Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fried Walleye with Garlic Chile Sauce

It's been an absolutely amazing spring in North Dakota.  Temps in the 70s is unheard of, and we've been spoiled the past few weeks with summer-like days at a time when we are most accustomed to hunkering down during a spring blizzard. 

(Don't jinx it, Beth!)

Last weekend we went down to the banks of the Missouri River here in Bismarck, where last year's flood has left huge sand deposits along the riverbanks.  I'm already picturing long languid summer afternoons on the river sandbars, sunglasses on, a cold iced tea at my side, the coconut smell of sunscreen, the boats cruising by.  It's going to be awesome. 

We took a little family stroll in the sand this weekend and noticed the shore fishermen out in force.  I didn't see many fish reeled in, but I think they were ok with that.  After all, we all know they are really out there just to have a reason to sit outside and not do a whole heck of a lot.  Talk.  Listen.  Observe.  Enjoy.

My hubby and Grandpa Joe went fishing the next day and brought back a few nice walleye.  Dinner!  For the record, one of my favorite meals in the whole world is a simple plate of fried walleye.  I don't need tartar sauce, I don't need lemon, just a good shake of Shore Lunch and serve it up hot, right out of the cast iron pan. I especially like the thin extra crispy ones. It doesn't get any better than that.
Checking out the day's catch

But I also love Asian flavors and with walleye being such a mild tasting fish, it's perfect to use this dish.  Follow this recipe to the letter and you will not be disappointed.  However, if you are like me and nibble while cooking, note that the fried fish hot out of the pan is not going to be Shore Lunch tasty, since it is only battered in cornstarch; the real flavor comes in when you pour the sauce over the fried fish.  

Fried Walleye with Garlic Chile Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet Today - the green-colored Gourmet cookbook.  If you don't already have a copy, get it.  There isn't a bad recipe in the bunch, all 800+ pages of it!

1/2 c. chicken stock
3 Tbls. Asian fish sauce
3 Tbls. packed brown sugar
1 Tbls. sriracha sauce (less for the German Russians, up to double for spicemongers)
2 Tbls. white vinegar
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 and 1/2 lbs. walleye fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 bunches scallions (aka green onions), chopped
3 Tbls. chopped garlic
3 (2" long) dried red chiles (optional)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving

Whisk together stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, vinegar and 2 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch and sugar are dissolved.

Pat fish dry and cut into 1" wide pieces. Toss with salt, place in large Ziploc bag, add remaining cornstarch to bag, and shake to coat. 

Heat 1" of oil in a wok or cast iron pan until hot.  Fry fish in batches until cooked through and pale golden, about 3 mins per batch.  Transfer to paper towel lined plate. 

Carefully pour hot oil off and wipe pan clean. Return 2 Tbls. oil to pan and heat over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir in scallions and garlic (and optional red chiles) and stir-fry until scallions are softened, about 2 mins. Stir fish sauce mixture, stir into scallion mixture, and bring to a boil.  Remove chiles, if used.  Boil sauce until slightly thickened, about 3 mins. 

Transfer fish to platter and pour sauce over fish.  Top with cilantro and serve immediately with rice.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Turkey Talk

"The MIGHTY 790 KFGO."  I get such a kick out of it when Doug says that.  Indeed, 790 AM in Fargo is mighty: Mike McFeely, Joel Heidkamp, and Doug Leier (among others) are all featured hosts on this popular talk radio station and for some reason, every now and then, Doug thinks it's a fantastic idea to put this kitchen novice on his radio show Outdoors Live and talk turkey.

And we literally talk turkey. And venison.  And walleye.  And pheasant.  But turkey is what we're talking about on this weekend's broadcast.  Curious?  Check it out here.

As discussed on the program, here's my ultimate wild turkey brine recipe.  FOR A MOIST BIRD, YOU MUST BRINE WILD TURKEY.  If you want to argue with me on this, go right ahead and leave a comment, but I will stand by this truth and we will have to agree to disagree.

In the meantime, I thank Douglas Leier, as always, for giving me the occasional opportunity to embarrass myself so publicly by talking on his radio program.  But hey, at least we have fun doing it!

Wild Turkey Brine
This is adapted from an old article in Field and Stream magazine. This also happens to be the recipe my little brother calls me for every Thanksgiving when he is cooking up a Butterball from whatever naval base he happens to be stationed at that year. I could send him this link, but I'm starting to like the phone call tradition. 

