Marinated Duck Breast with Mango Salsa

Not everyone likes wild game. Perhaps the two biggest complaints that its detractors have is that it is hard to cook and doesn’t taste good. That couldn’t be further from the truth — if the meat has been handled properly after it has been harvested.

That said, people who take good care of their meat usually can cook it and feed it to those who’ve never had it before and not receive any complaints.

This time of the year, a lot of hunters are cleaning out their freezers of any game from 2011 in anticipation of upcoming seasons. I’m one of those people.

Just the other night, we had elk, pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and duck from the grill. All of the meat had been marinated overnight and was as tender as the choicest beef.

I’ve never had trouble coming up with my own recipes to cook wild game. But that doesn’t mean I don’t other people’s recipes, which brings me to “Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish” by Jesse Griffiths with photographs by Jody Horton.

I recently received a press release about the book described as follows:

“From the backwoods of Texas comes a wild game and fish cookbook, filled with recipes, stories and evocative and step-by-step photography; a one-of-a-kind guide to simple, rustic, instinctual cooking techniques, field dressing methods, sourcing directly and impeccably, foraging intelligently and respectfully, hunting and fishing sustainably and an only-take-what-you-need philosophy and lifestyle. Vegetables and fruit are just as important to these recipes as the meat and fish. . . .  Live simply. Cook simply.”

It goes on to say that Griffiths, an acclaimed chef, butcher, and hunting teacher, combines traditional methods of field dressing, butchering and preparing fish and game with 85 rustic mouthwatering recipes, suitable for the novice and experienced cook alike, some of which I hope to share with readers in the future.

Meanwhile, here is a recipe for Marinated Duck Breast with Mango Salsa that a fellow food blogger recently shared online.

Marinated Duck Breast with Mango Salsa
4 duck breasts
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon grass. chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
Pepper to taste
1 small red onion
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 large mango, chopped
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (some brands can be very sweet, you may want to combine chili sauce with sweet chili so it is not to sweet.)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
¾ teaspoon sugar
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, mix well, add duck and combine, marinade for several hours or overnight.
For the mango salsa combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, cover and refrigerate an hour or two before serving.
Heat an unoiled pan. Prick duck skin all over, add duck skin side down to pan, cook until browned and crisp. (you will have to drain the fat several times while cooking as there is a lot of fat in the skin of a duck.) Spread about a teaspoon of marinade onto the meat of the breast then place on a wire rack skin side up. Bake in preheated oven at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked as desired.
Serve duck with mango salsa.

Wild Game Wrapped in Bacon on the Grill

Grilling usually isn’t an activity most people associate with winter. But with temperatures in the 60s and hardly a lick of snow to be found, this isn’t your typical Midwest winter day. In fact, if you look at the calendar, you’ll discover that technically spring is still a few days away.

And I bet if you were to take a drive around your town, you probably would find quite a few people dusting off their barbecues for some weekend grilling. That’s what I’ll be doing Sunday, when we’re expecting some guests from Cincinnati. (My granddaughter, Naomi, and her boyfriend, Brandon, are on their way to Grand Forks via train.)

I’m planning to grill wild game for them, including pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and duck breasts as well as some elk tenderloin. Also on the menu will be vegetables and a tasty rhubarb dessert.

I’ll be marinating the meat overnight in a mixture of teriyaki, orange juice and honey. When it comes time to throw the meat on the grill, I’m going to stuff the breasts and fillets with slices of garlic, jalapeno and onion before wrapping them in bacon.

I can’t think of a better way to say good-bye to winter.

Jeff’s  Meat Marinade
1 cup of teriyaki sauce
½ cup of orange juice
½ cup of honey
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary (optional)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Mix ingredients in rectangular contain like a cake pan. Place meat in container  and then put in meat; let it sit in fridge for at least a day.
Note: Any kind of meat works well, from wild game such as venison, upland birds or waterfowl as well as domestic cuts (beef, pork, buffalo) and chicken. This recipe can be doubled easily.

Wild Game Meatloaf

A lot of people consider meatloaf the quintessential comfort food. But it’s much than that to me. Meatloaf is one of those dishes that transcends its ingredients. It’s part of the fabric of life for me and a lot of other people of my generation.

