Cooking Wild – Maine Game At Its Best!

My favorite wild game cookbook is Cooking Wild by outdoor writer and editor Ken Allen of Belgrade. Guy Gannett Publishing Company, owner of the Portland Press Herald and other newspapers, published Ken’s cookbook in 1986.

When Gannett sold its newspapers, the publishing company was dissolved and the unsold copies of Ken’s book were donated to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which sold them for $10 a copy until the supply was gone.

Ken began cooking at eight years old, in a family that depended on wild and seasonal foods. When he was 10, a visitor from Massachusetts asked him what his favorite food was, and was shocked when Ken answered, “Fried squirrel.” His cookbook contains six squirrel recipes.

I use Ken’s book often, and will in fact be using it this week when I prepare a couple of North Dakota pheasants for dinner.

And now, right beside Ken’s cookbook on the shelf is a new cookbook, Black Fly Stew: Wild Maine Recipes by Kate Krukowski Gooding of Mount Desert Island. While you can’t buy Ken’s cookbook anymore, Kate’s book is a wonderful collection of wild game and other recipes.

Published by Northern Solstice Publishing LLC on Mount Desert, the book is distributed by Islandport Press in Yarmouth.

The book includes many intriguing recipes for wild game from moose to beaver – and if you have never had beaver stew, it is delicious. For years, the Maine Trappers Association served beaver stew at Sportsmen’s Day at the legislature, and it was a big hit.

But Kate’s recipes are not limited to wild game (a good thing because there is a limit on what my wife Linda will try). So the first recipe I tried from her cookbook was Mustard-Thyme Chicken Breast.  Linda helped me gather the 8 ingredients, and I prepared the dish in about 30 minutes, ideal for a dinner after a long day at work.

Many of the recipes elevate wild game by adding new cooking techniques and ingredients, like Thai Moose and Venison Stuffed Portobellos. I can’t wait to try Thunder Hole Ale Braised Rabbit.

Having just received a bunch of moose meat from Ed and Cate Pineau, because I participated in the hunt at their Northeast Carry Camp last October when our friend Kevin Stewart from Texas shot a nice 700-pound bull, I’ve been taking a close look at Kate’s moose recipes. The Moose and Bar Harbor Stout Chili has caught my eye – particularly because that Stout is one of my favorite micro-brews!

The book is divided into sections featuring side dishes, salads, vegetables, seafood, wild game, birds, and desserts. It is most definitely not all about wild game. It even includes sections on things to do in Maine and food and beverage suppliers.

I really loved the quote from a review of the book in the Working Waterfront newspaper: “Oriented to using local ingredients, whether obtained with a shovel or a shot gun.” I can’t say it any better than that!

A self-trained chef, Kate has worked in restaurants and the catering business and is also active in the arts – which explains the wonderful artwork throughout the cookbook. Her book won’t supplant Ken Allen’s as my number-one, but it’s providing a lot of new recipes to try and is sure, over time, to be as well worn as Ken’s.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.