2 gallons water (ok to add more to cover bird - just add more salt, 1/2 cup salt per gallon of water)
1 cup kosher salt (it is important to use kosher - if using regular table salt, reduce by half)
1/4 cup black pepper
1 cup brown sugar

Mix everything together in a large pot or a small cooler.  If you are REALLY ambitious, put it all in a pot and heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved - nice to do, but it's optional; just be sure to cool the brine before placing the turkey in it.  Place the turkey in the brine mixture and, if needed, weigh it down to keep it submerged. Keep in a cool place overnight.

 To cook the bird, we like to smoke it until partially cooked, then finish it in the oven in a turkey bag.  Please note: if you smoke the bird and then try to make turkey stock, you will have smoked stock.  You may find a use for this, but it sure makes for a funky risotto...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dorothy's Peanut Butter Cookies

As much as I love blogging and finding recipes online, I miss recipe cards.

Not necessarily the clutter of them, or losing them, or having a couple loose recipe cards fall every time I pull a cookbook down from the shelf and, not knowing what to do with them, I just stuff them back on the shelf so they can fall down again next time.  But I miss the handwriting, the little scribbled in recipe changes, the very feeling of knowing that same recipe card was lying on my grandmother's counter 30 years ago when she was making her own countless batches of peanut butter cookies. I can identify my grandmother's soft, extended cursive handwriting at a glance - I wonder if my grandbabies will ever get to know my own?

As noted on the recipe card (oh, how I love that green dress lady on there - I'm totally going to wear that myself to cook dinner someday), this is actually a recipe from my great aunt Dorothy Middaugh.  The cookies are crispy, a bit crumbly - I'd actually reduce the flour by a 1/2 cup next time I make them - but for the sake of history, I'm transcribing the ingredients exactly.  And as my mother (the next generation making this recipe) notes, don't overcrowd the baking sheet as they spread out.

Dorothy's Peanut Butter Cookies

1 c. shortening
1 c. creamy peanut butter
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2 and 1/2 c. flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla

Cream shortening and peanut butter together.  Add rest of the ingredients in order (I'd mix the soda, salt, and baking powder in with the flour first, avoiding any nasty soda clumps in your cookie dough).  Form into balls and mash with fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 mins. Makes about four dozen.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scotch Eggs

Here's a party trick that will shock and awe:

1) Wrap a hard boiled egg in a thin patty of venison sausage.
2) Roll the sausage-wrapped egg in flour, dip it in egg wash, then coat it with crushed corn flakes.
3) Fry it up in hot oil.
4) Serve it up hot with mustard.

Sausage wrapped egg magic in progress

I had never heard of Scotch eggs until our little trip this year to the Dickens Festival in Garrison, ND (relive the magic here).  Scotch eggs were one of the "ye olde English" style food offerings.  One bite of that fried sausage-and-egg magic and we were hooked.  Then at the YMCA, waiting for husband and child to come out of the boys' locker room after a family dip in the pool, I was flipping through a back issue of Bon Appetit that someone had left behind and saw this:

So I did what any Scotch egg minded person would do: I glanced around to see if anyone was watching, and proceeded to rip out the recipe.  My apologies to anyone who picked up that issue looking for page 20.  It was me.  

Just a little wrap will do ya

This recipe may seem like a lot of steps, but you can do it in stages.  Boil the eggs and store them in the fridge for a day or two.  Wrap the eggs in sausage and roll them in the corn flakes in advance, then keep them in the fridge for a day, covered with plastic wrap, ready for frying the next day.  Or just do it all at once - once you get started, it goes quickly...especially if you already have a cold Summit brew in the fridge, ready and waiting for its perfect pub food match. 

Scotch Eggs
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2012. At first, I was tempted to skip the corn flake step and just fry them wrapped in only sausage, but so glad I included the corn flake coating - perfect crispy coating.  Original recipe here - I used a thicker layer of sausage than the original recipe states, so needed to lower the oil temp a bit to allow it to cook through.  I also boiled them longer than their soft-boiled egg recipe dictated - I like the yolks hard, but not crumbly dry. 

8 eggs
1 pound venison sausage, casings removed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 hearty cup finely crushed corn flakes
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt, pepper and a good mustard, for serving

First, boil six of the eggs (you'll need the other two later):  place the six eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.  Cover and bring to a boil; simmer for five minutes, then take off the heat, let sit for another three minutes, and then gently drain. Fill the pan with ice water to cool eggs.

