OUTDOORSMAN Bradford Angier likes his moose nose roasted over an open fire, but you may prefer what he terms the conservative approach. "After you've cut off the upper jaw just below the eyes, . . . drop it into a large kettle of scalding water and parboil it an hour. Remove and cool in cold water. Pluck out the loosened hairs and wash.
"Then put the moose muzzle in fresh water along with some onions, salt and pepper. Simmer until tender. Then set away from the heat. After the muzzle has cooled in its juice, extract bone and cartilage . . . "
Roasted moose nose may be a bit much for tastes honed on prewrapped Pix of the Chix, but you never know. Many people, unsure of how to cook wild animals and put off by the huntsman's mystique, are unaware how delicious game can be.
While acquiring game--particularly wild game--can be a problem, cooking it is basically easy, because game is intrinsically more interesting in taste than most domestic animal species. A few principles:
The animal must be cleaned and gutted in the field immediately, and cooled quickly, to reduce the chance of spoilage. Mammals should be skinned, game birds plucked (though usually not skinned), and all surface fat removed--because the fat on game has an objectionable flavor. (When you get around to cooking the game, remove every trace of natural fat and replace it with beef, poultry or other fat, if the recipe calls for fat.)
Opinions vary about whether or how long to age game, but many game-lovers feel that aging improves its flavor and allows natural enzymes to tenderize the meat. If you're lucky enough to get freshly killed game, consult a good book on how to do this. The basic principle is to let the animal hang, or rest, at temperatures above freezing but not over 40 degrees, for 24 hours to a few days. With small animals, or sections of large animals, this can be accomplished in a refrigerator.
The younger the animal, the more tender the meat and the less gamy the flavor. If you want a less gamy taste, go hunting early in the season (gaminess increases with the approach of the rutting season), although you can also minimize a strong gamy flavor by marinating the animal in milk or an acid-based marinade, parboiling it or stuffing it with vegetables that you discard before dining. Before you go to the trouble of getting rid of that gamy taste, however, give it a chance. Not everyone likes so rich a flavor, but it doesn't take long before supermarket poultry and meat pall in comparison.
Game birds raised on game farms and sold in local markets (it is against federal law to sell animals shot in the wild) have led a very lazy existence and will not need the same kind of attention you give to truly wild animals. However, even domesticated game species contain far less fat than their domestic counterparts and tend to dry out if they are cooked too long (the chief way to ruin a good piece of game) or are cooked improperly. To keep them from drying out, you may either lard or cover them with some kind of fat, or baste them with a sauce--usually one that contains a little fat. Older birds contain less fat and tend to be tough; they didn't last that long by lying around eating corn on the cob! You may want to tenderize them by marinating, pounding or pressure-cooking them, and using a recipe that calls for a moist-heat method of cooking.
Whatever you do, don't overcook game. You may not join the rare-wild-duck-and-venison school of game cookery, but don't assume falsely that long cooking will tenderize an animal. JAMES BEARD'S SQUAB SAUTE WITH WHITE WINE AND HERBS (4 servings)
This would work with any small game bird. 8 tablespoons butter or other fat 4 small squabs, split down the back and flattened Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup chopped shallots 1 1/2 cups white wine 1/4 cup chopped parsley 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried 4 slices (or more) crisp buttered toast
Heat 4 tablespoons butter or other fat in each of two skillets and brown the squab halves on both sides over a brisk flame. Add salt and pepper to taste. To each skillet add half the chopped shallots and 1/2-cup white wine. Reduce the heat and cover the pans. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried to each pan. Add a little more wine--about 1/2 cup altogether--and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Serve on crisp buttered toast with the sauce spooned over. From "James Beard's Fowl and Game Bird Cookery" ROASTED WILD DUCK IN THE FRENCH MANNER (4 servings)
Dominique D'Ermo, the District restaurateur famous for his game dishes, suggests roasting wild ducks for half an hour at 450 degrees to get the rare duck meat the French prefer. Rare duck meat is not at all like rare chicken meat; a closer parallel is rare lamb. We bought a 3-pound muscovy duck from Market Poultry in the Eastern Market, decided that D'Ermo must have been talking about a smaller duck when he gave a roasting time of half an hour (our duck looked as if it might still fly), popped it back into the oven for another 15 minutes, and were delighted with the results: moist and tasty rare duck in an interesting but not overwhelming sauce. This produced a rather special, and not particularly expensive, meal for three, and except for having to "wing" it on the timing, we were happy with the recipe.
