Tip: Better Burgers

Better Burgers
by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

Americans eat a boatload of burgers.  Based on an annual consumption of over 38 billion burgers, or about 3 burgers per person, per week, that’s about 40 pounds worth of quarter-pounders a year for every man, woman and child in the U.S.  If you figure that some folks aren’t big burger eaters and others don’t eat them at all, some of us are eating way more than our share.  But while overindulging in the high-fat, fast-food burger might increase your risk of a heart attack, a burger made from lean ground ducks and geese is a healthy and tasty alternative that might give you a few extra years in the blind.

Grinding your trimmed, skinless duck or goose breasts is relatively simple.  If you have meat grinder, run the meat through on a coarse setting.  Too thin a grind leaves the meat without much texture and it tends to fall apart easier when cooking.  Since most people don’t own a grinder, the next best thing is a food processor.  Cut the meat into 2-inch chunks and pulse it until the pieces are roughly the size of garbanzo beans.  When all that’s on hand is knife, start chopping.  Place the processed meat in a bowl and start adding ingredients that will enhance, not disguise the flavor of your burger.
The reason that people eat so many fatty hamburgers is because fat equals flavor.  Waterfowl meat is very low-fat, so many home chefs add 10 to 20 percent ground beef or pork to their burger mix to make them taste better and to help bind meat together when pressed into a patty.  While I’m all for a juicy burger and often add some beef to my ground duck, there are other ways to add moisture to your mallard.  Sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic and peppers, to name just a few ingredients, contribute both moisture and flavor.   Add some fresh salsa, diced jalapeno peppers, a squeeze of fresh lime and some salt and pepper and you’ve got Southwestern Duck Burgers.  Slap them on the grill, add a slice of jack cheese and hand me a cold frosty beverage.
Adding a binder such as egg or yogurt and a little flour or some crushed quackers…sorry, crackers… will help keep your burger intact when cooking.  The wet stuff mixes with the dry stuff and holds the burger together.  For your first attempt, I’d recommend making duck burgers in a heavy skillet rather than a grill.  It’s less likely to fall apart in the pan.  Once you’ve got the hang of it, flame on!

Duck Burgers

Makes 4 – 6 servings
This recipe works with trimmed goose breasts and antlered game as well.  Serve as you would any burger with bun, lettuce, tomato and your favorite condiments.
2 1/2  cups duck boneless, skinless duck breasts, cut into pea-sized pieces (see above)
3  tablespoons Worcestershire sauceBetterBurgers--element67
2  egg yolks
1  tablespoon garlic powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1/3  cup Japanese breadcrumbs (panko) or substitute any breadcrumbs
1/2  cup onion, finely chopped
1  jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3  tablespoons flour
4  slices cheese, any kind (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine ground duck, Worcestershire sauce and egg and mix evenly.  Combine next 6 ingredients and mix evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.  Sprinkle flour over mixture (to help bind them) and form into 4 – 6 patties.  Heat some olive oil in a large, heavy-duty skillet over medium heat.  Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes each, or until cooked to desired doneness.  Top with cheese until melted and serve immediately.

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,

Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com

Tip: Shortcuts

by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

I decided long ago that most home cooks just don’t have the time or the inclination to take the long route to preparing a recipe when a shortcut will get you home, or at least close enough to impress most people.  That’s not to say that taking the time to make a great homemade barbecue sauce or stock isn’t worth the trouble, but when you’re out of the good stuff, a bottle or can can be doctored up with just a pinch of this and a splash of that to make the finished sauce taste like you made it from scratch.

When it comes to buying prepared sauces, I like to visit Asian markets for some out-of-the ordinary flavors.  One of my favorites is eel sauce. I know some folks are going to wince when they read “eel sauce”, but it’s actually a mild soy-based sauce that’s just a tad sweet, not too salty and great with game.   It’s made from grilled eel bones, which is one ingredient I’m usually a little short on, so it’s hard to make it at home.  When you find a bottle of Asian sauce that gets your attention, I suggest you compare brands by their sodium content.  Some of them are way too salty for me.  A drizzle of eel sauce over a smoky, grilled duck breast is especially delicious.  Trust me.
Here are a few of my favorite quick sauces and marinades that will save you time in the kitchen and get you back outside where you belong.  The measurements listed should be used as a place to start and not meant to be exact.  Think of these shortcuts as an outline from which to create your own signature culinary creations.  Taste as you go and adjust at the end.  All of the recipes can be used with waterfowl, antlered game, and domestic meats.

