Sportsman’s Paella

Good lord, we are well into Spring already! Fishing season is about to ramp up, and I still need clear some of last season’s catch out of my freezer.
As I begin writing this, it’s national Paella Day. And it’s the perfect time of year to focus on this classic Spanish dish. The beauty of this recipe, aside from the taste, is that whether you’re a fisherman, a hunter, or both, you can use your freezer stores, in combination in this dish, to delicious effect.

Like many great ethnic dishes, Paella began as peasant food, regular folk cooking up whatever they had available with rice and maybe some vegetables. And that is what makes this a perfect dish for using what you have in the freezer. Fish, fowl, meat, shellfish… it all works in Paella. And I’m not saying to select just one, this is an any and all situation. Of course, that does make it tricky to give you a precise recipe, as we all have different proteins that we will want to use, and different amounts of it to use up. No worries though, I’ll give you a solid, basic recipe, and you will just need to adjust a little depending on what you want to put in it.

There are a number of ingredients, as far as protein goes, that are pretty standard for Paella. You can make an all seafood Paella, which is awesome and of course, very Bait 2 Plate. Still, traditional Paella usually includes sausage and poultry, as well as shellfish. If you have ground venison or other game you want to use, I suggest seasoning it with garlic, sage, black pepper, and chili powder, before adding it to the Paella. Chicken is a standard in many Paella recipes, but for our purposes, duck, goose, pheasant, quail, et al. are all excellent options. I had some whole duck that I used this time around.
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Christmas Goose

Is there anything that sounds more traditional than that?  The words “Christmas Goose” conjure up images of a traditional, old world holiday dinner, like Bob Cratchit sat down to with his family in that Charles Dickens novel.  At least, until Scrooge screwed things up by sending over the old, overgrown, and probably tough & stringy turkey.

The Christmas Goose is a tradition we need to resurrect, especially if you are a hunter and bag your own birds…. or if you have a friend who is kind enough to hook you up.  Thank you Rob!

You’ll notice from the pictures that I didn’t do a classic whole roasted bird.  That’s simply because it isn’t the best way to prepare goose.  You’ll be seeing this a lot as this blog goes on.  The breast meat of ducks and geese is best served relatively lightly cooked, while the leg quarters and wings require longer, slower cooking to be at their best. My waterfowl recipes are often going to involve breaking down the birds and cooking the breasts and leg quarters separately.  All right, I am working on a whole sous vide duck recipe, but that’s a story for another post.

In keeping with the old world holiday vibe, I decided to serve my goose with a Cumberland sauce.  It’s a classic British sauce made traditionally with currant jelly, Port wine, and citrus, and it used to be commonly served with game.  However, classic Cumberland can be a bit too sweet for my liking, so I modified my version of it by losing the Port and substituting a dry red wine, and by adding in the rich, savory stock you get when you braise the goose’s legs and wings.

I wanted to serve the bird over a starch, something that would elevate the dish (literally since I’m putting the goose on top of it) and would soak up the juices that run off the goose.  Can’t have that flavor going to waste.  Stuffing would work, as would mashed potatoes, but after a little consideration I chose to serve a creamy polenta with it.  Polenta is less typical than the other two choices.  It has a rich, satisfying flavor with just a hint of natural sweetness that pairs with the goose and the sauce really well.   Adding sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and a little parmesan into it, really bring the whole meal alive.

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