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, meatloaf was a visitor to our dining room table at least once a week. We usually had it with baked potatoes and some cream-style corn. It also was one of the mainstays at our school hot lunch.

Meatloaf still is one of my favorite foods. And I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. Just recently, I came across the following recipe that was adapted from one that originated at Wildcat Willies in Springdale, Utah, and was featured in the Los Angeles Times and distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

What caught my eye was that it combined ground hamburger with ground bison and elk, both of which I have in my freezer. The meatloaf is spiced up with steak seasoning, a little marinara to keep it moist and colorful diced red and green peppers.

Wildcat Willies Wild Game Meatloaf
1 pound hamburger (15 percent fat)
½ pound ground bison
½ pound ground elk or venison
½ cup diced red pepper
½ cup diced green pepper
½ cup diced onion
1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs
1 egg
1½ teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning
1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons marinara sauce
1 pound bacon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Granulated garlic
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the hamburger, ground bison and elk or venison. Add the red and green pepper, the onion, bread crumbs, egg, steak seasoning and marinara. Mix the ingredients with your hands, kneading well to thoroughly incorporate. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Line a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or dish with bacon. Pack the meatloaf mixture into the dish, then very gently invert onto a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle over a pinch each of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic.
Bake the meatloaf for 1 hour then increase the heat to 400 degrees and continue to bake the meatloaf until the bacon is crisp and a thermometer inserted in the center of the meatloaf reaches 165 degrees, 15 to 30 minutes (timing will vary depending on how quickly the oven heats). Remove and set aside for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 550 calories, 31 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 38 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 115 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams sugar, 909 milligrams sodium.

Marinade Magic

I really like this time of the year because there always is plenty to eat in our house. We’re still living off many of the vegetables we grew in our garden this past summer, and the wild game in our freezers is still abundant.

My most recent foray into the freezer yielded six pheasant breasts that I marinated and cooked on our Foreman Grill. Along with some steamed asparagus topped with a nice Hollandaise sauce, baked potatoes and salad, it was a most memorable meal.

Normally, I would have put together my own marinade (the recipe follows) for the pheasant, but this time a bottled version from JP & Foods of Fargo did the trick. The Hunter’s Choice Marinade (original) was as tasty a store-bought marinade as I have tried.

I marinated the breasts for about four hours before putting them on the Foreman for about seven minutes. The pheasant was very tender, and the flavor appealing.

I read on the company’s website (  comments from several people about the marinade products One person said he’s marinated pheasant breasts for 48 hours and then put them in the dehydrator. The result was “great.”

Here are a few tips from Hunter’s Choice on how to be successful marinading:

— Keep your selection simple.
— Pat meat dry before marinating.
— Always use covered container.
— When using a zippered plastic bag, remove as much air as possible.
— When using a covered bowl, invert it often to distribute marinade evenly.
— Keep meat thin  —  ¼ to ½ inch.
— Allow enough time for marinade to permeate meat.
— Use a very hot grill.
— Do not overcook.

Wild Game Marinade
1 cup teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3  cup honey
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary (optional)
Mix ingredients. Place marinade in large, flat container (covered) and then put in meat. Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
Note: Any kind of domestic cuts of meat  works well alos, including beef, pork, buffalo and chicken. Recipe can be doubled easily.

Foolproof Fowl and Wild Rice

My friend and co-worker, Brad Dokken, always is passing on wild game recipes. Of course, he’s our outdoor editor, so those sort of recipes come his way often.

Most recently, he sent over a recipe for Foolproof Pheasant Wild Rice. It was from a cookbook, “America’s Favorite Wild Game Recipes,” which is available online from and for about $19.

The author of this particular recipe is Bob Schranck. I spoke to Bob several years ago when the Herald published an outdoors magazine called Northland Outdoors. Bob, who among other things free-lanced as a sports writer for The Associated Press, called to talk about hunting and cooking and at that time, shared a couple of recipes. I vaguely recall the pheasant recipe as well as another for sharp-tailed grouse.

I never did make the pheasant recipe, but with this fall’s season entering its first week, there’s a distinct possibility we might sample Bob’s creation, since we have nearly all of the ingredients on the pantry shelf and in the freezer.

As usual with most fowl recipes, you can make meat substitutions easily. I think chicken would work great with this recipe, too. So, even if you’re not a hunter, this dandy recipe might be appealing.

