This was not easy.
David and I struggled mightily to pick three winners from last week’s Wild Chef cookbook contest in which we asked readers to share their perfect last meal featuring fish or wild game. The struggle wasn’t due to the fact that there weren’t enough good entries. It’s that there were too many great ones to choose from. The menus all sounded the delicious, and the settings for each meal were all quite nice. In the end, David and I couldn’t settle on three winners.
So, we chose four.
Here are your winners:
MaxPower: My last meal would be with my dad, brothers, and a few other close relatives at elk camp in the Bridger-Tetons. Everything seems to taste better after a long day of hunting, but this meal beats anything, anytime. Part of the experience is sharing the day’s hunting stories in the smoke-filled cook tent with everyone else.
The starter would have to be fresh elk heart, cut nice and thin then coated lightly with flour before frying. The entree would have to be grilled elk backstrap, wrapped in bacon and, of course, with some sauteed mushrooms on the side. Pair that up with some Dutch oven potatoes, grilled corn on the cob and maybe some Bonneville cutthroats (caught by the guys lucky enough to tag their elk on the first day), and I’m in heaven. Strange as it may sound, Tang is a staple in camp. I never drink it any other time of the year, but it’s in camp and always seems to go well with whatever we’re eating.
If I have the willpower to save room for dessert, it’d be a bowl of piping hot, Dutch oven peach cobbler with a little cream to help cool it down.
Dyobcire: If I were living my last day on this earth, I’d want to spend it hunting and fishing. Let’s put this last day and meal on the third weekend in October–a week after the deer opener in my state, and the weekend that upland birds open. I’d spend that day on my favorite cast-and-blast with a close friend, chasing upland birds and fishing for steelhead in southeast Washington. That night, at camp, it’d be time to get started on my ideal meal.
For the starter I’d keep it simple with a grilled quail from the hunt–just rub on a bit of oil, sprinkle with salt and some herbs, top with a small piece of bacon, and grill away.
For the entree it would absolutely have to be deer tenderloin, ideally from a deer harvested the prior weekend. Now, as it’d be my last meal, I could justify getting a bit fancy. Season it up with salt and pepper, quickly seared to rare on each side in a cast iron pan with some oil, and put aside to rest. In the cast iron, whip up a morel cream sauce to go with the deer. Toss the sauce over the tenderloin, add some grilled asparagus on the side, and dig right in.
I’m less picky on the dessert, but since I’m camping, I think I’d have to go with a Dutch oven cobbler. Nothing beats those. In keeping with the wild theme, lets make it huckleberry.
Scottgill: My last meal would be an autumn day dinner as the sun goes down on Reelfoot Lake in northern Tennessee. We owned a cabin on the shoreline just a few miles from a fishing community, and I spent every weekend of my childhood and teen years fishing and duck hunting among the cypress trees. I would want my beautiful wife and four kids there so they could take in the place that still permeates my imagination. Fox squirrels would frolic in the branches above us, running for cover as a bald eagle lands on a nearby branch (they migrate there every year). A bass would splash in the cove to fill his belly with evening bugs.
For starters: Duck and sausage gumbo, piping hot, served with a homemade cheddar biscuit (like the ones served at Red Lobster). Years ago I sampled this take on the Cajun favorite at a restaurant on Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn., and I’ve never forgotten it.
Then the entree: A plate of American Bison prime rib (medium) from Alaska with mashed potatos, smothered in cream gravy (bring on the biscuits again, it is a final meal…) and southern fried okra.
Finally, the dessert: Southern-style blackberry cobbler made from berries picked fresh from the bush and topped with home-churned French vanilla ice cream. I’d wash all this down with a frosty pint of Guinness Draught (make it a couple).
OMuilleoir: For the final meal, it would be in the cabin overlooking the Gros Ventre Wilderness in Wyoming as the first snow is falling. My wife would be there, as would mom and dad, brother, and my two sisters. Lolita, the pointing lab, could watch but not partake.
Starters: Grilled, bacon-wrapped mallard breasts (freshly harvested of course) with turtle soup. Complemented with brandy/whiskey old-fashion cocktails.
Main event: Smoked rainbow trout (caught on a Royal Wulff), dill sauce, and capers on a bed of mushroom risotto with grilled asparagus, and twice baked potato. Complemented with Snake River Lager.
Dessert: Warmed cherry pie (wife’s recipe) with a heaping scoop of vanilla. Complemented with a Stinger cocktail (white creme de menthe & brandy). What a way to ride off into the sunset!
And there you go. Thank you all for participating, and congratulations to MaxPower, dyobcire, scottgill, and OMuilleoir. Guys, please email your mailing addresses to FSwildchef@gmail.com, and I’ll send your copy of the cookbook.
And if you missed out on the contest, but would like The Wild Chef cookbook, you can order it here.