it, though, because the biltong is very tasty, and even though it’s been less than 24 hours since I opened it, my half-kilo supply is quickly dwindling.  And I haven’t even tried it with its suggested ale accompaniment yet!  I keep telling myself that the added protein will quickly turn into muscle and give me a biltong-a-licious bod, but the salt and fat might foil that plan.  Oh well, the taste is worth it.  Rating:  3 Yums.  Definitely worth a try.

Beverage Pairing:  This was an easy one.  Zulu Blonde Export Ale – a South African beer with an awesome name whose brewmaster says on the website, “For sure, it’s a beer that will go well with biltong.”  Seems to be available in the UK, but check the website for other availability.

 

The best bison Frank has ever eaten

Apologies to my many, many fans for leaving you without a blog update for so long.  The truth is I was on vacation, and I thought that if I blogged about where I was and what I was doing someone might break into my house and steal my stuff.  Instead, someone broke in and left us a plant.  I have no clue where the plant came from, but those are my kinds of burglars.

Anyway, we just finished going on a trip to Canada’s Wild West, and so of course one of my primary travel goals was to cook something weird and semi-local.  I hadn’t cooked any strange meat for a while, so I made my sister drive me to Rocky Mountain Game Meats to convince the guy who was more administrator than butcher to hunt me down some game from the depths of their giant freezer.

I considered asking him for this…

Thanks junglewalk.com

…because I didn’t even know what a muskox was before I saw it as an offering on their website and that’s weird eating for sure, which of course is a good thing when it comes to my blog, but I ended up going with this…

Thanks weforanimals.com

I was slightly disappointed in myself for going with bison, because who hasn’t had a bison burger (I’m guessing the large majority of humans on the planet, actually) but when I saw that they offered it as Osso Bucco steaks (and only $40 total for 8!), I thought the recipe was appropriately dangerous and could be tried with lamb for anyone reading this who couldn’t get their paws on any bison.

Here’s my picture of two of the frozen steaks.  It was initially kind of boring so I made it into steaks that might be in a Tarantino movie:

But back to bison and Alberta, which was where I was.  Did you know that North America was once covered in bison?  There were about 75 million of them here apparently, and Alberta has an especially cool tribute to them and the First Nations people in their Unesco heritage site, “Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump.”  You may think that that name seems cruel and that the practice helped to wipe out the buffalo, but no, like with pretty much everything else, First Nations people only took what they needed (by strategically chasing a few bisons off a cliff, for example) until the late 1800s when the whiteys came and gorged, making a quick buck on the hides.  Sometimes the Eurotrash just shot the poor old bisons for sport and let them rot without using anything from them.  It was said that a person could walk from Texas to North Dakota on bison bones without ever touching the ground.  Jerks.

In the early 1900s, some ranchers began collecting the few bisons who were left, protecting and breeding them, and it was their ranching grandkids who supplied my meat.  There are only about 250,000 bison living in North America now, and now they’re mostly farmed for their meat, which is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, or chicken.  And if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know how this recipe turned out based on my previous sentence (insert ominous music here).

Since I’m getting sick of hearing myself talk, without further ado I’ll pass along Bryan McCaw’s Osso Bucco recipe.

Bison Osso Bucco (serves 8)

  • 8 bison steaks for Osso Bucco (or 4 whole lamb shanks)
  • 2Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2Tbsp oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2C diced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2C fruity red wine
  • 28oz can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 2Tbsp fresh oregano
  • 2C beef stock
Directions:  Preheat to 350.
1.  Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet.  Brown the meat on all sides.  Remove to plate and season with salt and pepper.
2.  Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan.  Saute the veggies until soft and browned.  Add the wine, bringing to boiling and reduce to a glaze.  Add the tomatoes and herbs and bring to boiling again.
3.  Add the stock to the hot tomato mixture and bring to boiling.  Remove from heat and add the meat (I had to move everything to a roasting pan to have room).  Make sure the meatiest bits are immersed in liquid.  Cover and place in oven.  Bake 2 hours or until tender when pierced with fork.
4.  When the meat is tender, remove from the pot and keep warm.  Degrease pan juices if necessary.  Remove any large herb sprigs.  Puree some pan liquids and whisk in a tablespoon of butter and heat to a glossy sheen (I couldn’t puree because my sis doesn’t have a food processor at her house, poor soul).  Add the warm meat.
5.  Plate with vegetables and sauce.

Results:  Meh.  I had tasted the recipe before using lamb and it was fall off the bone fantastic, but with bison it was chewy.  I probably should have marinated it for ages and then cooked it for even longer than the recipe called for to tenderize it – note foreshadow from before where I hinted that healthy meat needs lots of help softening up (see kangaroo, alligator and ostrich posts).  My sister ate it though, which says a LOT, and all of her in-laws said it was good too, and they have no real reason to kiss my behind.  Maybe I’m becoming the picky one.  My bro-in-law, Frank, said it was the best bison he had ever eaten.  Of course, it was also the first bison he had ever…  You had probably guessed that after you read the title though, right?