Peel the eggs (cooled eggs are easier to peel than warm eggs).  Place flour on a plate, and crushed corn flakes on another plate. Whisk two eggs in a bowl and set along side the plate of flour and plate of corn flakes. Split the sausage into six portions.  Pat one portion of sausage into a thin patty over the length of your palm. Lay one egg on top of sausage and wrap sausage around egg, gently working to seal and completely enclose the egg. Repeat with remaining sausage and eggs. 

Working gently, dip one sausage-wrapped egg in flour, then dip in egg wash, then roll in corn flakes to coat. Repeat with remaining eggs. 

Attach a deep-fry thermometer to side of a large heavy pot. Pour in oil to a depth of 2" and heat over medium heat to 350 degrees. Fry eggs, turning occasionally and maintaining oil temperature of 325 until sausage is cooked through and breading is crisp and golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer eggs to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt and pepper, serve warm with mustard. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homemade Pierogies

My snowbird mother-in-law tells me she can't buy a decent potato in Phoenix.

Bummer. But me thinks being able to go outside and pick enough lemons off the tree to make a pitcher of fresh lemonade should give her a tiny bit of consolation.

It's an embarrassment of riches in North Dakota when it comes to white foods: flour, pasta, bread, potatoes, barley, corn, we've got all that and a bag of flax.  But now, thanks to a growing number of farmers markets, community plots, CSAs, and the ever-present backyard gardens, we're getting more access to local veggies, filling in our dietary color spectrum and creating a more nourishing local palate.

But sometimes, every now and then, my plate is a traditional Midwestern white-out.  Exhibit A: homemade pierogies, served with sauteed onions and sauerkraut, along with Kent's homemade venison know, for some color.

In my mind, pierogies (and basically any kind of filled dumpling) hark back to a long ago time when women were at home tending to the home and family 24/7, with time to do such things as hang out in the kitchen making homemade dough and a separate pot of potato-and-cheese filling, rolling out the dough, cutting the dough into little circles while rolling the potato filling into little balls, wrapping dough circles around the potato balls, sealing each one, boiling them, sometimes frying them in butter too, and serving it up to the family as just another typical Tuesday night dinner.


Nowadays, this is a Sunday project for this lady.  A meditation.  Wax on, wax off.  Create dough, cut dough. Wrap dough, seal dough.  Create, consume.  Be the pierogi.

A word of warning: I'm not Polish and do not have a Polish grandmother to vouch for any pierogi authenticity.  But I found these to be pretty darn tasty, in a comforting, carbs-and-fat kind of way.  I'll admit, though, that the next day I found myself eating a pile of raw carrots at lunch.  It's all about balance.  Be the carrot.

Homemade Pierogies
Makes 48 pierogies. Note you can freeze the formed-but-not-yet-cooked pierogies in a Ziploc for up to a month. This recipe is right out of the lovely leaf green Gourmet Today cookbook.  Thank you, Ruth Reichl.  Thank you. 

For dough
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For potato filling

  • 1 1/2 pound russet (baking) potatoes
  • 6 ounces shredded Cheddar (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For onion topping

  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

  • Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter
  • Accompaniment: sour cream

Make dough:
Put flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in center. Add water, egg, oil, and salt to well and carefully beat together with a fork without incorporating flour. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (dough will be very soft). Invert a bowl over dough and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Make filling while dough stands:
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes, then transfer to a bowl along with cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mash with a potato masher or a handheld electric mixer at low speed until smooth.
When mashed potatoes are cool enough to handle, spoon out a rounded teaspoon and lightly roll into a ball between palms of your hands. Transfer ball to a plate and keep covered with plastic wrap while making 47 more balls in same manner (there will be a little filling left over).

Make onion topping:
Cook onion in butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally (stir more frequently toward end of cooking), until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Form and cook pierogies:
Halve dough and roll out 1 half (keep remaining half under inverted bowl) on lightly floured surface (do not overflour surface or dough will slide instead of stretching) with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round (1/8 inch thick), then cut out 24 rounds with lightly floured cutter. Holding 1 round in palm of your hand, put 1 potato ball in center of round and close your hand to fold round in half, enclosing filling. Pinch edges together to seal completely. (If edges don't adhere, brush them lightly with water, then seal; do not leave any gaps or pierogi may open during cooking.) Transfer pierogi to a lightly floured kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and cover with another towel. Form more pierogies in same manner.

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add half of pierogies, stirring once or twice to keep them from sticking together, and cook 5 minutes from time pierogies float to surface. Transfer as cooked with a slotted spoon to onion topping and toss gently to coat. Cook remaining pierogies in same manner, transferring to onions. Reheat pierogies in onion topping over low heat, gently tossing to coat.