Alaska Caribou Photos

As the days grow shorter and my memory fades I am posting this photo blog about caribou hunting in Alaska. These photos are the ones that bring me back. Back to the soggy ground, back to the sore back, back to the feeling of invincibility. The hunt was unguided, DIY caribou 2500 miles from my home. I am proud of what we did, it was truly grand. I’d do it again any day, not sure the folks who went with me would.

I type this eating sushi at the San Francisco airport, wanting nothing more than to be home. But travel is necessary for work. It is a short life we all have, I realize that more and more each year. Kids are born and the generation above me ages. Shit happens and cancer sucks.

Next time I’m in Alaska, I hope to have my son with me. It will make one of those unforgettable family moments…much like the one I just had with my father.











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Dove Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie as a staple growing up. I wish I could tell the world that my family made them from scratch but, more often than not, they were the pre frozen variety. Those little pies still hold a good place in my heart, mostly because they taste really really IMG_0128good. I am doing my best to upscale this concept with a little collard dove meat and some granny smith apples while at the same time keep it true to the original.

Recipe –

Dove Pot Pie Filling

2 slices of bacon, sliced into thin strips

4 dove, cut into breasts, legs and with heart and liver

½ cup diced carrot

½ cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 ea diced granny smith apples (or other firm, baking apple)

3 tablespoons flour

1.5 cups milk

½ cup apple juice



Fresh Sage

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded or cut into slabs

“Pie” crust – See note below

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium sized stock pot add the sliced bacon and cook it until it is crispy. Next add the dove meat, the heart and liver are a great addition in this recipe. When the meat is brown add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and apple. Cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Next add the flour and incorporate into the cooking vegetables and meat. Then add the milk, and apple juice. Cook this mixture on medium until it begins to thicken. Then turn to low heat and let fully thicken. Season and taste mix with salt and pepper. Add the fresh sage and taste.

Separate the mixture into baking dishes, making sure each dish has two breasts, two legs a heart and a liver. Top the mix with cheese. Then top with the “pie” crust – see the Note below.

Bake until the biscuit is golden brown and the mixture inside is bubbling. About 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve hot.

Note – When I make a pot pie crust I normally cheat and use Bisquick. It is totally a scam, I know, but a nice biscuit crust is better, quicker and easier than a labored pie crust. In my opinion. That said, I prepare Bisquick to the box specifications and then roll out my “pie” lit on a well-floured cutting board. I use a knife and the baking dish I am using to cut the shape. Then I will fill the dish and crimp the dough ends over my baking dish.

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Frog Legs from a Southern Fellow

Don’t mess with perfection. Those Southern Boys and Girls who love them some good ol’ fashioned fried frog legs are onto something; they are delicious. This recipe comes courtesy of my East Texas buddy John and is how is Mamma makes his frog legs. For those of you not familiar with East Texas it is basically Louisiana but they still have that Texas pride.

Fried Frog Legs

After you process the frogs – cut them in half and then pretend you are taking the pants off them with a pair of pliers, no joke. You should soak them in salt water for a day. This will do two things. One, it will make most of the big black veins turn translucent and thus more palatable to those who do not eat frog. Second the salt water will brine the frogs, keeping them moister during the cooking process.
Cooking them is easy to “get a Dutch oven and fill it with about two or three inches of fry oil. You know Crisco or canola, whatever” said John. Then you need to “pat the frogs off with a paper towel. Then roll them in season flour, put them in milk and then season flour again.”
“Then you deep fry them until they are brown” simple John said.

Frog Flour
12 “pairs” of frog legs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon “Red Pepper” AKA cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper

3 cups Crisco, or enough to fill a Dutch Oven 2-3 inches
1 cup milk

Heat oil and Dutch on the stove. Cook until a wooden spoon floats and gives off small bubbles or about 350 degrees on a candy thermometer. Keep at that heat.
Mix all the dry ingredients with the flour in a small bowl. Reserve.
Pour milk in into a small bowl.
Pat the frogs dry after soaking them. Roll them in season flour, then dunk them in milk. This will create a sticky surface for the second dredging of flour. Next roll and slightly press the flour again on the frog legs.
Fry the legs, sets of three at a time, until golden brown. Fry time is about 4- 5 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot. Squeeze some lemon on them if you want. Or just drub down on them!




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Catfish Po’ Boy

Cat Fish Po' BoyJust because I’m from the Northwest catfish does not mean that I can’t make a good old fashioned Po-Boy out of them. Well, actually “old fashioned” might be the wrong choice of words. I am going to make a Northwest Style Po-Boy – rustic bread, farmstead pickles, Asian spicy cabbage slaw with blue berry vinegar. Some will call this sacrilege; I call it “regionalization”. Call this sandwich a Po- Boy or not it WILL still taste good.

I like to eat the medium sized catfish, 3-4 pounders, because they are big enough to get meat off of yet not so old I have to worry about contamination. The Po-Boy is simple, in all honesty, crispy fish on soft bread with mayo, pickles and some lettuce.

Fried Cat Fish

I have refused to buy one of those little baby deep fryers for my house over the years out of health concerns. I LOVE fried food and as a chef eat plenty of it at work. When given the opportunity at home I know I would consume even more fried goodness (bumping me a few pant sizes at the same time). To counter the “no fryer” rule I just make a more dangerous version out of a cast iron skillet. Smart? No.

The Fish

1 Pound catfish fillet, cut into 2 inch strips

1 cup milk

1 large egg

1 cup yellow corn meal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper

Soak the catfish in milk a few moments or up to 24 hours (some claim that this will “lessen” the mud flavor of the fish, I not exactly sure…never tested it).  When ready to fry beat egg in a small bowl until frothy. Mix cornmeal, flour, cayenne and black pepper together in a different bowl. Take milk wet fish and add them to the corn meal bowl, a few at a time. Set them on a plate in a single layer. Next add the dipped fish to the egg mix and back into the cornmeal mix, double coating the fish. Make sure to press the fish into the dry mix to get some extra adherence. Place fish back on plate. Repeat until all the fish is double dipped.