Sweet-Hot Marinade and Sauce

Prepare a double batch and store in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
If desired, you can double the recipe below and store the extra sauce in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
Makes 1 ½ cups
1 1/4  cups Italian dressing
2  tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2  tablespoons honey
3  tablespoons  jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (or substitute 1 – 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
2  garlic cloves, minced
Combine all ingredients and whisk together or shake vigorously in a tight-fitting jar.  Pour over meat, toss to coat and refrigerate for 2 – 6 hours.  Drizzle additional sauce over meat just before serving.

Chipotle Balsamic Syrup

Okay, so you might have to plan ahead a little on this one.  Start with a cheap bottle of balsamic vinegar (16 – 18 ounces, about $4/bottle), and reduce it to intensify the natural sweetness and oaky flavor.  Makes about 2/3 cup
1 bottle balsamic vinegar
1  tablespoon brown sugar
1  teaspoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
Add ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat, uncovered.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced by approximately  two-thirds.  Allow to cool and thicken.  Drizzle a thin stream over cooked meats or salmon, but don’t smother it.  Store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Orange-Ginger Sauce and Marinade

It’s a little bit Asian and a lot of flavor.
Makes 1 cup
2/3  cup low-sodium soy sauce
3  tablespoons rice vinegar
2  tablespoons orange juice concentrate
2  green onions, minced
1  tablespoon pickled ginger, minced
1  tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to warm, but do not bring to a boil.  Simmer for a few minutes and allow to cool. Be careful when using as a marinade since the sugary orange juice concentrate will burn easily.  To avoid burning, pat dry after marinating and drizzle additional sauce over when served.

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,

Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com

Recipe: Mallard Meatloaf

Mallard Meatloaf – AKA – Mexican Meatloaf
by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

I think I might finally be fed up with cooking competitions on TV.  Somewhere along the TV timeline, a handful of affected, pompous foodies decided that they were going to pass judgment on what is or isn’t fit to eat.  And we ate it up, literally.  The typical cooking “reality” show involves a diverse group of people living together in cramped quarters while awaiting their next culinary challenge.  Some of them actually earn a living by working in a kitchen while others seem to be chosen simply for comic relief.  At the end of the thirteen week season, the winner gets the big hat and a chance to appear at mall openings and harvest fairs until his or her star fades into the distance forever.
Of course, I, like everyone else, have my own food favorites, but I wouldn’t think of telling anyone else that it’s my way or the highway.  While I do find people’s food preferences interesting, it doesn’t affect me one way or another if someone puts ketchup on their lobster or cooks their game well-done.  Perhaps if Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen declared that pairing ketchup and lobster is “spot on”, then the rest of us would blindly follow along.  For the past couple of decades, I’ve been preaching the gospel of medium-rare game cooking.  I’ve changed a few minds along the way, but most folks pretty much stay the culinary course they’ve chosen for themselves many years ago.  “We’re just meat and potatoes people”
Occasionally, I come up with a recipe that really makes me happy.  It tastes so good that I can’t imagine anyone not liking it, but I know that the mere mention of the word “Mexican” will put fear in the minds of those who can’t take the heat.  Rest assured, this meatloaf is only loaded with flavor, not fire.  Those who like it hot can always ramp up the heat with some additional peppers, seasonings or hot sauce.  It’s a great way to use up inventory from the freezer and, best of all; it works with just about any combination of game meats like venison, wild turkey and upland game birds, provided that you add at least one-third ground beef to the mix.  Since most of us don’t own a meat grinder, you can process thawed game meat by cutting it up into bite-sized chunks and quickly pulsing in a food processor until the meat is roughly the size of a garbanzo bean.  The recipe is nothing fancy and I’m sure one of the Top Chef judges wouldn’t like it, but we really don’t care, do we?

Mexican Meatloaf

6 – 8 servings
1 cup onions, finely diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
2 eggs, lightly beaten MallardMeatloaf--element67
1 cup tomato salsa (your choice of mild, medium or spicy)
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) ground duck, goose or antlered game
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound chorizo sausage, casing removed, crumbled
Combine onion, jalapeno pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Add tortilla chips with next 8 ingredients and mix well. Add ground game meat, beef and chorizo.  Mix all ingredients thoroughly with your hands. In a lightly oiled loaf pan or baking dish, form into a loaf about 4 inches tall.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50 minutes or until internal temperature is 155 degrees. Lightly cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1-inch thick slices.  Serve with salsa, mustard or chipotle mayonnaise. 

