I met a new friend recently who had moved back to North Dakota from California.
When the afternoon discussion turned to the many options for restaurants now available in North Dakota that weren’t here when he left for the military, we both recalled fond memories of growing up in rural North Dakota and eating more grouse, duck, partridge and venison meals than fast food.
I’ve dined on an array of wild game preparations, from delicacies like lemon-pepper broiled walleye, to more obscure offerings such as sandhill crane stir-fry, and the tradition of fried deer heart, liver and onions. There’s something to be said for the personal satisfaction of hunting for birds or big game and preparing your own meal.
It sort of fits along the same line as today’s popularity of farmers markets and locally grown products.
Similar to dining out, we each have our own preferences when it comes to wild game cuisine. A few pointers to help:
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First off, you can’t make a fillet mignon out of ground chuck. If you don’t take care of the meat in the field, no amount of seasoning or any style of preparation will overcome the damage done. Take care of your game from the field to the fork.
Properly cleaning the meat, cooling it down quickly, keeping it cool and processing it efficiently are important. Along with that, proper packaging and storage will ensure the meat stays fresh longer.
Arm-chair deer processors will fry pounds of back straps as they work their way through carcasses. When the work is done, the end result is an array of products, from breakfast sausage, deer roasts and burger, to venison brats, summer sausage and stew meat.
Odds are, if you enjoy traditional food such as stir-fry, you’ll be able to modify the recipe to include the bounties of nature. Some will work with the flavor and the texture of the meat to enhance it. Others may prefer to mix in different rubs, spices or sauces. It’s up to the individual.
One final note. In addition to the limited dining-out choices in LaMoure, N.D., 30 years ago, we also didn’t have access to information that today’s modern technology provides. I’d venture to guess that for every cut of meat or species of fish or game, somebody has tried a unique way to prepare or cook it, and they probably have a recipe or even an instruction video online somewhere if you want to look for new ideas.
However, similar to other internet cautions, you may want to stop and think before you decide giving pickled partridge a try. Yes it exists, and no I haven’t tried it ... yet.
The bottom line is that all of us who hunt and fish can look back on days afield or on the water when we had memorable times with no game or fish in the bag on the way home. It’s those types of days that help us appreciate all the more the successes that lead to fine dining courtesy of our great outdoors.
Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.