Baked Pheasant and Wild Rice

Prospects for pheasant hunting in North Dakota this fall aren’t as promising as they’ve been the past couple of years. But that’s not going to stop a lot of hunters from taking the field, including me.

That’s because in my opinion, there’s nothing that can compare with the baked pheasant and wild rice dish that my family has become accustomed to since I’ve been chasing the elusive game bird the past 20 years or so.

Just the other night, we hosted a small family gathering, and we had the dish that I’ve come to perfect over the years. Not to brag, but as usual, it drew raves from everyone. And as far as I’m concerned, the leftovers are just as good the next day.

So, in anticipation of a successful ringneck season (with a little hard work), I’m going to share the recipe, so other hunters can enjoy this meal as much as we do.

Baked Pheasant and Wild Rice
6 to 8 deboned pheasant breasts
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 to 1½ cups wild rice
1 10½-ounce can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup
½ to 1 cup red wine
½ cup cooking sherry
½ pint half and half
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon Louisiana Cajun seasoning
½ cup olive oil
1 cup water
Mix the flour, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and Louisiana Cajun spice in a bowl. Roll pheasant breasts in flour mixture and brown in olive oil.
Mix the onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms and wild rice with red wine, soup and water in a large roasting pan.
When you are finished browning the breasts, place them atop the wild rice mixture. Deglaze the frying pan with the cooking sherry and pour over the pheasants. Top with the cream.
Bake in 350-degree oven for 2 to 3 hours or until done. You may have to add more water while it is cooking.

Dog’s Nose Salsa

I’m not one to shy away from hot food. In fact, when we went out to eat at the Boardwalk Bar & Grill in East Grand Forks the other night and my choice was a Cajun Chicken Sandwich, our waitress warned me about the heat it packed.

She gave me the option of having a habanero sauce that comes with the sandwich on the side, but I declined. I’ll have to admit the sandwich was a bit spicy but not too much so for me. In fact, I kind of relished it.

And apparently, I’m not the only one in my family who likes hot stuff. A cousin of mine, Kim Menard of Detroit Lakes, Minn., and I were visiting recently when the topic of canning came up. I told him about my homemade salsa and offered to give him some but said the heat varies from batch to batch. He said not to worry because he grows habanero peppers and makes a sauce out of them because he love the heat.

In case you don’t know, the habanero is one of the hottest chili peppers around, a member of the Scotch Bonnet family. With a  rating of 100,000 to 500,000 units on the Scoville Scale, it’s second only to the Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper (500,000 to 1 million units). In comparison, a jalapeno is 2,500 to 5,000 units.

After talking to Kim, I decided to share this recipe that came my way, which is right up his alley.

Dog’s Nose Salsa (Xni Pec)
1 to 4 habanero or Scotch bonnet chili peppers, stemmed and finely chopped (see note)
2 medium red tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch cubes, with juices
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice or more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste, adding more lime juice if needed.
Yield: About 2½ cups
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (based on 6): 24 calories, no fat, 1 gram protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 5 milligrams sodium.
Note: This fiery salsa originated in the Yucatán. Xni Pec, a Mayan term, is pronounced “SHNEE-pek. For a slightly milder salsa, seed the chilies.

Beef French Dip Sandwiches

I’ve been a sandwich kind of guy ever since my childhood. And I still am. Lunch at our house usually consisted of a sandwich of some sort, a glass of milk, maybe a piece of fruit and a cookie or two for dessert.

We always had sandwich meat and fresh bread on hand because Saturday mornings, my dad would go to Cox Bakery in Crookston and pick up five loaves of unsliced bread. He then would stop next door at Erickson’s Meat Market and buy some minced ham, summer sausage and liverwurst for sandwiches.

Maybe it’s something about being a boy that makes sandwiches so appealing. I don’t know. But my grandson, Rakeem, likes to go with Therese — and sometimes me — to Dakota Harvest Bakery on Saturdays and have a sandwich for lunch. One of his favorites is the French dip — roast beef and provolone cheese served on a crusty baguette with au jus for dipping.

