Piglet Community Pick: Afield

February 18, 2013

Read up on some of 2012's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.   

Today: Aargersi delves into the hunting-driven recipes from Afield.


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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!


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Bevi
  • J David B
    J David B
  • mariaraynal
  • LLStone
  • Lynne Faubert
    Lynne Faubert

Written by: aargersi

Country living, garden to table cooking, recent beek, rescue all of the dogs, #adoptdontshop


Bevi February 21, 2013
Abbie, have you read the article by John McPhee titled "Travels to Georgia"? McPhee spends time with a naturalist who feeds herself in the wilds of Georgia, and cooks DOR animals that she stores in an ice chest that she stows in her pickup truck. Your review reminded me of this essay, which I think you would really enjoy
J D. February 21, 2013
Can't wait to get my hands on this book. The NY Times ran an article and a recipe for smothered pork chops that was so very, very good and nailed my decision to order the book.
mariaraynal February 19, 2013
Great review, Abbie! I felt like I was right there with you, and am impressed, as always, by your courage and adventurous spirit in the kitchen. Fabulous.
LLStone February 18, 2013
What a terrific review! You are a girl after my own heart - can't wait to look through the cookbook! Nicely done.
Lynne F. February 18, 2013
I don't know if there's a recipe in there, but my husband swears by what is called grass cutters in Africa, a close relative of the groundhog — or so he tells me with profound sorrow every time we cross illegal-to-pick road kill. But, ahem, that's a complete other chapter, lol.
drbabs February 18, 2013
Great review, a! You are so versatile!
mrslarkin February 18, 2013
awesome review, aargersi. can't wait to peruse this book!
arielleclementine February 18, 2013
Fantastic! I'm in awe of your meat prowess! Gonna have to get this book.
aargersi February 18, 2013
Hey i THINK if you go to the downtown Farmer's Market you night be able to get a signed copy ... not 100% positive but I think that is true
Greenstuff February 18, 2013
I've been looking forward to this review ever since you signed up for it! Great job.
fiveandspice February 18, 2013
A, you are absurdly awesome! Love it.
hardlikearmour February 18, 2013
Great review! I didn't imagine I'd be interested in this book, but you make it sound approachable and delectable. BTW -- one of my uncles really loves squirrel, so don't be afraid to give it a try!