Foolproof Fowl and Wild Rice
¼ cup butter or margarine
3 boneless, skinless whole pheasant breasts (or substitute), about 8 ounces each, cut into ¾-inch pieces
1 cup onion, chopped
1 10¾-ounce can cream of condensed mushroom soup
1 10¾-ounce can cream of chicken soup
2 4½ -ounce jars button or sliced mushrooms, drained
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained
½ cup cooking sherry
¼ to ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter or margarine over medium-high heat. Add onions and pheasant pieces. Cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until meat is browned, stirring occasionally
In a 3-quart casserole, combine pheasant mixture and remaining ingredients, except almonds. Cover Bake 2 ½. to 3 hours, or until rice is tender and kernels are open, stirring once during baking. Sprinkle almonds over the top before serving.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 342 calories, 26 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams fat, 874 milligrams sodium.

Mountain Man’s Shish Kebabs

If you[re a hunter like me, you probably have a few wild game steaks lurking in your freezer. And your probably always looking for new ways to prepare them.

Well now, I don’t have to look further than a cookbook that a co-worker, Chuck Haga, gave me the other day. It’s called Cabin Cookbook, which was published by Alaska magazine. It contains more than 130 favorite North Country recipes that tell how to cook wild game, fish, fowl and native plants.

While perusing it, I discovered a recipe called Mountain Man’s Shish Kebabs. It calls for using mountain sheep, but as the introduction states, most meat game is interchangeable with what you buy at the butcher shop or grocery store.

The kebabs in the recipes are marinated overnight and cooked over a campfire or grill the next day. According the the cookbook’s authors, once you serve them, people will be asking for seconds, so have them ready.

Mountain Man’s Shish Kebabs
1 pound game meat, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup wine vinegar (or low-bush cranberry juice)
½ cup salad oil
¼ teaspoon each garlic, salt, onion salt, celery salt and cracked pepper
Mix the vinegar, salad oil and spices. Marinate the meat in the mixture overnight. Be sure there is enough of the liquid to cover the meat.
When ready to barbecue the kebabs, thread them on long skewers, alternating the meat with tiny raw onions, green pepper squares and mushrooms, etc. Cook over campfire or charcoal grill until done enough to suit your tastes.






Men Gone Wild

If you’ve visited my blog since it started last week, you probably have noticed a feature on the right called "Men Gone Wild." Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about this fixture.

Being a hunter and a cook, I’ve come up with a lot of recipes for game such as pheasant, waterfowl, venison and the like. I’ve also picked up several wild game cookbooks over the years that have a lot of pretty tasty recipes.

Whenever I’ve written about wild game on the Herald food page, the response from men (and even some women) has been tremendous, not surprising with the large number of hunters in our area. It seems that everyone is looking for new ways fix their game.

While I do most of the cooking of wild game in our house, my wife, Therese, isn’t averse to it, which isn’t always the case in other households. The biggest complaint I hear from men is that their wives or girlfriends won’t cook wild game, much less eat it.

So, when I decided to start blogging, a feature telling men how to cook wild game seemed like a natural. I’ve already posted about a half-dozen recipes on this site and plan to add three or four every week. Most of the recipes are fairly simple, so you shouldn’t be intimidated. And they are fairly tasty. I’ve turned nongame eaters into aficiandos after they’ve tried some of my creations.

Below are a couple of my favorite recipes, one fairly easy, the other a little more work but well worth it. Give them a try. I’m sure you’ll like them.

And as always, it’s very important to take care with your game after you’ve harvested it. Next fall, when hunting season rolls along, look for some tips here about caring for your game. 

Meat Marinade

1 cup of teriyaki
½ cup of orange juice
½ cup of honey
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary (optional)
Mix ingredients and then put in meat; let it sit in fridge for at least a day.
Note: Any kind of meat works well, from wild game such as venison, upland birds or waterfowl as well as domestic cuts (beef, pork, buffalo) and chicken. Recipe can be doubled easily.
Note: Wrapping the meat (breasts, tenderloins, etc) in a strip of bacon and grilling it is out of this world.

Baked Pheasant

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 half and half.
Bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours or until done. If rice mixture gets a little dry, occasionally add some water. Serve with a vegetable and salad.