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Wild Rice Goose

Wild Rice Goose
and Other Dishes of the Upper Midwest
by John G. Motoviloff

University of Wisconsin Press, 2014

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.
Wild Rice Goose

Changes 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.

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.

Field Dressing Wild Game

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.

Mushroom-Roasted Duck

Mushrooms bring 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 ringneck.
  • Any quantity of choice plucked ducks
  • Salt, pepper, and thyme to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter per duck plus more for final browning
  • 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
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;
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.

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