Rating:  1 Yum for the bison, but do try the Osso Bucco recipe with lamb, because it’s extra delicious.

Interesting fact:  The name bison is to buffalo as First Nations is to Indian, in a way.  The latter are based on early associations from the European homeland, but the former are the more accurate names.

Alligator Bites

I wasn’t very afraid of cooking alligator, because all I had ever heard was that it “tastes like chicken.”  For some reason, I’ve always thought that it was alligator or crocodile that was at the root of that joke, and that a blind taste tester would be definitely be fooled if he was presented with chicken and croc bits that had come out of the same bag of shake and bake.  It will come as no surprise to people familiar with eating alligator that in this case, I was wrong.   For all I know, crocodile is being swapped for chicken in TV dinners around the world as we speak, but trying to do the same with alligator would be a dead giveaway.

 I bought the frozen alligator in the same shopping trip to Black Angus Fine Meats and Game I’ve talked about in my last few entries, and I decided to break it out as an appetizer when my foodie friend came over for a visit the other day.   It was a pricey appy at $15.99/lb, which is how much I bought, but she’s an old and dear friend, so she’s worth it (and now that I’ve complimented her she might make the effort to leave comments at the end of this blog).  Here is a photo of the starting point:

I thawed it in the microwave and then decided to deep fry it using a thick beer batter, even though I’m not a regular fryer, as a rule.  It’s messy and unhealthy, so I usually avoid it, but I have been known to fry up a legendary fish and chips occasionally by following Jamie Oliver’s advice, and I thought that this might be the easiest way to serve up reptile in bite sized chunks.  Hey, I hadn’t thought of this before – we just basically ate dinosaur.  Cool.

 Anyway,  as I first began to cut the filets, I knew there would be a problem.  My kitchen scissors, which I use for efficient stir frying and such, met with tension once in every few snips.  It was like I was cutting a really grisly piece of meat, and I wondered if that would have an impact on the finished product.  It had exactly the impact I would have expected in finding gristle in the raw version of what I was trying to cook.  Gristle in the cooked version.  It looked pretty on the outside….

…and the batter was tasty, but each piece of alligator was hit or miss, and even the hits were foul balls instead of home runs.  It was all very chewy – I thought as I was eating it that calamari lovers might like it – but some pieces were fishier and gristlier than others, and that would be hard for anyone to take.  At one point I said to my friend, “Hey, I just had a good piece,” but even that one was pretty chewy.  My new experience would make me avoid alligator completely in future, at home or in restaurants, unfortunately.  But the dips and batter I had chosen were nice, if I do say so myself.

 Beer Battered Alligator Bites

  • 1lb alligator, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 12oz can of beer.  I used Mill Street Organic (excellent)
  • 1 1/2C flour
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1C flour, for dredging

Further battering instructions here.

  Dip #1 – Parsley Onion Dip

(I modified the green goddess submissions here based on what I had on hand, listed below…)

  • Mayo
  • Handful of parsley
  • Green onions
  • Red onion
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Salt/pepper

 Combine all in food processor, but make sure herb and veggie portions are generous.

 Dip #2 – Pre-prepared “President’s Choice Sweet with Heat Prepared Mustard”

(apologies to non-Canadians, just go with Dip #1 if you can’t find this, or pick up a fancy sweet mustard.  For Canadians:  this dip may have been the highlight of the appetizer)

Rating:  1 Gag. 

It was all the alligator’s fault that my recipe didn’t work, so the man-eater will pay for it in my rating.  We ate lots of it because we were hungry, but I wouldn’t make it again.  Sorry Louisiana swamp people – you may need to consider sources of revenue beyond gators.

Ostrich – the other other red meat

I’m not sure that ostrich should be listed in the “me got game,” section of my website, but since I don’t have an enormous catalog of blog entries, I’m going to have to go with what I’ve got.  But game?  I think that anyone who thinks it’s a game to chase and shoot these not-so-bright animals who “hide,” by covering their eyes with sand might be the same kinds of people who enjoy doing puzzles by letting someone else do it and then bringing the last piece at the very end.  But I guess when they’re not hiding they’re running.  Timing is everything.  All it took for me to get my hands on one was a quick drive to Mississauga.

I found a very small ostrich steak at Black Angus Fine Meats and Game, and decided to serve it up to my cousins as an appetizer, mostly for the entertainment value.   So far, my husband has been the main taste tester for my exotic creations, but I thought I would take a risk and branch out.  Plus, when someone feeds you an entire meal and all you bring is an appetizer, you get a whole lot more cred if it’s something strange and memorable.  It was a win win to serve to my cousins, really, as long as none of them threw up.

