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Read up on some of 2012's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.
Afield is more than a cookbook. Jody Horton’s photography qualifies it as a coffee table book (who ever thought that pictures of just-shot birds or dressing feral hog could achieve that?). It is a hunting guide -- Griffiths walks us through cleaning and disassembling all manner of game and fish. It is, too, a book of essays -- each chapter (divided into types of game) opens with a description of the hunt, giving the feeling of being right there alongside Mr. Griffiths. And it is, of course, a cookbook.
One need not be hunter to use this book. If you're lucky, as I am, to have hunters in the family, then mooching works nicely. Otherwise, you can source local game at the farmers' market or butcher, or you can substitute meat, birds and fish found at your local grocery in many of the recipes.
I started with a simple recipe: grilled venison loin with horseradish cream. Simple in construction but complex in flavor, the herbs paired perfectly with the slightly gamey venison, and the horseradish cream added bite and richness. The dish is elegant enough for dinner party but also weeknight easy.
To test this book, my family and I had Game Night -- cooking, not Monopoly. We ate venison chili, venison breakfast sausage and wild boar chorizo (these froze beautifully), wild boar carnitas, and Bad Day Dove Risotto. In all cases the recipes were approachable, delicious, and worth making again. We pulled back on the salt for the sausages, and because it was a good day, we added a bit of extra dove to the risotto.
My friend Molly helped me with the next test, fish soup. I bought the fish at the grocery, since I had no time to run to the coast and wet a line. (Ask your fishmonger to save some bones for the stock in case he or she doesn’t have the right whole fish that day.) The soup was rich but light -- a perfect weeknight meal served with a salad and toasted bread. As a matter of personal preference, we reduced the amount of garlic called for in the aioli from twelve cloves to three. We also found the whisking to be a two-women job, but then again, that could've been the wine talking. Perhaps earlier in the day it could have been accomplished alone, with determination and a strong arm.
I gifted this book to the hunters in my family, as did my neighbor. Reporting in: Afield's venison burgers got six thumbs up from my niece’s family, and the turkey cutlets were a hit at the neighbors'. (They kindly brought me a sample.) The mushroom gravy served alongside was a perfect, earthy complement to the crisp turkey breast.
I look forward to more cooking with Afield -- rabbit and duck need my attention, and I intend further investigation of the seafood and meat sections. Who knows, maybe I will even try my hand at squirrel!