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!




Wild Turkey Cutlets

The total mass of a turkey is always surprising to me. I shoot other big birds like geese and sage hen often but a turkey is just a totally different ball game, and as such needs to be treated that way.

Turkeys consist of 5 cuts of meat in total; the breast, the tenderloin, the wings, the thighs and the drumsticks. Each of these bird parts beg for a separate cooking method. It is not wise to just roast a wild turkey like a butterball. The breast will probably be dry, the drumsticks will be good for dog chew toys and the



thigh meat will require a steak knife.

This month I will concentrate on the breast meat of a turkey, by far the biggest bang for the buck.

Turkey breast meat is not as soft and juicy as store bought, but it has a ton more flavor. Think elk meat vs beef – similar but still different. But like store bought meat it still needs cooked to 165 degrees to be safe to eat. Be careful when cooking meat to this temperature, it can be very dry. To avoid dry meat make sure to remove it from heat a whole 10 degrees before it reaches 165 degrees on the inside. Carry over cooking will finish the job of getting the meat to 165.

Breaded Turkey Cutlets with Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes served with Pan Roasted Orange

This recipe calls for turkey “cutlets” AKA  slices of turkey breast. Lay your breast out on the counter. It will make half of a heart shape. Cut across the grain of the meat in about ¼ inch sections. You will get quite a few. It is even a little easier to cut when the meat is frozen a little.

Take those slices and place them between two sheets of clear plastic film about an inch from each other. Use a mallet or the bottom of a pan to hammer the slices into almost see through thin sections. You now have turkey “cutlets” and they are a transformed piece of wild game meat. Bread them and fry them, add a squeeze of lemon, and you have the German classic schnitzel. And that classic dish is what we are having fun with today. Replace the sour lemon with a sweeter caramelized orangeand add the roasted garlic and tomatoes – bang – a whole new take on a classic.

Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes

1 cup Olive Oil

1 cup garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

In a small sauce pan add the garlic, tomatoes and oil. Turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Reserve in warm location. This will create more than you need for this recipe. Store them in a mason jar in the fridge, covered in oil and they will last up to a year. Just microwave the jar when you want some roasted garlic and tomatoes.

Pan Roasted Orange

2 ea Oranges, cut in half

1 tablespoon canola oil

In a medium sized cast iron skillet add the oil and then the orange halves, flesh side down. Heat on medium until the exposed orange flesh is dark brown. Remove pan from heat. Reserve.

Turkey Cutlets

8 each 2oz turkey cutlets

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

2 cups bread crumbs

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning herb blend

¼ cup canola oil

Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan or cast iron on medium heat until a wooden spoon inserted into the oil just gives off bubbles and floats. Or head oil to 350 degrees. (This is an old German trick that I learned in Singapore, long story…all I know is that it works. The oil temp will be about 350 degrees)

Gather three small bowls. Place the flour, milk and bread crumbs in separate bowls. In the flour bowl add the black pepper, Italian seasoning and salt. Mix the flour and other ingredients  together.

Place cutlets in the flour and coat all sides evenly. Then place the cutlet in the milk, wetting all sides. Then place the cutlet in the bread crumbs, forcefully pushing bread crumbs into all parts of the turkey cutlet. Reserve the breaded cutlet on a plate. Bread the remaining slices.

Carefully place one cutlet at a time in the hot oil. Cook the cutlet until it is “GB&D”, or golden brown and delicious, on one side then flip. Cook the other side until GB&D as well. Reserve the fried cutlets on a paper towel lined plate.

Pheasant Hunters Corn Cakes

Hunters Style Corn Cakes

When making any recipe it is always important to gather everything that you need before getting started cooking. The concept, in French, is called Mis en Place. It simply means “things in place” and when you have everything in place while cooking, just like hunting, is that much more enjoyable.

