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.

Lazy in Advance

Back in the day my family vacation and my fathers’ summer time elk scouting was rolled into the same week. We would pack up the wagon and hit the road. Camp would be located after about three hours on back roads. We would set out our stuff and let dad and my older brother go for a hike in the morning. (I was too little at the time to go scouting) When they would get back my mom, sister and I would have a big breakfast ready. Well, we would try to have a breakfast ready.


What would normally happen is some catastrophe that involved the cooking equipment. Some pipe on the stove would break; we would run out of gas or maybe we just forgot the coffee. It was always some sort of camping travesty; it never worked out as planned.

To try and solve this problem my father started to do a little pre camping in the backyard. He would set up all the equipment and test it out before setting out on the vacation. His buddies would make fun of him and call him overly prepared – he just said he was being lazy in advance. Plus he knew my moms cooking ability or lack there of. Dad would fix what needed it, buy what he had to, and then he knew he would get a hot breakfast when he got back. (Honestly, I think mom just wanted to eat at the café in town.)

The pre camping taught me a great lesson that seems rudimentary – check your equipment before you go camping/hunting. Fast forward to the present and I find myself asking simple questions. Did the hole in the tent from last fall magically fix itself? Nope. Did I buy fuel for my burners? No, then why would I expect to have any now. When was the last time my sleeping bag got used? Christmas when my brother got drunk and slept on the couch. Get the gear out and give it a test, maybe even a wash.

Ryan Cooking Ribs

The little details that make camping and hunting enjoyable need to be thought of before leaving or they will turn into big problems. (Kinda like the time we made it four hours up a logging road to find out we didn’t have any plates for my family of five. Nothing bonds a family like sharing a meal out of one pan…) To be honest, my wife does a better job than me with making sure we are prepared.

When testing the gear nothing gets me more ticked off than cooking equipment that is not working properly. In my case I have had a few of those fancy “grill-burner-griddle” contraptions over the years and none have truly impressed me. The griddles have hot spots and the grill is just a waste of space that gets everything messy. I like the idea of an all in one cook top but I am not sure I have used a functional one yet. Plus, those pictures of the perfectly cooked pancakes just piss me off. I am a chef and I can’t even come close to making those.

For most of my camp cooking I use, and don’t judge me now, is those little burners you see the omelet cooks at convention center using. The single burner propane cook tops. Last time I checked they are like $20 bucks at the Restaurant Supply store and like $35 bucks at the sporting goods store. I have four of them that make it camping with me. They stack into a tote with my utensils and I know as long as I have butane they are ready to cook some food. They are cheep, light, quick to pack and store well. Plus, clean up is a breeze.

Another great idea is to have a cleaning kit for all your cooking supplies. I use a rectangle Tupperware that my wife thinks the dog ate. I keep soap, a few shop towels, a sponge, paper towels and an old butter knife. The old knife is for scraping the sides of the pan in the morning.

Keeping cooking equipment clean and sanitary while camping is hard, but not impossible. Hands get muddy, that black stuff from the four-wheeler grips gets on your hands – it is part of the fun of camping. You don’t need to be clean to be a member of the group.

Don't want your stuff to mess up!That said, look at the guy who is making dinner, and then look at his fingernails. Ask him if he washed his hands before cutting those onions. Then ask if he washed after he peed. You won’t want the answers. Somehow sanitation just seems to fly out the window while camping. Frankly, that is a dangerous proposition.

Food that is not handled right and is contaminated becomes a hazard to eat. If you are making sure to cool the deer meat hanging in camp then make sure you wash your hands after you gut him. Follow the basic rules of sanitation and no one should get the squirts during elk camp or the summer vacation.

I make double sure to do a little backyard camping with my backpacking equipment. When I am seven miles from the nearest road lord knows that I need my equipment to be working right. My boys also love to look at all my cool gear spread out on a tarp in the back yard. Take the time to clean it and store it properly and it will last a lot longer. The family will enjoy the time fidgeting with all the stuff and you can sleep better knowing that your belly will be full.