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,

Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com

Recipe: Summertime Blues

Summertime Blues
Grilled Duck and Blue Cheese Sandwich
by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

I’ll never forget the time I made a blue cheese sauce during a cooking demonstration in a poorly ventilated room in South Georgia.  Shortly after the cheese hit the pan, I noticed a few people looking around the room with that, “who cut the cheese?” look on their faces.  Several of the attendees hightailed it out of the room, one of them exclaiming, “It smells like manure!”  Apparently, they don’t cotton to stinky cheese in Albany, Georgia.
Not to be discouraged, I’m still a large fan of the big blue.  Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, Roquefort and my personal favorite, Clemson Blue Cheese – this isn’t kid’s stuff, at least not my kid.  They’re big, bold and “aromatic” cheeses that will liven up any dish.  Blue cheeses are treated with molds makes them veiny, stinky and even stronger tasting when aged.  How can you tell if blue cheese has gone bad?  Beats me.
If moldy cheese isn’t something you would like to put on your duck, all is not lost.  You can substitute any of your own favorite cheese or leave the cheese part out altogether.  It’s your sandwich.  Just make certain that you don’t cook your ducks too long.  If your duck ends up tough and dry, don’t blame the duck.  It’s just been overcooked.
The directions for processing the duck breasts before marinating might be a little confusing.  The idea is to make them half as thick, so that they cook quickly on the grill.  Each breast will yield two slices, roughly the same size, only thinner than before slicing.  If your ducks are of the smaller variety – teal, ringneck, shoveler, etc., you’ll need a few extra breast fillets to feed four people.  

Grilled Duck and Blue Cheese Sandwich

serves four
6  skinless duck breast fillets (allow more for smaller species)
1  tablespoon kosher salt
1  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1  teaspoon Italian seasoning
1  teaspoon onion powderSummertimeBlues--element67
8  ounces blue cheese, crumble
2  garlic cloves, minced
2  tablespoons butter
2  tablespoons beer
dash Tabasco
1  large onion, cut into thick rings
2  tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large tomato, cut into 4 slices
4  sturdy burger buns
4  lettuce leaves
Place duck breasts on a firm surface and, while pressing down gently on the top of each breast, slice each in half widthwise between your hand and the surface.  Keep your fingertips up and away from the knife blade!  When done slicing, you’ll have 12 slices.  Combine kosher salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and onion powder and use mixture to season sliced duck on both sides.  Stack seasoned meat together, wrap snugly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 – 4 hours.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine blue cheese, butter, beer and Tabasco.  Stir constantly until mixture is smooth.  Keep warm.
Coat onion slices with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a medium-hot, well-lubricated grill.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Place seasoned duck slices on grill and cook 2 – 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.
To assemble sandwich, arrange lettuce and tomato on the bottom of each bun.  Top with 3 slices duck breast and grilled onions.  Top with warm blue cheese sauce and other half of bun.

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,

Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com

Recipe: Slow and Spicy

Slow and Spicy
Canada Goose Enchiladas
by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

I do enjoy a good Canada goose hunt.  The thrill of coaxing in a flock of these giant birds to within twenty yards of your goose pit is an exhilarating way to spend a cold weather morning.  If you’ve heard or felt the thud of a 20 pound giant Canada goose falling on or near you, there’s no doubt that these are the big dogs of the goose pond.
Dragging out a strap loaded with honkers is a great cardio workout, but what to do when you get them cleaned and ready to cook?  There are those folks who still stuff whole body geese with all sorts of things under the delusion that the stuffing will add flavor to the cooked birds.  I strongly disagree with the stuffing part, but I do occasionally roast a whole or split bird.  When roasting, my goal is to create something similar to a pot roast – moist and fall-apart tender.  Once cooked, the slow-cooked meat can be used for a variety of dishes like tacos, barbecued goose sandwiches (topped with coleslaw, of course!), sloppy Joe’s and spaghetti sauce.  You can set aside an afternoon and slow-roast several Canada geese, shred and cool the meat and then freeze in batches for later use.  It’ll sure free up some freezer space.
There’s an easy way to transform your often tough and chewy honker meat into something reminiscent of braised beef rather than liver jerky.  If you just dry roast your bird in the oven until the breast meat is medium-rare, the legs are still tough and sinewy.  Cooking it until well-done will reward you with 100% gray meat that’s dry, muttony and chewy.  So here’s the deal; we’re going to braise the bird.  Braising is simply browning the meat before slow-cooking in a little liquid while covered with a tight fitting lid.  The low temperature and liquid will eventually break down the meat into tender morsels.  Even the toughest cuts of any meat will eventually yield to braising and fall apart so that you can cut it with a spoon.
Split the goose in half along the breastbone and rub liberally with salt, pepper and any other seasonings that will add flavor to the bird.  Place in a well-oiled roasting pan with some rough chopped celery, carrots and onions.  Place uncovered in a preheated 450 degree oven for 1 to 1 ½ hours, turning occasionally to evenly brown the meat and vegetables.  Add beer, wine, beef or chicken broth to the pan, about an inch or so, cover the pan snugly with heavy-duty foil or six layers of the cheap foil you thought was a better deal.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and braise for 2 – 3 hours, checking every hour or so to add more liquid and test for doneness.  If the meat doesn’t fall apart easily, keep cooking.  Once done, allow the meat to cool and remove from the carcass.  You’ve now turned a 15 pound honker into a couple of pounds of very edible meat.  