I read about how to prepare the ostrich ahead of time, and most descriptions said that it could be used in recipes in the place of rare beef.  I was slightly concerned – unless Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom had steered me wrong, ostriches are birds, which made me think of chickens and salmonella.  My “birds need to be cooked,” experience had misdirected me this time though, because apparently ostrich has an ideal pH balance and so doesn’t attract harmful bacteria.  Ostrich is also healthy in other ways, being lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than skinless chicken, while also being high in protein and iron.

I was shy to take control of a barbeque that was not my own, so I asked for a frying pan and grilled the ostrich steak until it was medium rare (same as you would a regular beef steak).  I sliced it cross-ways, and because I couldn’t find a really great ostrich appetizer recipe, I laid each slice across thinly sliced toasted baguette, spread with herbed goat cheese and red pepper jelly.   I’ll spell it out for you below, in case you’re that kind of person.

Ann’s Improv’d Ostrich Recipe

  • Toasted whole wheat baguette slices (slice the baguette, roast in oven on baking sheet at 400, 8mins)
  • Herbed soft goat cheese
  • Red pepper jelly
  • Medium rare ostrich slices

Combine, in the order above.  Here is what it looked like (sorry for the finger shadow I only noticed later):

 

Overall Impression:  Not bad, although my stomach still raised warning flags for unjustifiable reasons.  Maybe it was far too healthy.  I had to assess whether or not my cousins were just being polite, but they said they liked it, and cleared the plate of every last piece I had prepared.  One cousin said the consistency reminded her of a cross between liver and beef (something I read said that it is so lean it can be off-putting).  The jelly may have overpowered the ostrich, which may or may not have been a good thing, depending on your perspective.  I would probably try ostrich again, but I wouldn’t put myself on the mailing list.

Rating:  2 yums

Boar not entirely boring

Okay carnivores, enough of exotic fruits and veggies for a while.  This one’s for you.

Last week I visited Black Angus Fine Meats and Game in Mississauga and picked up a thing or two, even though doing so made me feel kind of uneasy.

You see, Black Angus specializes in game meats, and although I have never been vegetarian, for some reason I feel a little meaner eating animals that aren’t used to being eaten, even though I doubt that cows, pigs and chickens are overjoyed to be the lucky ones that are usually forced to volunteer.  Maybe it’s because I know that the farmed animals weren’t enjoying the freedom they were plucked away from as much as an animal that romped in the woods was.  I stopped feeling quite so bad, though, when I remembered that one of the meats I chose had once looked like this:

(Shiver)

I had chosen a French rack of wild boar, which I was drawn to more because of the cut than the animal – it looked like rack of lamb, and I was hoping that it was the cut that made rack of lamb a juicy, easy grilling option and that I would find the same results with this more uncommon meat.  Spring has sprung early this year, and after a week of sun I was ready for a barbeque.   At the same time, I was worried that wild boar would taste exactly like pork would and that it would be a pricier letdown (it was just shy of $40 for the 2.3 pound roast that might serve three adults).  I vowed to make my husband eat hotdogs one night post-boar so that I would only be spending $20 on meat per dinner and threw it into the basket.

Here is what the roast looked like before I started…

And here is what it looked like after I had sliced the fat from it.

I was kind of surprised to see so much fat on a wild animal, but who was I to judge?  Maybe my boar had eaten more than his fair share of truffles.  Actually, when I read about them here, I learned that they primarily eat fruit, nuts, seeds and tubers, which I thought might have a nicer influence on the meat than whatever farmed pigs eat, helping to justify the extra cost.  I also read that their population is very plentiful and widespread across Europe and Asia, even to the point where they have become pests in some areas.  My guilty conscience that had once associated eating wild animals with endangering them felt relieved.

I searched for recipes on how to prepare wild boar, but didn’t find much, so I ended up cooking it very simply by brushing it with olive oil, seasoning it with coarse salt and pepper, and then brushing it again with honey.  I seared it over high heat for about 5 minutes (it flared a bit, maybe because of the fat or honey or both) before I flipped it bones side down, where I cooked it over indirect medium heat, barbeque at about 400, not heating from directly beneath the meat, for another 40 minutes.  It ended up being a perfectly juicy medium.

Overall Impression:  Very nice, although pork-like.  The meat was flavourful and juicy and was not “game-y,” as is always a worry with wild meats.  I am convinced that wild boar is the best option if you know that a snobby person is coming to your house for dinner.  You could casually say, “Oh, I just picked up some wild boar, I hope you haven’t had any yet this week,” and then even if they were picky with food, they would be okay with it because it would taste familiar.  They would brag to their snobby buddies about what you had cooked and how delicious it was for months.   Serve it with a cranberry coulis – slam dunk.

Rating:  3 Yums.  Straightforward, tasty, and different.