Autumn is a time for cider and donuts, the changing of the leaves, and football games. But, it’s also a time for hunters and fishermen to go out and take their last crack at taming the great outdoors before the long winter sets in.
With fall being the height of hunting and fishing season, there are plenty of opportunities to break out your favorite fish and game meals, whether you’ve brought home the meat yourself or purchased it at your favorite grocery store or butcher shop.
When the weather begins to cool, many people find themselves hankering for meals that fortify. Stews, chops, hearty soups, and fall vegetables all become staples of the season, offering up the sustenance that helps gird you in the face of imminent harsher weather.
The fun part of these particular yearnings, is that they allow home chefs the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and put together the kind of spreads you can easily imagine gracing the tables of a great hall.
Turkey, of course, is a classic autumn game choice, but more exotic fare like pheasant, Cornish game hen, venison, and duck, along with seasonal variations on classic favorites like chicken and beef, can all be a part of your fall menu.
Autumn is also a time to incorporate seasonal vegetables into your game dishes. Leeks, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes are some of the most popular additions to an autumn meal, and they can provide the robust flavors that perfectly complement the entrees you are likely to choose as you plan your meals. Here are two of those entrees to consider:
It’s that mix of two main flavors that is a hallmark of fall cooking. Brining, while certainly an option throughout the year, is most often used in the fall and winter—and in combination with the sweet fall-centric flavors of apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato. This creates a complex mix of rich tastes to please your palette.
For many, autumn isn’t complete without an early morning trip down to the river or reservoir in search of the trout, bass, or salmon that are part of many fall spreads. The succulence of fresh-caught fish blends perfectly with light cream sauces and substantive vegetables. Try these options:
Once you’ve developed a wealth of main course options that will sate family and friends throughout the fall months, be sure to provide the extras, side dishes, desserts, etc., that will take your meal over the top. In fact, fall is the perfect time to indulge your carbohydrate cravings with cinnamon raisin country walnut bread, cornbread stuffing, or simple, classic buttermilk biscuits. (See more about biscuits.)
For dessert, while you may be tempted to continue the novel approach you’ve employed with your entrees, autumn almost demands a traditional plate. Pies—from apple to cherry to pumpkin—are more than anyone could ask for after wolfing down a filling plate of turkey, venison, or salmon. However, if you’re desperate to add a twist to a traditional favorite, try a variation on classic pumpkin pie with A Different Pumpkin Pie.
Finally, complete your meal with a libation sure to warm your guests, body and soul. Spiced wines, warm bourbon drinks (e.g., hot toddies), and nutty white wines will all enhance your guests’ dining experience, without overpowering the already strong flavors of your food choices. They will be the finishing touch of your meal and send guests home well on their way to hibernation.
2 (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each) Cornish game hens
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek (white part only) thinly sliced
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2" dice
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Season the game hens generously on all sides with salt.
Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the game hens and brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the game hens to a large plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the leeks to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cabbage, lightly salt and toss to coat with the bacon fat. Cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a boil. Scrape the bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits. Stir in the chicken broth and thyme. Lower the heat to medium and place the game hens and any accumulated juices on top of the cabbage. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the juices run clear and the hens register 165 F on an instant-read thermometer.
Transfer the game hens to a carving board and cover with foil to keep warm. Add the cannellini beans to the pot, stir to incorporate with the cabbage and warm over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley.
Using a carving knife, cut the game hens in half through the breastbone. Serve with the cabbage, beans and bacon. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
The perfect brined turkey, moist and full of flavor.
Apple Cider Brine
2/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries, crushed
8 cups unsweetened apple cider or juice
2 turkey-size brining bags
One 10 to 25 pound fresh or thawed turkey
2 oranges, quartered
In a 3-to 4-quart saucepan, put the salt, sugar, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice. Add 8 cups of apple cider or juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes; then remove from the heat. Add 4 cups of ice-cold water, stir and set aside to cool.
Have ready a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey. Place one of the brine bags inside the second one to create a double thickness; then place these bags, open wide, in the roasting pan.
Remove the turkey from its wrapping. Remove the neck and bag of giblets from the main and neck cavities of the bird. Store separately in the refrigerator for making gravy. Stuff the main cavity of the bird with the orange quarters.
Fold back the top third of the bags, making a collar. Place the turkey inside the double-thick bags, stand it upright, unfold the top of the bag, and pour the Apple Cider Brine over the bird. Add an additional 2 cups of cold water. Draw up the top of the inner bag, squeezing out as much air as possible; then secure it closed with a twist tie.
Do the same for the outer bag. Place the turkey, breast-side down, in the roasting pan and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Turn the turkey 3 or 4 times while it is brining.
Just prior to roasting, remove the turkey from the brine. Discard the bags, brine, and any cured herbs or spices remaining on the bird. Discard the oranges and ginger. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. The turkey is now ready to be roasted following the instructions for Butter-Rubbed Turkey with Apple Cider Glaze or according to your own favorite recipe.
©Diane Morgan, The Thanksgiving Table (Chronicle Books, 2001).
A meaty fish that prepares beautifully.
4 Red Snapper steaks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 sticks butter
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Brush fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Let fish sit while sauce is prepared.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine shallots, cider vinegar, black pepper, bay leaf and dry white wine. Simmer until mixture is reduced by half. Add heavy cream and simmer until reduced by half. Strain through a mesh sieve and return to heat. Whisk in butter and Dijon mustard.
