Tender roasted moose, caramelized onions, potatoes, parsnips and mushrooms pulled together with moose gravy, topped with a flaky, golden-brown crust and served with our home-brewed Nut-Brown Ale. That’s how we do it in Alaska.
This has been a good year for moose hunting in Chignik Lake, and while I’m not sure we’d know what to do with a twelve-hundred pound bull, anytime a friend offers up a few pounds, we’re in. This moose pie is a long-standing favorite recipe, easily adapted for other wild game or beef. Start with a pound of tender roast, toss in your favorite vegetables, add time-tested seasonings and a little gravy, top with a savory pie crust and bake at 375° F for about 25 minutes. Serves four Alaska-sized appetites.
Rustic Moose Pot Pie
- 1 3/4 cups beef broth or moose broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 2/3 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes, skin on
- olive oil
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 pound roasted moose meat, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/2 cup sweet corn
- 1/2 Brussels sprouts, quartered
- 1/2 cup carrots, sliced into discs or chopped coarse
- 1/2 cup parsnips, sliced 1/4 inch think x 1/2 inch
- 1/2 onion, cut into slices and caramelized
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped coarse
- 1/2 rounded teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- several generous grinds freshly cracked black pepper
- salt, to taste
- Place a baking sheet on the center rack of oven and preheat to 375 °F (190° C).
- Place broth in a pot, add bay leaf. Taste to determine if salt needed.
- Add potatoes. Simmer potatoes till just tender, but do not overcook. Save broth and remove potatoes to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, add olive oil to cover bottom and bring to sizzling hot over medium/medium-high heat. Brown the mushrooms, remove and set aside. Add onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook till caramelized. Remove onions and set aside.
- Add additional olive oil to frying pan as necessary and continue heating over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts, parsnips and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook till Brussels sprouts are browned and all vegetables are just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove vegetables from pan and add to bowl with potatoes.
- Over medium-low heat, place approximately 4 tablespoons olive oil into a small frying pan. When oil is heated but not sizzling hot, briskly stir in flour a little at a time. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
- Heating beef broth over medium heat, stir in oil and flour mixture. Combine thoroughly. Simmer till reduced to a thick gravy.
- To the bowl that already has the potatoes and vegetables, add the moose meat, mushrooms, gravy and the remaining seasonings and mix together. (There are a number of ways to make a thick gravy. Try using a dark ale to deglaze the pan you used for roasting the moose.)
- Pour meat and vegetable mixture directly into a deep pie dish. Cover with a crust. Be sure to make holes in the crust to allow steam to escape. Brushing on a beaten egg will help create a golden brown crust.
- Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 °F for 25 – 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Although a full-bodied red wine such as an old vine Zinfandel, Malbec or Cabernet is a classic choice with this dish, a full-bodied ale pairs equally well.
Ice Barque: This naturally occurring arrangement of ice – which seems to have imbedded in it a swan, a fish and a mythical terrestrial beast as its masts and bow – reminded me of the allegorical artwork of the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593). A better sense of these images can be gained by enlarging them. (Command and + on a Mac.)
Arcimboldo’s work hangs in the Louvre and in other museums and cathedrals in Europe, but he is no doubt best known to Americans of a certain age for the cover art on the album Masque, released in 1975 by the progressive rock group Kansas. (See below)
Water, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1566
(free use domain, from Wikimedia Commons)
Ice Barque #2: Although I shot these images in color, I ended up liking them better in black and white.
Hand of Dawn: I shot this with a relatively inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, which I almost always have with me regardless of what else I’m carrying.
Next Thursday: Winter Waterfowl
Winter Hunt: Saker Falcon, Kustai National Park, Mongolia
Prized by falconers for their beauty and power, Saker Falcons are endangered due to black market trading and habitat loss. They are the national bird of Mongolia.
(From) The Winter’s Tale
Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.
William Shakespeare – lines from The Winter’s Tale, 1623
In otherwise good health, Shakespeare (1564-1616) died 3 days shy of 52. Many of his plays were published posthumously. According to one source, Shakespeare’s death followed a night of heavy drinking with Ben Johnson and Michael Drayton. An apocryphal tale or not, all of his plays contain references to drink.
A hint of thyme compliments the delicate flavor of wild char, one or our favorite fish. No wild fish available? Look for Arctic Char at the fish market. They get high marks for being responsibly farmed and are delicious.
There’s something about wild char and trout that calls to simplicity. Among all species of fish, they are among the most demanding of unspoiled environments. Where streams, rivers and lakes are clean and lightly trammeled, these species often thrive, both their numbers and the setting they inhabit evoking bygone times. It is in such settings that light harvest of a few fish is sustainable.
When presented with such fish in the kitchen, the most basic ingredients are all that is wanted. Salt and butter, perhaps a little pepper or a pinch or two of an aromatic herb. A little lemon can be nice, too. Root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips or rutabaga roasted or pan fried in olive oil and soy sauce make the perfect accompaniment on the serving platter.
Broiled Char or Trout for Two
- 1 char or trout of about 16 to 18 inches (40 – 45 cm) (between 1 and two pounds, dressed)
- fine sea salt (we use Grey Sea Salt in all of our salmon and trout recipes)
- two light pinches of dry thyme (or about double that if you have fresh)
- 1 lemon cut into thin slices, peel cut away
- butter, sliced into thin pats
- olive oil or canola oil
- broiling pan. We use a Swiss Diamond cast iron griddle for this kind of broiling.
- Place a broiling pan near the top shelf in the oven and preheat on broil. You want the pan to be very hot when the fish is placed on it. This prevents the fish from sticking. Do not oil the pan yet.