I thought about that while browsing Facebook today. A friend, Pam Butala, had posted a recipe for beef  French dip sandwiches that looked quite appealing, so I’ve decided to share it here.

Beef French Dip Sandwiches
3 to 6 pounds beef, any cut
3 cans beef broth
1 package onion soup mix
2 cans. beer
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Mix last 5 ingredients and pour over beef in a bean pot or slow cooker. Put lid on and bake at 225 degrees for at least 6 hours.
Serve on Kaiser roll with bean salad on the side.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Indian food is among the tastiest in the world, yet the only time many people eat it is when they go to an ethnic restaurant.

Probably the two biggest reasons people give for not wanting to make Indian food is that it’s too complicated or too time-consuming. Well, the folks at New Asian Cuisine (www.newasiancuisine.com) say it doesn’t have to be that way.

A recent email from them offered up several recipes, including the following for chicken curry, which can be on the table in 20 minutes but still uses fresh ingredients for an authentic taste. The recipe is contained in Hari Nayak’s “My  Indian Kitchen,” which is available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble Booksellers and Tuttle Publishing for $27.95.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry
1 large onion (about ½ pound), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 fresh green chili peppers, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 tablespoons oil
1¼ to 1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs and/or breasts, cubed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup water
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
Place the onion, green chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds in a blender and process, adding a few tablespoons of water to make a smooth thick paste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and salt and fry, stirring frequently, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
To same pan you used to cook the chicken, add the spice paste and fry over low heat for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the chicken, tomato paste, garam masala and cook gently, stirring well, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the water, cover the pan, and increase the heat to medium. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle with the fresh coriander leaves and serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.

Grilled Garden Veggies with Pasta

Anyone who has a garden knows that it can be a challenge this time of summer. The tomatoes are really starting to come into their own (a large bowl daily), the beans are continuing to produce every day or two, and yes, the zucchini is nearly at the nuisance stage.

But that’s the kind of challenge I relish because I like to can and freeze vegetables and love to cook them. There hasn’t been a day in the past two to three weeks that I haven’t been harvesting produce or putting up goodies for the winter. Some days, I’m doing both.

The tomatoes have been particularly hard to keep up with this year because I have two cherry tomato plants. That wasn’t my intention. It turns out one plant that was labeled Old German (a heirloom variety) wasn’t that at all. It was another cherry tomato plant.

One way I keep ahead of the game is to cook a meal with fresh vegetables at least three or four times a week. A favorite is to use cherry tomatoes in a marinara sauce along with eggplant, peppers, onion and a squash. (I’ve found that a food processor chops the tomatoes so nicely that even the skins are aren’t detectable in the sauce.) And it’s wonderful over pasta.

One way I haven’t tried to use the cherry tomatoes is on the grill. But I discovered the following recipe just a day or two ago that calls for the tasty little red orbs to be grilled along with other vegetables and to be served with pasta.

Grilled Veggies with Penne
1 pound penne pasta
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup fruity olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium (about 6 to 8 inches) eggplant
2 medium red onions
2 medium zucchini
1 large red pepper
½ teaspoon favorite salt-free all-purpose seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
1 7- to 8-ounce container cherry-size fresh mozzarella, drained
1/3 cup fresh sliced basil or oregano leaves for garnish
Preheat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is hot, oil the grates.
While the grill heats up, cook the pasta according to package directions and prepare the vegetables. When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and keep it warm.
Place tomatoes on a double piece of foil. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Enclose the tomatoes in the foil and place on the grill while you prepare the other vegetables.
Use a serrated knife to cut the eggplant into ½-inch-thick slices. Slice the red onion into ½-inch-thick slices. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut the red pepper into eighths.
Place all vegetables on a sided baking sheet. Brush both sides of vegetables with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil (using more if needed), sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper and salt-free seasoning.
Place all the vegetables on the grill and grill about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender. They should have nice grill marks on each side. If some vegetables get done before the others, move them to a cooler part of the grill.
Check the tomatoes; they should have burst open in the foil packet and be nice and juicy.
Remove all the vegetables from the grill, placing them on the same baking sheet. Cut the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper into 1-inch pieces. Separate the red onion into rings.
In a large serving bowl, toss the hot pasta with the grilled vegetables. Add the tomatoes with all the juices and toss to coat. If the mixture seems too dry, drizzle with some of the reserved pasta water or use a bit more olive oil. Add the mozzarella and toss again. Serve in pasta bowls garnished with basil or oregano.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 534 calories, 34 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 69 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 863 milligrams sodium, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams fiber.