A cost saving favorite of mine is using the large box retailers for backpacking food. I buy the dehydrated chili mix and then take it home and vacuum pack it into smaller and manageable portions. Same with dehydrated hash browns. I do the math on the amount of water each one will take and write it on the side with a permanent marker. You can get a whole meal for a buck instead of six. It is a good deal.Late Night Cooking with Dave

To me backpacking food is for backpacking and that is it. Eating that stuff when I have access to a cooler and a truck seems like sacrilege. I hate it when I show up to deer camp and someone is eating dehydrated “chicken teriyaki”. Don’t get me wrong I have downed a couple hundred of those over the years but they are not what I consider food. They are fuel. Dehydrated food is simply calories that just so happen to have to pass over my tongue to get into my belly.

A few things can make dehy food a little bit more palatable. First I like to add actual protein to the dish. This past bear season I packed in a 12oz pack of country ribs off a wild hog I shot a few years back for dinner. I browned off the ribs very well and then added the dehydrated food (Chicken and Rice) to my pan along with the suggested amount of water. I turned off the heat and let it all sit for a while and then – like magic – we had real food. The meat had a little extra seasoning and gave the whole pot substance. I fed three people with just a little package of meat and a little Mountain House.

Getting the equipment out is also a surefire method for back yard adventure. Take the kids out and listen for frogs in the backyard. While it might not be the wilderness the family will enjoy the time and you will know that your equipment works.

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.

Arm-Chair Quail Hunters

The other boat on the water had been playing hop-scotch with us all day long. My buddy Ryan and I would pull onto a small riparian bar along the Snake River to hunt quail; they would motor past hooting and hollering at us. The boaters seemed to be more intent on the 12oz curl and being our peanut gallery than doing any hunting, thank God. They never fired one shot but the offered our own private heckling section during parts of our quail hunts.

            It never failed that they would motor to within shouting distance when a covey of quail would bust up. The boaters would offer shooting suggestions to us while we fired away at the birds. Comments like “Oh! Just missed!” and “A little behind that one!” came off the water, unwelcome. They thought they were being hysterical, we did not.

            It occurred to me later that this was a classic case of arm-chair quail hunting. Offer advice on how to shoot a quail while not actually shooting at the birds. Most hunters I know, myself included, are fantastic at this. We can tell others, all day long, the proper technique, lead time and choke to use for hunting the little birds. That said, in the field most of arm-chair quailers can’t hit one in five birds.

            Over time I have noticed that arm-chair quail hunters tend to have a rash of equipment issues when actually out hunting. The guns action isn’t working right. The safety is sticking. The wrong choke is in the gun. Creative reasons de jour escape every honest quail hunter’s mouth. As well as some profanities when a shot is missed.   

            It seems that the birds also have a great sense of timing. Hopping the fence? Time to bust up. Taking a pee? Never fails, birds will fly.

            It is this combination of poor shooting; equipment failure and the birds’ knack for timing that make every precious ounce of quail meat all the more valuable. A hunter can spend an entire day out and get four birds with pride, only to not have enough for an appetizer course with his family. Hitting a flying quail is hard plain as simple. They humble me.  

            Over the years I have picked up on a few tricks for getting quail into my vest. The first thing that recommend is learn to whistle like a quail, or just buy a quail call. When a covey busts they will often starting calling out to each other in hopes of reconnecting and relocating. Give a busted covey a few minuets and then hit the call. They will often reply giving you the location of a few more birds in the rough.

            After busting the covey it is also a good idea to stop and mark the location they flew to. Then take a five minute break. If you immediately follow the birds they will tend to run and disappear. If you give them a little time to settle they will be more apt to bust giving hunters a good shot opportunity.

            The single biggest factor for success with quail is a dog. I don’t care if it is a Yorkie with ear plugs just about any dog while hunting quail is better than no dog. That said the dog has to stay close to be effective. While a nice pointer would be invaluable any mutt with its nose to the ground and the drive to have birds fly will prove effective.