Muscovy ducks have proportionately more meat and less fat on them than a frozen supermarket Long Island duck, but a 3-pound muscovy duck serves three only if they are polite; two hungry people will have no trouble dividing one duck. 2 wild ducks, cleaned Vinegar Salt and pepper 4 small onions, coarsely chopped 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 1 cup chopped parsley 1/3 cup red wine 1/2 cup chicken stock, fresh or canned 1 tablespoon cognac 1 bay leaf 2 tablespoons flour 1/3 cup orange juice 5 tablespoons heavy cream Fresh apple slices saute'ed in butter, for garnish
Wipe ducks inside and out with cloth that has been wrung out in vinegar. Sprinkle ducks inside and out with salt and pepper. Mix onions, celery and parsley and stuff ducks with this vegetable mixture.
Place ducks in a roasting pan. Add wine, chicken stock, cognac and bay leaf. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes (or more, see notes above), basting from time to time with pan juices. Remove ducks from oven and keep warm.
Strain pan juices into a saucepan. Blend flour with orange juice. Add to pan juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add cream, blending well. Carve ducks into serving-size pieces and pour sauce over duck. Serve hot. Fresh apple slices saute'ed in butter make a good accompaniment. From "Dominique's Famous Fish, Game & Meat" QUAIL WITH WHITE GRAPES (4 servings) 4 quail Salt and white pepper 2 tablespoons flour 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons lemon juice 3 ounces seedless thompson grapes 2 tablespoons blanched almonds, sliced
Clean quail; rub with a mixture of salt, pepper and flour. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed casserole and saute' the birds in it until they are golden on all sides. Add wine and lemon juice; cover and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Add seedless grapes and sliced blanched almonds and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the birds are tender. From "Great Dishes of the World," by Robert Carrier CHRISTA DANTZLER'S VENISON STEAKS
When a West Virginia coal miner swapped us a venison ham for some "downtown" shrimp, we followed a friend's advice to marinate the venison in buttermilk and then cook it simply. We tried three or four different recipes with cuts from the same hunk of venison, and none tasted nearly as good as this one, which is simplicity itself. Our venison had obviously been cleaned properly (that is, quickly) and had been soaked in salt water before freezing, a process our friend uses to eliminate any overly gamy taste. The buttermilk, an old German trick, acts as a tenderizer. Our venison was fork-tender and infinitely more interesting in flavor than any domestic meats. 1 venison steak per person (or more) Enough buttermilk to cover steaks thoroughly 1 1/2 tablespoons each, oil and butter, for saute'eing Salt and pepper to taste Potatoes or noodles, and currant sauce for serving Marinate venison steaks in buttermilk overnight for use the next evening. Wipe them dry, then saute' them in the oil and butter at moderate heat until still slightly pink inside but heated through. Cooking at too-high heat will toughen the steaks, and cooking them too long will dry them out. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with potatoes or noodles, and with a good currant sauce on the side, or substitute a sauce or relish with a similar tang. BUFFALOAF (Buffalo Meat Loaf) (6 to 8 servings) 2 pounds ground buffalo meat 2 eggs 1 cup fine bread crumbs 3/4 cup chopped parsley 1/4 cup finely minced chives 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped Salt to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 medium carrot, finely chopped 1/2 cup milk Spicy barbecue sauce of your choice Strips of bacon to lay across top
Mix all the ingredients (except bacon and barbecue sauce) with as little handling of meat as possible, and form into a long loaf in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Coat with a spicy barbecue sauce, and lay slices of bacon across the loaf. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing. Adapted from "The New York Times Cookbook" and "Buffalo Cookbook" SQUIRREL POT PIE (4 to 6 servings)
Fish and game expert Joan Cone served us this pleasant family fare when we were visiting Williamsburg, where she lives. Cooking the squirrels a day ahead in your pressure cooker makes it easier to separate bones and meat, or, if you prefer, you can stew the squirrels until fork-tender before boning. 1 onion, quartered Few celery tops 1 bay leaf 6 squirrels, cut up 1 cup water 4 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons flour 1 cup squirrel stock 1 cup milk 3 tablespoons madeira or cream sherry Salt to taste 1 pound carrots, cut in chunks and cooked 1 pound potatoes, cut in chunks and cooked Pie crust to fit on top of casserole
Place onion, celery tops and bay leaf in bottom of pressure cooker. Place squirrel pieces on top of vegetables and add 1 cup of water. Cook under 15 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes. Cool cooker immediately. Strain stock and reserve for use in sauce. Remove meat from bones and leave in bite-size pieces.
For sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan and blend in flour. Slowly stir in stock and milk. Add madeira or sherry and salt to taste. Place squirrel meat, carrots and potatoes in a 2-quart casserole and pour sauce over ingredients. Cover casserole with pie crust, make slits in crust and bake in a 425-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is brown and sauce bubbles. From "Fish and Game Cooking," by Joan Cone