Peachy Pork Chops

I feel fortunate to have been raised in a family that liked to can and preserve food — and lucky to have a wife who shares my passion. And I sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows how to put up goodies that can be enjoyed months after they’ve been in season.

That presumption was proved wrong this past week when Kathleen Shea, former reporter for the Philadelphia Daily New, offered me some homemade peach cobbler before our afternoon budget huddle at the Herald.

Kathleen, who moved her a couple of years ago with her husband, Rich Aregood, the Charles R. Johnson Professor of Journalism at UND and former Pulizter Prize-winning editorial page editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, recently joined us a few hours a week to critique the newspaper.

Kathleen said she had bought some Colorado peaches at the downtown Farmers Market from the Grand Forks Youth for Christ, which has been conducting its annual fundraiser. I told her that we were going to be get some peaches and were going to can some of them. She then said that she was deathly afraid of canning. I assured her there was nothing to it and that canning using the water-bath method was a lot different that using a pressure cooker.

We didn’t can all of our peaches. We kept some to eat, and I may use some of them in a recipe or two, including the following one with pork chops.

Pork Chops with Peaches
2 strips bacon
4 pork chops
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
¾ cup dry white wine
3 to 4 fresh peaches, chopped in ½-inch cubes
6 to 8 leaves fresh basil, sliced in thin strips
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; drain on paper-towel-lined plate. When cool, crumble.
Meanwhile, season chops with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add oil to skillet if needed so that chops won’t stick; add chops to skillet. Cook over medium high heat, turning once, until browned on both sides, 5 minutes per side. Remove from skillet; keep warm. (If using thick chops, you may need to finish in the oven; do so at 350 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.)
Add wine to skillet; cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any bits from the chops, until reduced slightly, 2 minutes. Add peaches to skillet; season with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until warmed through and slightly softened, 5 minutes.
Return chops to skillet; spoon peaches over. Divide chops among 4 plates, topped by peaches, crumbled bacon and basil.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 218 calories, 49 percent of calories from fat, 12 grams fa (4 grams saturated fat), 65 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 422 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Salmon Noodle Hotdish

I’m one of those shoppers who sometimes buys on the spur of the moment. And if you’re anything like me, you know how easy it is to get a stockpile of canned goods in the pantry.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take inventory every couple of months to make sure the canned goods don’t go out of date.

Right now, we probably have at least a half-dozen cans of kidney beans as well as that many ones of green beans on the shelf. There also is a good supply of canned soups, mushrooms, tomato sauce and the like.

Another staple that I like to have on hand is canned seafood such as tuna and salmon. Both are excellent on sandwiches, but my favorite way to use them is in casseroles.

While checking things out the other day, I came across some canned salmon and went in search of a recipe in which to use it. What caught my attention was the following hotdish recipe in a northwestern Minnesota church cookbook. The recipe also contained canned whole-kernel corn, which is another one of the things we like to keep on hand.

Salmon Noodle Hotdish
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 14¾-ounce can salmon
1 15¼-ounce can corn
2 cups cooked noodles
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 cup crushed crackers (or bread crumbs)
Make white sauce of butter, milk and flour. Add to rest of ingredients, put in greased casserole with crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.