            We did not reach our limit on the river that day. But we did show ourselves the limit of our shooting capabilities. It showed me that I need to bust more clay in the off season and that I needed to check what choke I had in my gun.            

One day I will be able to limit out on quail. The perfect shooter somewhere inside me will show itself and I will manage to whack ten in one day. Take that limit home and actually be able to make a whole meal for my family.  But like my buddy and fellow quail hunter Matt Lindley says – “You need to walk a lot and shoot a lot just to get a little stew.”

Recipe – Smashed Quail with Mountain Dew and Soy Glaze

The Birds 

8ea Quail, plucked and gutted

To “smash” the quail all that you need to do is lay them on their backs, breast up, and press firmly down with your hand. This will crush the ribs and flatten out the bird. This will allow it to be cooked more evenly.

Another option for a “smashed quail” it to cut the back and ribs out of the bird with a pair of kitchen scissors. Place the bird breast side down on the cutting board. With the scissors cut between the legs and then remove the rib cage with two additional cuts. The cutting will look like a “Y” shape. With out the backbone the bird will cook quicker and more evenly.

Marinate the quail over night in the Mountain Dew Ponzu.

Mountain Dew Ponzu

Like many people of my generationMountain Dew was a food group growing up. That said I have, over the years, tried to turn the beverage into various things. I have made desserts, corn cakes and in this case a sauce for quail.

The drink has two major flavors in it – citrus and sugar. A classic Asian Style Ponzu sauce has three flavors – citrus, sugar and soy. Use the Mountain Dew as a base and you are 2/3 the way to a ponzu sauce.

Mountain Dew Ponzu Recipe

1 can Mountain Dew

½ cup soy sauce

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 green onions, sliced

1 thumb sized chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced thick

Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Chill. Use as marinade for game birds.

To use as a glaze. Pour small amounts of the sauce over the top of a grilling quail. It has a high sugar content so be careful not to burn the bird. Repeat until a firm crust of sauce is formed on the bird. Enjoy!

Soba Noodle Salad

With this recipe any type of round noodle will work. I have used angel hair and spaghetti in the past. Soba noodles are just a Japanese take on the thin round noodle. You can find them dry or fresh in most grocery stores. Look in the ethnic section for the dry noodles and in produce for the fresh.

12 oz cooked and chilled soba noodles

1 ea lime, juice and zest

1 red pepper, sliced thin

½ red onion, sliced thin

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

2 each green onions

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Mix zest and juice evenly. Season with salt and pepper.

Bringing it all together

Place a 3 oz of noodle mix in the center of a plate. Pour a small amount of mountain dew ponzu around the noodles. Top with hot “smashed” quail. Serve.

Weekend O’ Foodness

And Exhale. Wow, the last few days have been a whirlwind of food.

Thursday the 6th of September was the 14th annual A Chefs Affair. ACA is a charity dinner that benefits the Idaho Food Bank. It is amazing to see up to forty chefs in one room all working toward helping end hunger in Idaho. Each year it brings in money that helps provide hundreds of thousands of meals.

ACA is not all work work work. Some Chefs, like John Berryhill, are more than capable of making a good time out of any situation.

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Friday was a little recovery but mostly after hours prep for two full days of mashed potatoes. Not joking, two full days of photographing recipes I created out of instant mashed potatoes. Guy Hand took the pictures and Rebecca Robinson was the food stylist. Man, I don’t think I have ever seen dehydrated potatoes get such a warm reception.  

Saturday night I drove to Twin Falls and taught a class at Rudy’s A Cooks Paradise and had an awesome evening. Wine, students and the company of the best, and most tattooed, cooking store manager I have ever had the privilege to work with. Oh, Jess, you are awesome.

Sunday was my little mans birthday party! The wife bought him the movie theater sized cardboard promotional for the Muppet Movie and plans on making it one of his walls. For the love of gravy.

I looked forward to going to work on Monday just for a little break!

Much love and hope to have something hunted and wild in the near future on the site.