Finding a use for the top half of a pheasant is easy. The legs however can be a problem. Large tendons on these running birds render them nearly inedible, but if you cook them long enough they become succulent and tender. For this recipe you are going to need to crock pot the lower half of a pheasant for several hours. I recommend overnight.


Crock Pot Pheasant –  hunter corn cakes

1 each pheasant, breasts removed

1 cup canola oil

2 bulbs garlic

1 ea apple, cut in 1/4

1 ea small red onion, cut into quarters

3 bay leafs

1 teaspoon cinnamon



Turn the crock pot on low and add the pheasant and remaining ingredients. Add enough water to just cover the bird. Place the lid on the crock pot and allow to cook for 8-10 hours on low heat. Turn off the crock pot and let rest for one hour, for maister meat let rest overnight in the refrigerator. Then remove bird and pick meat from the carcass. Reserve meat for the corn cakes.

You can save the broth created by the pheasant and use that in soups or stews if you wish.


Corn Cakes –

1 box instant corn bread mix

¾ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ea Crock Pot Pheasant Meat – picked clean of tendons and bones

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 eggs


2 Tablespoons Honey

Salt and pepper

Heat skillet or large sauté pan on stove on medium low heat for 4 minutes.  The pan must be warm or the corn cakes will stick.

Mix the beans, pheasant meat, chili flakes, eggs, and honey together in a medium sized bowl. Add the corn bread mix to the bowl and mix through. The mix will be very thick at this point. Add milk as needed to thin the batter to a pancake like consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using pan spray lightly coat the bottom of the sauté pan and pour ¼ cup cakes. Make sure to leave enough room so they do not touch. Cook cakes until golden brown on one side (2-3 minutes) and then flip and brown on the other. Reserve the corn cakes in a warm oven.

Serve Hunters Style Corn Cakes with a squeeze of lime and slices of fresh tomatoes for a great appetizer!

Duck, More Than Just Breasts.

Pheasant Hunt with Steel...I am not sure why the hunters I know will pay big bucks for a duck breast in a fancy restaurant but turn all the fowl they shoot into jerky. It has never made much sense to me. That is until I found out how they cooked duck. While a little “shake and bake” can make things taste good it is certainly not way to handle wild duck.

Additionally, all too often I see other hunters simply rip the top of the duck off and toss the legs into the trash. This, to me, is just plain wasteful. The duck died for food and I figure its whole body should be honored. Plus the best part of the whole animal is now in the trash!

To combat this issue I have made it a personal challenge to make hunters into wild duck fans. I normally give two simple rules for duck meat. One, cook the breast like it is a steak. Past medium and it starts to turn to shoe leather. Two, cook the legs until they are fall off the bone tender.

That said I do understand that most hunters find duck legs hard to eat. If a duck is roasted whole the legs are chewy and full of tendons. If the duck legs are fried up like chicken they are nearly uneatable. The problem with those styles of cooking is that they do not allow for enough time to break down the duck meat. What duck leg cooking requires most of all is time. It takes a while to break down the connective tissue in a ducks legs. I normally count on at least four hours but prefer more.

To cook a duck for that many hours takes a gentile cooking method and low heat. As long as the meat is being held above 140 degrees the connective tissue will degrade. A home crock pot is a great way to keep an eye on the temperature and slowly cook the meat. The “keep warm” setting normally operates in the 160-175 range and does a nice job slowly cooking duck legs.

Another issue that I typically hear about when dealing with duck is it’s “wild game” flavor profile. Hunters often say that duck breast tastes to “ducky” so they mask the flavors with smoke, sugar and spices in jerky. I agree that wild duck can be very flavorful, but most of that flavor comes out when the duck is overcooked. Much like a liver the bad tasting parts of duck meat become more pronounce the farther it is cooked.

