Last week, my son and family from Missouri visited me. He was hardly inside the door when Mark inquired if I had any trout in my freezer. But knowing that trout is his favorite meal I had some thawing in the kitchen even as he asked.
In the early years of my outdoor writing career, I resolutely avoided using recipes in my column because back then, most any female who wrote for the outdoors was a cooking columnist - a title I studiously avoided. However, I found that I am constantly approached and asked for tips and recipes on cooking wild things.
What marinades do you use, what do you soak venison in before you cook it and how do you disguise that "wild" taste are the most common questions. My answer is that I do none of those. I prefer the simplest recipes. I don't want to disguise the delicate flavor of trout, walleye, bass or wild turkey and venison.
Here's what I do: I cut along the inside of a trout right alongside the backbone. This is how to butterfly a tout. Then I salt to taste, perhaps a little lemon pepper, roll it in cracker meals and saute it in butter until it is golden brown. So simple and so tasty.
After it is cooked, you can grasp the spine near the tail of the trout and just peel it out. Still, you'll need to be watchful for any stray bone. Some folks filet even trout, which is a bit of a chore but it does eliminate having bones. Just saute slowly and don't overcook and you'll have as fine a taste treat as there is.
Wild turkey is cooked the same way you cook any poultry, remembering that because it is a wild meat and not artificially laced with fat or steroids, it will not require as long a cooking time. When I harvest a turkey, I skin it by cutting vertically down the breastbone, pulling the skin and feathers away from the breast and then with a sharp knife, I filet the breast meat off the bones. The legs of a wild turkey are so bony I don't even bother with them.
I slice the breast meat into strips, soak them in the egg/milk mixture and then deep-fry them in fresh oil. It is so simple and so delicious. And, as it happened with my family, once you eat turkey breast fixed in this simple way, you'll never want roast turkey again.
You can, however, either roast the breast meat filets whole and serve with gravy. Another simple way is to throw a breast filet whole into the crock-pot, with some chicken broth and cook.
Wild turkey is delicious if not overcooked or soaked to death in strange flavors. Such treatment is not necessary. The secret to cooking any wild meat is in remembering that wild meat is not laced with fat; therefore, it must not be cooked as long as comparable domestic cuts would be cooked. If you overcook wild meat it will dry right up when you take it off the stove and will become tough. I truly have seen that it is usually because of overcooking, that most people will declare that they "don't like wild meat."
For outdoor cooking on the grill, try this one. A "company " recipe but really easy for any day provided you have the ingredients on hand.
Foil wrapped fish fillets
n Softened butter or margarine
n 1 to 2 pounds fish fillets
n Onion salt, pepper and paprika.
n Chablis wine and lemon juice.
For each serving, use a 2-foot length of heavy-duty aluminum foil; fold in half. Spread one side with butter. Place one serving fish on buttered foil. Sprinkle with onion salt, pepper and salt. Pour 2 tablespoons wine and lemon juice over fish. Wrap foil around fish, using double folds and pressing securely to make a tight seal. Grill over a rack over hot coals about 5 minutes, turning occasionally or until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork.
Golden fish fillets
n 2 pounds fish fillets
n 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
n cup Rhine or Chablis wine
n 1 envelope cheese sauce mix
n Tomato wedges or chopped green pepper
Cook fish in butter in large skillet about 5 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned and fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add water, wine and contents of sauce mix envelope to pan. Cook and stir until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Spoon over fish. Garnish with tomato or pepper wedges.
Just skimming these recipes will tell you how easy they are to prepare. And quick, taking 15 minutes from start to finish. And so delicious, I personally testify to that.
The above two recipes came to me from Norinne Cole, the outdoor cooking specialist employed at the time by Widmer Wines. A group of outdoor writers were fishing Canandaigua Lake, the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes in New York. She shared these and other recipes with us and I have, over the years, tried them all. These are simple recipes, great cooked on the open grill and fast and easy. That's what I appreciate most about them. Adding the wines give a certain dash to the taste.