A Remembered Feast: Reflections on Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook
Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast
By Hank Shaw
(Rodale Books, 2011)
Part field guide, part cookbook and part memoir, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast weaves personal stories of hunting, fishing and gathering with wisdom and practical advice on how to bring the abundance of the wild to the table. I became acquainted with author Hank Shaw through his award-winning blog, honest-food.net. Hunt, Gather, Cook offers more of Shaw’s terrific stories and recipes, providing beginners and seasoned hunters, fishers and foragers with great fodder for the field and table.
After many days of sitting in my deer blind last fall, I finally succeeded in shooting a small buck. Once I had carefully butchered, wrapped and frozen my venison, I began the joyous process of bringing it to the table. I used a number of Shaw’s recipes from his blog, but I had not yet found the right recipe for the prized “medallions,” or loin chops.
When my copy of Hunt, Gather, Cook arrived this spring, I turned right away to the hunting chapter and looked at the venison section. Sure enough, Shaw had a simple and delicious-sounding recipe for venison medallions with morel sauce. Ah, serendipity! Morel season had just arrived in our area.
I am passionate about hunting for morels, but Shaw’s recipe fanned the flames. I began checking my morel spots. My first foray into the woods yielded only one dried-up little gray morel—far short of what I needed. Shaw always provides substitutions in his recipes and I knew that I could use store-bought shiitakes instead of morels, but I didn’t want to miss out on the joy of pairing foraged mushrooms with my venison.
I waited a few days and ventured into the woods again. My first spot yielded four beautiful morels. My next few spots yielded nothing, but then I remembered that dead elms often yield morels at their base. I had cut a grove of dead elm for firewood the previous winter so I headed to the area. Voilà! It was true—I found a plump morel right away. Over the next five minutes, I found morels enough for the recipe.
I consider Hank Shaw one of my mentors in the kitchen. His recipes always include detailed descriptions of cooking techniques, from deglazing a pan to dry sautéing mushrooms to the dry-curing, aging and smoking of meat. These descriptions have helped me execute simple and complex recipes with aplomb and allowed me to transfer techniques to many other recipes.
I approached Shaw’s venison medallions with morel sauce with excitement and confidence and, in fact, invited good friends to join in the feast. The recipe did not disappoint—though my meat thermometer did, and I slightly over-cooked the medallions. The simple but rich morel sauce trumped the overcooked venison. It turned into a feast with few words and many sounds of pleasure as we ate.
Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook provides inspiration for all of us to remember and sample the rich abundance of the world around us. He encourages us to begin simply with what grows in our own backyards or neighborhoods. From there, each of us can venture farther afield to keep “finding the forgotten feast.”