I typically remove the “wildness” out of duck leg meat by preparing it confit style. Basically confit is an old school Egyptian preservation method for duck. It helps out a lot for those lacking refrigeration. To confit something you need to follow three basic steps. Cure the meat in salt, brown the meat then poach it in oil.Salted Duck for Confit

The reason that this cooking and preservation method works is because salt creates a hostile environment for microorganisms. Cooking the meat in the hot oil also kills most microbes. Top that off with a layer of microbe-inhibiting fat covering the meat and you can keep confit for up to six months in your cellar or fridge. Below is the basic method of cooking any type of meat confit style.

When curing the duck meat I clean the duck very well after the harvest. Then I will pat the meat dry with a paper towel while looking for any extra feathers, shot, or undesirable blood clots that need removed.

Then I will mix salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl. I use about 1/8 cup Kosher, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper and 1 tablespoon garlic powder per pound of duck meat. I then place the meat in a cake pan and cover with a towel in the fridge for 24 hours. I make sure to pour off any juice that accumulates on the tray.

After 24 hours I will rinse the duck off and pat it dry. Then I brown the duck meat in a couple of tablespoons of hot oil.

The next step is the hardest. Not technically hard but emotionally. The smells from the cooking duck will tempt you. Ignore the temptations and let the duck cook. If you snack on it through the whole cooking process it will not be the same!

After the meat is brown it needs to be poached in oil. Below is a list of ingredients for the oil poaching.

1 cup rendered bacon fat

Canola Oil – enough to barley cover the meat

8 cloves of garlic

16 ea black pepper corns

2 ea bay leaf

2 ea sprig of rosemary

4 ea sprigs of thyme

10 ea sage leafs

I pack the browned Duck into the bottom of a home style cake pan. Then I place on top of the duck the garlic, pepper corns, bay leafs, rosemary, thyme and sage leafs. Add the bacon fat and then pour enough canola oil to cover the duck meat. I tightly wrap the whole mess in tin foil and place it on a cookie sheet. I will then put the duck in a 350 oven for one hour then turn it down to the “keep warm” setting. I will let it cook for three more hours. Then I’ll turn off the oven and let the duck cool for one hour.

Then I’ll transfer the meat into mason jars and make sure to cover all the bones with fat. No part of the animal should be exposed. If meat is exposed it can turn faster than it should. I cool the jars in the refrigerator and when totally cooled I cap and store them in the back of the fridge. The confit can keep for up to six months.

I make sure to keep the oil from batch to batch of confit. It gains more and more flavor over time.

Duck Confit TacoWhen I want to eat the confit I will remove the metal lid and microwave the jar for a minute or so. Just enough time to melt the fat but not heat up the meat. I then remove what I am going to eat and make sure to recover the meat in oil.

I use confit meat in a variety of ways. I have made pizzas, pastas, pot stickers, tacos and many other dishes from confit meat. I have even used this method for all sorts of animals, not just duck. I have made rockchuck and venison confit, to name a few. In all confit is a great way to keep your freezer free of odds and ends and it tastes great too. Besides, a duck is more than just a good set of breasts for jerky.

Big Fish in a Little River

Fishing is not a spot and stalk sport for me most times. Generally I fish by tossing a line into the deep and hoping for the best. But steelheading on the Boise River, right in downtown Boise Idaho, has become a different story all together.

I would come, during my lunch break, to an access dock right on the river at Barbar Park with no expectations of actually catching any steelhead. I would make the five minute walk to the dock and watch white headed steelhead was swimming slowly in the shallows next to the dock, she was big and she was ugly. The fish was suffering from what is called Ulcerative Dermal Necrosis, basically ulcers on her head from being beaten up in the shallow river for so long. It is a common occurrence during the spawning season. As soon as I walked close to the edge I would watch her swim into the current and disappear, sometimes other smaller steelheads would swim off as well.