- Rinse the fish in cold water and dry with paper towels. Make sure the gills and viscera have been removed.
- On a cutting board or platter, position the fish with its it’s open belly toward you.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut shallow, oblique slashes spaced about an inch apart (2.5 cm) down both sides of the fish. You want to break the skin without cutting all the way through to the body cavity.
- Rub fish inside and out with fresh lemon juice.
- Salt the fish inside and out. Sprinkle a little thyme inside the cavity on the sides.
- Place a few thin slices of butter inside the cavity and on top of the fish’s side.
- Place pieces of lemon on top of the fish’s side.
- Spread olive oil on broiling pan. A basting brush works well for this. Return pan to oven for about a minute to ensure that oil is very hot.
- Place fish on broiling pan or griddle. The fish should really sizzle when it hits the pan. Once the fish is on the pan, do not move it. (Moving a fish just after it hits a pan can cause it to stick to the pan.) Return to the oven and broil for 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and gently flip the fish. Do this by rolling the fish on its back using spatulas. This will prevent the cavity from draining. Place additional pieces of butter and fresh slices of lemon on the up side of the fish and return to the oven. Broil for 3 or 4 more minutes.
- The fish is done when the slashes have opened, the skin is golden brown, the tail is crisp and the eyes are opaque.
- Serve with roasted root vegetables on warmed plates. Compliment with a light Chardonnay or a crisp ale.
I made this photo just a few feet from my home in Chignik Lake. The challenge was to somehow clean up the assortment of utility poles, wires, satellite dishes and the dissonant array of scrub alder closer to eye level. I actually knew as soon as this assignment (Winter Landscape in Black and White – the second weekly assignment from Outdoor Photographer magazine) was posted the scene I wanted to shoot. I put on a long lens, waited for the right light, and got this frame.
Next Thursday: Patterns of Winter
With or without meat, a zesty bowl of pumpkin or squash soup garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds is an Autumn through Wintertime favorite.
Once you’ve got the basic concept of a spiced pumpkin soup down, it’s likely to become a favorite. There’s almost no end to possible flavor combinations – from simply shaking in your favorite Thai-style or Indian-style blend to trying a little of this and a little of that based on what’s on hand in your spice rack.
A new twist for us this time around was the addition of mahlab, an aromatic Middle East spice made from grinding the seeds of the St. Lucie, or Mahaleb, Cherry. Think almonds with a hint of cherries. This was, for us, a new spice recently ordered from Penzeys Spices. Although it’s usually used as an addition to pastries, breads, and custards (this spice will definitely go into our next crème brûlée) one whiff and we knew it would be a perfect compliment to pumpkin soup. If you’d like to do some of your own experimenting with this unique spice, we recommend that you purchase the seeds whole and grind them yourself as, reportedly, the flavor of powdered mahlab goes off fairly quickly.
Having just come into some really wonderful moose meat courtesy of a friend, we pan fried some in olive oil and cumin to add to the soup. Other wild game, beef or chicken would work well, too. Alternatively, this soup makes for an excellent vegetarian dish by going sans mean and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth. Although not necessary, a little maple syrup is very good in this soup.
- 2 pounds roasted pumpkin (preferably a pie pumpkin) or squash such as Butternut Squash
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tsp powdered Mahlab
- 1/2 tsp lemon grass
- 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp almond butter (or substitute a quality peanut butter)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 4 tbsp maple syrup (or 2 tbsp brown sugar)
- sea salt
- 2 tbsp dried red bell peppers (or use fresh, diced fine)
- 1 pound moose meat, other wild game, beef or chicken cut small, seasoned with cumin powder and cracked pepper, and pan fried in olive oil
- smoked paprika (to garnish)
- roasted pumpkin seeds (to garnish)
- drizzles of extra virgin olive oil (to garnish)
- Place a baking sheet on lower center rack of oven and preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- Cut pumpkin in half and remove stem and seeds. Slice into wedges and use a very sharp knife to cut away stringy matter. Leave skin on and brush pumpkin flesh with olive oil. Place skin side down on a preheated backing sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. Test with a fork. It should be very soft.
- Remove pumpkin wedges from oven and place on a cutting board to cool an lower oven to 300° F (150° C).
- Meanwhile, clean seeds and place in a bowl. Mix with a little olive oil and sea salt. Spread evenly in a single layer over baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Place seeds on paper towels to cool.
- Meanwhile cut the pumpkin away from the rind. In a large pot over low heat, combine pumpkin chunks and chicken broth and use a stick blender to purée until smooth. It is a good idea to hold some chicken broth in reserve to ensure that soup is sufficiently thick.
- Add Thai chili paste, seasonings and almond butter, mix well. Bring mixture to a very low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add salt and additional seasonings as desired.
- Add coconut cream and maple syrup. Use a stick blender to thoroughly combine.
- Add cooked meat and red bell peppers and let simmer a few more minutes.
- Serve hot with roasted pumpkin seed, a sprinkle of smoke paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Framed in Light: Umiaks and Northern Lights, Point Hope, Alaska
…in silence where all things
and all beings reach back into time before iron and oil.
dg nanouk okpik – Tulunigraq: Something like a Raven, 2012
Whaling crews of the Inupiat Eskimo village of Point Hope still hunt on the Chukchi Sea from traditional umiaks – small whaling skiffs with wooden frames and bearded seal skin hulls.
dg nanouk okpik is an Inupiaq-Inuit poet from Alaska’s North Slope. Nanouk is Polar Bear and Okpik is Cloudberry in the Inupiaq language. Her book Corpse Whale was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012.