Preheat grill to medium high. Place fish on the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes and then flip, cooking for 2-4 minutes longer.
Serve the Red Snapper with a generous helping of the Creamy Dijon Sauce.
4 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1-10 ounce jar red currant jelly
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts plus more for garnish (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a 2-quart saucepan combine cranberries, sugar, jelly, jalapeno, and orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. Keep warm.
Set oven to broil and place rack 4 inches from heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste.
Combine lime juice and butter. Place fish, skin side down, on rack in broiler pan. Brush salmon with butter mixture.
Broil 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Serve salmon with sauce. Sprinkle with nuts to garnish.
4 filets (5 ounces each) halibut
freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces (2 cups) baby Chioggia beets, peeled and quartered
3 sprigs + 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves chopped
1 orange, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 pound (3 cups) fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
4 cups wild mushrooms, torn into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt heavily and add the beets, 3 thyme sprigs, and the orange slices. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and discard the thyme sprigs and orange slices. Toss the beets with the olive oil and lemon juice and set aside.
Bring another pot of water to a boil, salt heavily, and add the potatoes. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Quickly drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water until completely cooled. Drain the potatoes and dry well. Set aside.
Generously season the halibut with salt and transfer to an oiled rack. Place the rack over the pan of water in the oven. Cook until the fish is no longer translucent in the center and is slightly firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets.
In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onions and lemons and let caramelize slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not shake the pan.
When lemons begin to brown, add the mushrooms and salt lightly. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and begun to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and potatoes and salt to taste. Cook until the potatoes are heated through. Remove from the heat and add the mint.
Divide the potato-mushroom mixture equally among 4 plates. Place one halibut filet on top and spoon the beet mixture on top. Serves 4.
Adapted from Chef Barton Seaver, Hook, Washington, DC
Delightful country bread with traditional cinnamon and raisin flavor.
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups high gluten flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cool water
Put yeast and warm water in mixing bowl. Whisk yeast until creamy looking. Combine flours, walnuts, raisins, and salt. Add into mixing bowl. Using dough hook slowly begin mixing, adding cool water to form a smooth, elastic dough (see Tip at the bottom). Mix with dough hook for 5-8 minutes until dough is elastic. Remove and place on half sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator 8 - 24 hours.
After dough has risen, shape into a round: flatten, then pull four sides of dough into center and turn over. Place round in center of clay clouche. Place cover on clouche. Let rise overnight in refrigerator.
Lightly flour the top of each loaf. With sharp knife, score the top of each loaf with a V shape. Place the preheated cover over the loaf. Place in center of 375 F preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Makes 1 round loaf.
Tip: When first combining water and flour, it’s essential to create dough with the right consistency. If dough is too wet and sticky, add a bit more flour. If dough is too dry and hard, add a bit more cool water.
The Levain Poke Test for Proofed Dough: Poke the refrigerated dough with a finger. If the indentation holds, you’re ready to bake. If dough bounces back, let sit in a warm spot until it passes the test.
Recipe courtesy of Levain Bakery, New York City.
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
16 ounce bag cornbread cubes
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and celery over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir cornbread bread cubes, milk, water and eggs. And mix.
Place the stuffing in a buttered casserole dish and bake at 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk, or more as needed
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, handling it as little as possible.
Stir in the milk and blend with a spoon, just until the liquid has been absorbed. Add more buttermilk if needed. With lightly floured hands, work the dough briefly until it barely holds together in a flaky ball.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll or pat the dough out into a round, about 1/2-inch thick. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many biscuits as possible. Gather up the scraps, work into a cohesive ball, re-roll and cut out more rounds. Do not re-roll the dough more than once or you will end up with tough biscuits.
Transfer biscuits to the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Makes about 10 biscuits.
A crisp and crunchy topping over the smooth pumpkin filling elevates this pie to new heights.
Basic All-American Pie Dough for a 9-inch pie shell
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 tablespoon (about 1 1/4 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups pumpkin purée
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
The unorthodox system of cooking the filling on top of the stove and then pouring it into a fully baked, crisp pie shell alleviates the tendency for the crust to be damp under the pumpkin filling. It is inspired by a winning recipe from a contest sponsored by the Borden Company in 1931.
Apparently cooks are always looking to improve on a classic. The broiled topping, crisp and crunchy over the smooth pumpkin filling is optional, but it elevates this pie to new heights.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Roll out the dough and fit in into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim and flute the edges, then bake the pie shell fully. Cool completely before filling.
To make the filling, whisk together the evaporated milk and gelatin in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Let stand for a few minutes to soften the gelatin. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt then whisk until blended. Add the eggs and sugar and whisk again until blended and smooth.
Cook over moderate heat, whisking almost constantly, for 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and you see wisps of steam rising, but do not let it boil.
Remove from the heat and add the pumpkin, then whisk until completely smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if you prefer. The filling will become firm as it cools.
To make the topping, preheat the broiler and position a rack so that the surface of the pie will be about 4 inches from the heat. Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, salt, and butter in a small bowl and stir briskly with a fork until evenly mixed. Spread over the surface of the cooled pie.
Broil for about 2 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned and bubbly. Watch the pie closely during this time, and rotate it once or twice as necessary so the topping browns evenly.
Let cool before serving. The topping may be broiled several hours ahead; although it will lose a little of its crunch, it will still be very good.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
©John Phillip Carroll, pie pie pie (Chronicle Books, 2005)
Categories: Food & Recipes