Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting into Game


John and Rick cook over a fire in the Louisiana swamp

Unlike John, I didn’t grow up as a hunter or with any background in hunting. I’ve gone hunting as an adult; the most hunting I did was during the four years I was living in England with Gale, working at the Stapleford Park Hotel. I had the chance to go hunting with Malcolm, the hotel’s gamekeeper, in Scotland. We’d be staying in these cabins in the middle of nowhere, and the hunts would start super early in the morning – sometimes as early as 3 a.m. After a proper Scottish breakfast of haggis on toast, we’d hunt pheasant and grouse until about 7 or 8 a.m. and then we’d do the “Whiskey Trail,” hitting the single malt scotch producers – Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, as many as we could fit in. Then we’d come back to the hunting cabin and cook all the game we shot.

Antlers Lodge at Giles Island (Credit: GilesIsland.com)

When I came back to the States, I would occasionally hunt deer and turkey, but it wasn’t a part of my culture like it was for John. He’s been hunting since he was four, so he knows all the trails and all the techniques, from guns to bow-and-arrow. Since we’ve been working together, I’ve had the chance to go hunting with him, and go to some of the super high-end hunting lodges where he gets invited to cook – Grosse Savanne, Giles Island, places in the middle of the marsh where you need a helicopter to even get there. Honestly, it kind of feels like Jurassic Park! But reconnecting with hunting has been awesome. It’s something that I hope to get my boys into so they can handle guns and understand gun safety. I think that’s really important. The younger guys on these hunts with us have a huge appreciation for the lives of the animals they’re taking. I want my boys to have that kind of understanding.
So, on to the menu. We’ve been breaking it down by category. And since the hunting seasons here are so tied to the calendar, the month we open will determine what kind of game animals we’ll have to work with. For now, we’ve got about 10 or 12 items in the works in our Wild Game and Offal category. We’re doing dishes with rabbit, duck, quail, Guinea fowl and venison. The dishes will be very seasonal, and very indigenous to the area; people in New Orleans never hesitate to order these meats.
"Bird in a Cage" for Restaurant R'evolution

We’ll be doing a Bayou Blue venison chop, sort of in the style of Beef Wellington, but with a Native American twist. Jody, our chef de cuisine, made this awesome Native American flatbread, and we made a duxelle and added foie gras, and we wrapped this venison chop and the duxelle and foie and roasted it like a Beef Wellington. We're doing a whimsical take on guinea fowl that's inspired by Louisiana's German heritage: "Bird in a Cage" is smoked Guinea fowl with homemade sauerkraut, Creole mustard spaetzle and caramelized onion sauce, with a caraway "cage" that fits over the top of the dish.
We’ve done a lot of triptychs in this category. We’re trying to showcase different cuts of the same animal with different cooking techniques. It made the category very complicated and intricate, but we’re thrilled with the results.

Triptych of Offal for Restaurant R'evolution

On the offal side of the section, we’ll be doing a whole roasted foie gras presented tableside with six or seven different types of accompaniments. It was a signature dish at Tru, and we’re bringing it back in a new rendition!
We’re working on a great triptych of offal, too, with kidneys, brain and tripe. It’s veal kidneys braised in red wine and served on pumpernickel toast; panko-coated, sauteed lamb brain and tripe stewed old-school Italian with chilis, tomatoes and garlic. 

- Rick


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