I would then cast and cast at the riffle and the pool above it, hoping to get a strike from a silver slime rocket. Most days I was disappointed and simply cast for practice, but not on Friday November 30th.  I snuck out with my ultra-light trout rod with 6 pound test and a copper “Big Deal” lure. I crept out on the dock and could see my ugly headed foe. She saw me and bolted, but only to the edge of the current. I could see her ulcered head in the current and cast about six feet in front of it. I slowly reeled in, right to her face, with her one good eye she struck my lure. I felt a bump but no run; but I could see my lure in her mouth. I did the only logical thing and set the hook as hard as I possibly could. Oh, how I wished I had brought a bigger fishing pole.

With my rod bent in half and no net I realized the problem that I would have. I was about four feet above the water and could not possibly land the fish I never thought I would catch anyway. I had to jump off the landing and into the rocks beside it, never mind that I was in slacks and chefs clogs.

The hum of my drag was nearly constant as I fought the big gal. I would reel her close to the bank and as soon as she spotted me she would bolt (she really did only have one good eye). I just let the fight play out for close to twenty minutes. She would run and I would retrieve her. When I decided to make my move I got her as close to the bank as I could and thrust my hand into the water, grabbing her tail and pulling her out of the water. With a primal grunt I tossed her to the bank.

I hooted and hollered and danced a little bit on the bank looking at my 30 inch nine pound slime rocket. My endorphin rush lasted long enough for me to ignore the other feeling I was having, Hunger.


While it might seem like blind luck that caught me my fish I was actually approaching the river with a little bit of expertise behind me.

Us litter river fishermen all want to be on the big rivers, the Columbia, the Snake, the Clearwater catching some lunkers. But, alas, we are not. Stuck in the Boise valley we hope and pray to land a big fish. Fortunately, Idaho Fish and Game stocks the Boise River each year with hatchery born steelhead from the Oxbow Dam. The steelhead run up to the hatchery and are loaded onto a truck and hauled to Boise. Fishermen can actually catch steelhead while ESPN broadcasts from the Smurf Turf at the Boise State Stadium (Go Broncos!).

Each year this fish dump creates a little micro climate for fishermen. Hundreds of people culminate across the four drop locations trying to land a steelhead while not driving four hours and spending hundreds of dollars.

With the small water of the Boise River tactics change a little. In stead of jigging for fish at 6 feet you jig for them at about 2 feet. Diver style plugs are out of the question. The best bet for landing an “in town” steelhead is what local fishermen Kelly Chatterton calls a BSA standing for “Big, Silver and Annoying”.

Spinners and spoons tend to dominate the fishing action in the Boise River. Specifically the Blue Fox Super Vibrax in the silver color. “Basically, it is the job of the fisherman to knock the big boys on the head with a lure and make them strike it…the strike is out of anger, not hunger” added Chatterton. Others use bait right after the fish are dumped, to limited success.

With the low levels of the water sight fishing is not uncommon. Most time the fish can be seen at the edges of holes during mid day. Not spooking the fish is the vital aspect of sight fishing on the Boise. Cast above the fish and try and get the lure as close as possible to the head of the fish hopefully inducing a strike.

In general fishing is best right after the fish are deposited. They tend to be confused and have not settled into the river, that and there are a lot more fish per mile of water. Fortunately IDF&G publish, on their website, the fish drop locations and dates. The 2012 season was cut short due to a lower than expected return to the Oxbow Dam. Roughly 1000 fish were released for us City Fishers.

How to get more meat off a Steelhead

Protein recovery becomes an issue when a person gets a big fish to shore. We all want to be as respectful as possible of the life that we have taken but many of us lack the skills to harvest all the meat in the proper way. No worries, I have a little trick that will make you feel good about your fillets event if they are not perfect.

When the fish is done being filleted most people will simple toss the bodies and be done. But many times a large amount of meat, often as much as a pound, is left on the skeleton. A simple tablespoon removes all the excess meat. Simply scrape down the side of the fishes exposed sections removing the flesh. Scrape the backbone clean of most of the meat. It is all perfectly edible but often overlooked. Pile this meat up and reserve for fish taco night, for sandwiches or pasta. No need to crumble up the perfect fillets when you have crumbled meat already.