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JEFF TIEDEMAN: Wild things

Most cooks love to share their recipes. I say most because there's this friend of mine, a little old Italian lady, who let me in on her recipe for antipasto. And when I told one of her daughters that, she said her mom never does that. The recipe ...

Jeff Tiedeman
Jeff Tiedeman

Most cooks love to share their recipes. I say most because there's this friend of mine, a little old Italian lady, who let me in on her recipe for antipasto. And when I told one of her daughters that, she said her mom never does that. The recipe is a family secret.

I know she's not the only person who likes to keep heirloom recipes under wraps, and I'm truly grateful that she passed it on to me. It's one of my favorites.

But there aren't many things that give me more pleasure than to let someone else enjoy a dish that I've created and is one that's close to my heart.

And this time of year, when hunting seasons are in full swing, I'm asked to share a lot of my personal wild game recipes. There's hardly a week that goes by when someone inquires about how to fix venison, duck, goose or whatever that doesn't tasty gamey.

For example, Dennis Ball, a retired educator who taught at both Grand Forks Red River and Central high schools, recently sought out some wild game recipes. After chatting for a bit while we were exercising at a local fitness center, the former prep coach asked for my wild game marinade and shredded barbecued pheasant recipes.

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I also passed along the pheasant recipe to the Grand Forks firefighters at Station 1 not too long ago -- after dropping off a sample of it while doing a column about how cooking has changed the past couple of decades at the fire hall.

My repertoire of wild game recipes grows with each hunting season because I love to experiment. For example, I came up with my pheasant recipe by improvising one for barbecue sauce and combining it with the leg and thigh meat from the tasty game bird, which some people discard because they don't want to hassle with all the small bones.

I've even used sharp-tailed grouse -- not considered a delicacy like pheasant -- in this recipe, converting some naysayers who swore they'd never eat the gamey bird. (Several of my friends who I've hunted with have gladly given me ones they've shot.)

I think one reason a lot of people don't like wild game is that it hasn't been properly handled, but that's another story.

Sharptails also are excellent on the grill. If you want to kick them up a notch (to quote celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse), wrap the "chicken" breasts in a slice of bacon and stuffed with a piece of garlic and a sliver of jalapeno pepper. (Try doves this way, too.)

Another original, my baked pheasant and wild rice recipe, is one that we often serve to guests, much to their delight.

Perhaps the biggest reason I like to share wild game recipes is that it is the original low-carbohydrate, low-fat, all-natural food, a healthy choice the whole family can enjoy. It wasn't too long ago that wild game was a huge part of the American diet, and it wasn't until people started moving into cities that they lost their connection to the country.

I'm not the only one in our family who creates wild game recipes. A couple of years ago, Therese made a venison lasagna for supper one night that both by grandson, Rakeem, and I dived in to headfirst. When I later complimented her on the tasty dish, Therese said the recipe was made up and not from a cookbook.

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There's no secret to wild game recipes, just imagination.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at jtiedeman@gfherald.com .

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