Fry the fish, for about 3-4 minutes, in 350 degree oil or until they are crispy and cooked through. Reserve for the sandwich.

The Slaw

12 oz package of cabbage and carrot mix

1/4 cup ranch dressing

1 tablespoon Blueberry (Huckleberry is better) vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Siracha Hot Sauce

Salt and Pepper

In a small bowl combine the ranch, blueberry vinegar, honey and siracha. Next add the cabbage and carrots until the “slaw” is a wet as you like it. It might not be the whole 12 oz bag. Adjust seasoning with salt a pepper.

Bringing it Home

I like to use a good grainy hoagie roll for this sandwich but the traditional white/sourdough varieties work equally as well. Split the hoagie and toast if you like. Then add the fish and top with the slaw. Add some pickles that your newly gardening neighbor gave you and you got a grubbin’ Po-Boy.

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Idaho Kitty Fish

The anchor was out on the small flat-bottomed boat that belonged to Ryan Scott. I let it loose in about 5 feet of water, and we drifted slowly downriver until the big weight found a solid hold on the soft river bottom. Looking at the fish finder, I could see that we had drifted just to the edge of a hole in the river. It was a section carved by two river currents colliding. It was three-times deeper than the normal stretch of river–and it had gobs of fish floating in it.

We cast into the wide expanse of the Snake River laid out before us. One side was farmers’ fields the other side was a stellar view of Idaho wine country. But this wasn’t a dainty wine sipping adventure. No, I was after the mighty and oft-overlooked catfish.

It is a rite of passage for many an Northwest boy to sit around a fire along a slow moving river and hope that a kitty fish tugs on the end of his line. But the drunken exploits of amateurs have ruined the reputation of this sport for many of the others.

You see, fly fishers stalk pan-sized fish like deer in the small mountain streams and bass fishermen cast lures into reeds and muck in hopes of a tug. Casting and casting over and over again. Work, work, work. All in the hope they might land a fish that is just a few pounds in weight.

In contrast, cat fishermen primarily use bait of some type–worm, rotten chicken liver or dead fish. They cast and let the fish come to them. Big fish, too. On good nights on the Snake River, if you are positioned well, you can pull in 20 to 30 fish ranging from 5 to 18 pounds each. If you get lucky, you can even haul in a sturgeon.

Trout and bass fishermen decry the cat fishers as lazy and undisciplined in the ways of fishing. But not Scott. He is a man with a passion for catching big fish, no little pan fry was enough for him. A 4-pound bass was a bonus but an 18-pound catfish was a prize.

The cats Scott catches are not from around these parts, however. According to Jeff Dillon, the state fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, “there is no native catfish west of the Rockies.” So all that perfect habitat, the calm waters of the Snake, Columbia and many others around the Northwest, was catfish-less. That is until someone in the mid 1800s got the bright idea to introduce them to the river and badabing badaboom: catfish in the West.

I relayed that tidbit of information to Scott and then explained that Idaho does not have any blue catfish, either.

When I said that, his head cocked off to the side.

“That is a bunch of bull,” he said.

I informed him that according to Dillon at Idaho Fish and Game, no blue cat has ever been reported in Idaho.

“Well, that is silly,” he said breaking out his iPhone. “Here is a picture of one.” He pointed out over the water and said: “We caught him off that island about a mile up river.”

Sure enough, it was a blue cat as far as I could tell. But, unfortunately, just because they have been introduced does not mean that they always bite.

Though we could see plenty of fish in the hole where we’d anchored, more than an hour passed without a bite. The water temperature registered at 77 degrees and it was getting dark, so we moved on. We traveled slowly downriver in Scott’s flat-bottom boat, passing over spots that only registered 1-and-a-half feet deep.

At one point, Scott could tell that I was admiring the quality of his expensive fish finder while comparing it to that of his boat.

“What I got here,” said Scott, “is $2,000 worth of rims on $1,000 car. It don’t make much sense but this little boat can go further into the muck and shallows than any of those fancy or bigger boats, and that’s how I get on the big fish.”

And do catfish get big in Idaho. According the Idaho Fish and Game website, the state record channel catfish, the kind that Scott catches most of the time, is more than 38 pounds. The record flathead catfish is 58.5 pounds, with a girth of 31 inches. The head of a fish that big wouldn’t even fit in a 5-gallon bucket.

Eating a fish that large, however, comes with a cautionary warning. Recently the Idaho Center for Disease Control released a statement advising the limited consumption of catfish because of higher-than-normal levels of mercury. I have no plans on becoming pregnant or nursing anytime soon, but those who do should avoid predatory fish in “working” rivers due to this mercury issue.

Catfish are commonly called bottom feeders but are actually predators and they eat other contaminated fish thus increasing their own contamination levels. As such the Idaho CDC recommends eating smaller catfish and cutting away the skin and fat before eating them.

Scott and I fished for so long that night, it was actually early (as in morning), but we had yet to land a fish. Then there was the slightest of tugs on my line followed by a rod-bending pull. I grabbed my rod and set the hook; the fight was on. Five minutes later, I had a 6-pound catfish in the boat.

We hung for an extra half an hour and landed an additional 4-pounder for the freezer. Cat fishing may not be as highly regarded as fly or bass fishing, but even small cats–like the two I caught with Scott–can ruin a guy on trout and bass. The size of the catfish alone makes this fisherman long for a late night, a flat boat and some cold beer.

Pic thanks to the Boise Weekly

Pic thanks to the Boise Weekly

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