Canada Goose Enchiladas

4 servings
2  cups cooked shredded goose meat
2  cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
2  cups green chile sauce  (or your enchilada sauce)
1  tablespoon lime juiceTheSportingChef--element89
1/3  cup yellow onion, minced
2  garlic cloves, minced
1  jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2  tablespoons cilantro, minced
pinch or two  ground cumin
½  teaspoon salt
pan spray
4  large corn or flour tortillas
large pitted olives, halved
In a bowl, combine goose meat, 1 cup Monterey jack cheese cheese, 1 cup green chile sauce, lime juice, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin and salt.  Toss ingredients together.  Coat a 6 by 9-inch baking dish with pan spray.  Spread the remaining chile sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Spray each tortilla lightly on both sides with pan spray and heat on high a microwave for 30 seconds.  Place an equal portion of the mix into the center of each tortilla.  Roll up and place in the dish, seam side down.  Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and place a few black olive on top of each enchilada.  Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  If desired, top with diced tomato, salsa or sour cream.

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,

Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com

Recipe: Warm and Fuzzy

Warm and Fuzzy
Bourbon and Barley Waterfowl Stew
by: Scott Leysath – The Sporting Chef

While I’m no stranger to a weekend glass or two of red wine, the occasional vodka drink or even a really cold beer after working up a sweat, I’m not a big fan of dark-colored liquors, at least not in a glass.  However, I often use them as flavoring ingredients in the kitchen.  Rum, pineapple juice, chopped green onions, sliced jalapenos, garlic and olive oil make for a sensational marinade for pheasant.  A splash or two of whiskey and a pinch of brown sugar adds a whole new dimension to bottled barbecue sauce.  Finish off a pair of pan-seared duck breasts with an ounce or two of bourbon, some diced onion and a dash of cream for a delicious dish that will impress even those people who “just don’t like duck.”
If liquor is not your cup of tea, keep in mind that the cooking process removes most, if not all of the alcohol and leaves behind the flavor or bourbon.  Like wine, when cooking with bourbon, don’t waste your money on good bourbon.  While I’m sure the TV chefs will tell you that you shouldn’t cook with bourbon that you wouldn’t drink, I say to drink the good stuff and cook with whatever’s on sale.
I have tried a taste or two of bourbon in the past and do remember that it does make me feel a little warm and fuzzy.  Although I’m not sure where the “fuzzy” part comes in, it does seem to pair well with “warm”.  When it comes to more descriptive words associated with bourbon, I did a little online research and it appears that, depending on the variety, it can be nutty, woody or sweet.  I’ll stick with warm and fuzzy.
One word of caution – be very careful when cooking with alcohol near an open flame or hot pan.  The visual effect of a flaming skillet can be enticing, but it can also set your face on fire.  Alcohol is very flammable and will ignite even when you add it to a hot skillet on an electric range with no flames in sight.  To be on the safe side, dilute the alcohol with another, non-flammable liquid and remove the pan from the heat source to add the mixture.  Then return the pan to the heat and keep your face as far away from it as possible.

Bourbon and Barley Waterfowl Stew

6 servings

3  cups skinless duck and/or goose breast fillets, cut into 1 – 2 inch pieces
1  cup all purpose flour
1  tablespoon each salt, pepper and garlic powder
1/2  cup olive oil
1 1/2  quarts beef brothBOURBONSTEW
1/2  cup bourbon
2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1  large onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2  cups baby-cut carrots
3  celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
4  garlic cloves, minced
2  sprigs fresh rosemary
3  bay leaves
1  cup cooked barley
1  tablespoon cornstarch mixed with equal part cold water
1/4  cup fresh parsley, minced
1.  Combine flour with salt, pepper and garlic powder in a medium bowl.  Add duck/goose pieces and toss to coat meat evenly.  Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add meat, a few pieces at a time, until all pieces are evenly browned.  Remove meat from pot.
2.  Combine beef broth, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce.  Add about 1 cup of the liquid to the pot over medium-high heat and stir to loosen bits and deglaze pan.  Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary sprigs and bay leaves.  Cook for 6 – 8 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Add remaining broth mixture and reserved browned meat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is tender.
3.  Remove rosemary and bay leaves.  Stir in cooked barley and cornstarch mixture.  Bring to a boil to thicken.  To serve, ladle into bowls and top with parsley.

For More Recipes from the Sporting Chef – Scott Leysath,
Please Visit His Website at www.thesportingchef.com