If you’re like me, you enjoy cooking from cookbooks (I’m useless in the kitchen without some written instructions on the counter), and already this fall a couple new ones—both with Southern roots—have caught my eye.
First is Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes by John Besh—a great chef, and an enthusiastic hunter who has shared many wild-game recipes with F&S in the past. Besh runs some of the finest and nicest restaurants in New Orleans, but the recipes in this book are simple and soulful and geared toward the home cook. I attended a launch party for the cookbook a couple of months ago, and if the food they were serving (all from the cookbook) was any indication of the rest of the recipes, then this book belongs in the home of anyone who enjoys Cajun comfort food.
Next up is The Southerner’s Cookbook from the team at Garden & Gun magazine. The book covers it all: appetizers, chicken, pork, beef, fish, game, sides, desserts, sauces, and cocktails. This is my favorite kind of cookbook—one that combines amazing recipes with rich storytelling.
If you need a little more convincing, you’re in luck: Below is a wild-game recipe from each book. If you like what you see (or taste), believe me there’s plenty more.
Applewood Bacon-Wrapped Vension Loin, from The Southern’s Cookbook
1 venison loin, silverskin removed
1 cup whole milk
3 to 4 garlic cloves, crushed
Small handful of whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles picked off the stem and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sliced applewood-smoked bacon
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1) Cut the venison loin in half crosswise and put in a container with the milk, crushed garlic, peppercorns, and rosemary; refrigerate overnight.
2) Drain the venison, discarding the milk and other ingredients, and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Lay the bacon strips on a cutting board, with pieces overlapping slightly, forming two large bacon sheets. Place one loin half across one bacon sheet and gently roll to cover it with the bacon. Repeat with the other loin half.
4) Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirling to coat the pan. Place the loins in the skillet, seam-side down. Sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bacon is crispy. Add the butter to the skillet, occasionally spooning it over the venison to baste it. Using tongs, turn the loins and sear for 4 to 5 minutes more, continuing to baste with butter, until the bacon is cooked through on all sides and the venison reaches an internal temperature of about 130 ̊F. Remove the loins from the pan and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice into medallions and serve.
Recipe from The Southerner’s Cookbook by the Editors of Garden & Gun/Harper Wave
Mr. Paul’s Duck, Andouille, and Oyster Gumbo, from Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup flour
3 large onions, chopped
1 large domestic duck or 3 wild ducks, cut into quarters
Salt and pepper
2 pounds smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, chopped
4 quarts Go-To Chicken Stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 pound andouille sausage, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Tabasco
3 cups shucked oysters and their liquor
6 cups cooked white rice
1) Make a roux by heating the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and continue whisking until the roux turns a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium low and continue stirring until the roux turns a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
2) Season the duck well with salt and pepper. Add the duck pieces to the pot, increase the heat to medium, and brown, turning the pieces, for about 10 minutes. Add the smoked sausage and stir for 1 minute or two; add the bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes more. Add the green onions, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo (moving the pot half off the burner helps collect the impurities).
3) Add the andouille sausage and Worcestershire and season with Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim fat from the surface. Just before serving, add the oysters and their liquor. Serve the gumbo in bowls with rice. Serves 10
Go-To Chicken Stock
Making stock is not complicated. I freeze the carcasses from every chicken I roast and make stock when I have enough of them. I start by putting the carcasses in a stockpot. Often I’ll brown some chicken and/or turkey wings in the oven (about 1 pound of bones total), and throw them into the pot as well. I then add a couple of chopped carrots and celery stalks along with a few cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Then I pour in enough cool water to cover the bones by a few inches and bring to a boil. Then simply simmer for about 2 hours. Strain it all and you’re done. (And remember, in a pinch, do as so many New Orleans home cooks do: use water.)
To make Fish Stock: Use 1 pound fish heads and bones instead of the chicken.
For Shellfish Stock: Use 1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster.
For Shrimp Stock: Use 1 pound shrimp heads and shells.
For Crab Stock: Use 1 pound crab shells.
Recipe from Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes___ _by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing