Other Dishes of the Upper Midwest
by John G. Motoviloff
University of Wisconsin
A hundred years ago, the kitchens of the
Upper Midwest swelled with fresh-caught fish and locally harvested
game. The woods were thick with deer and cottontails, the lakes were
rich in whitefish and other wildfoods.
in culture and population altered that scene, but today's
Midwesterners have retained and revived their appreciation of venison
and other wild game. Wildfoods are back in many eateries as well as
home kitchens. Game farms and commercial fisheries are making these
delicacies more accessible to appreciative palates.
A sportsman and forager as well as a writer, author John Motoviloff
conducts wildfoods cooking workshops throughout the region. In this
volume, he shares his knowledge of how to harvest and prepare the
wildfoods of his homeland.
Field Dressing Wild Game
Abundance of Wildfoods
The Upper Midwest
presents today's hunter-gatherer with a wide range of wildfoods and an
array of landscapes in which to pursue them. This book is your guide to
making the most of these treasures. Staples for generations of Native
Americans and then for European settlers who came after them, these
foods continue to provide healthy, local eating. What's more, many of
these delicacies can now be purchased in person or online from a
variety of vendors...
The point is, you won't
go hungry in the Upper Midwest if you know which end of a shotgun,
fishing rod, or burlap sack to pick up.
Animals harvested in the wild must have their internal
organs removed as soon as possible after the kill to cool down the
carcass and prevent bacteria from growing on its surface. This gutting,
or field dressing, preserves the meat and, in case of large game, makes
it easier to carry.
"To begin gutting a deer, make an incision at the base of the deer's
rib cage and continue the cut to the animal's anus," Motoviloff
explains. "The general idea is to let all the blood run out, so working
on a slight downhill is a plus, and to carefully remove all organs
(lungs, heart, liver, intestines)."
The liver can be saved for pate or pan fried; the heart is also edible.
"Devote extra care to removing the intestines and do your level best
not to puncture them. If you do, wipe away undigested matter as soon as
possible so as not to taint the meat. Next, turn the deer cut side down
so the blood can run out."
At this point, the meat is ready for butchering. In warm weather, this
needs to be done quickly to avoid spoilage.
"Get the hide off and meat quartered and cooled (on ice or in a buig
refrigerator) as soon after the kill as possible. Letting the meat
'age' with the hide on adds to the gamey flavor many people don't like.
out the deep, rich undertones in game. Buttons and portabella mushrooms
work well in this classic duck recipe, but you might want to kick it up
a notch with more exotic varieties. Maybe you found a handful of oyster
mushrooms growing from a log on the way out of the marsh. Maybe you
want to rehydrate those morels in Mason jars above your stove. You can
also buy a variety of mushrooms—such as shiitake and
oyster— in the grocery store. Avoid using strong-tasting ducks
such as bufflehead, scaup, or shoveler in this recipe and go for
prime-eating puddlers, or divers such as canvasback, redhead, or
Preheat oven to 300
degrees. Generously season duck inside and out with salt pepper, and
thyme. Heat a large skillet and melt butter in it. Brown ducks well on
both sides. Remove ducks breast side down to a roasting pan. Brown
garlic, parsley, and mushrooms in drippings that remain in skillet or
add more butter as necessary;
- Any quantity of choice plucked ducks
- Salt, pepper, and thyme to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter per duck plus more for final
- 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms per duck
- 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley per duck
- 1 minced garlic clove per duck
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1/2 cup red wine
- Flour or cornstarch for gravy
deglaze skillet with broth and wine and pour over ducks. Cover roaster
and cook for 2 hours. If breasts are not brown at this point turn the
ducks over and brush with butter. Turn oven up to 400 degrees and brown
for an additional 15 minutes. Separate out fat from roasting juices,
and thicken the latter with flour or cornstarch to make gravy. If using
dried mushrooms, soak them in water as you skillet-brown the ducks; add
the reconstituted mushrooms in place of fresh ones and use mushroom
water in bottom of roasting pan.
Poultry and Game Birds