The hunt of a life time….Big Horn Sheep in Oregon

I have been putting in for this once in a life tag for over 30 years.  My best friend and I always joked that if one of us drew it, the other was going to be his Sherpa.  When I checked on line I couldn’t believe my eyes and I screamed so loud Steph dropped something in the kitchen and came out blistering mad when she realized I wasn’t injured, within 24 hours I was getting hammered with phone calls of congratulations and she soon realized the importance of the tag.  My first phone call was to my best friend Scott Brown and his father Grover who is my hunting dad on a a three way call in which we celebrated on the phone like three kids going to Disneyland.  My second call was to Thad Metzger who hooked me up with Cody Cole who was from good hunting genes (his father John Cole is also a sheep guide) and an outstanding guide for Sheep, and as I found out just about everything else.  I booked him that night and thank God, he would have been booked in another unit that next day.

That was the first night.

They call it a hunt of a life time because if you actually draw the tag in your life time, you can never draw it again.  I drew McClellan unit in between Dayville and John Day.  The only one hunting big horn in that unit. I drew in June….and my hunt was in August.  That is not enough time to prepare, especially with travel and fishing in between now and then.

My long time best friend Scott Brown and I made a list of necessities for equipment including Mendel hiking boots, hiking poles, Garmin Radio GPS unit, light tent, packing boards, backpack, sleeping pads….and about 2k later I was ready for battle,  so I thought.

We arrived at Sheep Camp in the McClellan unit and to be truthful Scott and I were like little kids. We haven’t seen each other in awhile and we kept saying to each other “Dude we are on a sheep hunt!” I was 206lbs  when I drew the tag and dropped to 188lbs and it still would not be enough

This was from our camp and that is the Fields Peak ridge line.
This was from our camp and that is the Fields Peak ridge line.

Scott saw the first set of rams within 30 minutes on the very top of that mountain.  “We don’t even need guides Shay, we just walk up there in the morning and shoot it” Scott said.  Then Cody and Thad arrived, Cody looked at the larger of the Rams, “Too small”.  We had no idea how steep that was going to be until the next day.  Scott and I did have experience hunting this area for elk, we bow hunted hear a few times…in our 30’s.  We were both 46, a little different story.  Plus Elk do not reside at the very top in shale rock.

The next morning, Cody had several spotters all over the mountain ranges spotting for a big ram for me.  It begins with a 4×4 ATV ride up to the top of fields peak.  This is nerve racking because Scott and I are riding with two of us and all of our gear to the top on a small ATV trail that is cantered towards down the mountain and if you go off here and you will never see your ATV again.

Once on top you glass with a spotting scope looking for Sheep.  Keep in mind, Cody had people looking for weeks but the weather was 100 degrees or more and the sheep were in the trees seeking shade.

Scott scouring the canyon.
Scott scouring the canyon.

Before long Cody gets a radio call about four rams below us a mile and they had one good 170 inch plus ram in the bunch.  So I looked at Cody and he pointed “We go right off that hill, get your gear and go light”.  If you look at the picture above its right where Scott’s foot is.

This is the same canyon farther down, we eventually go to the end of it.
This is the same canyon farther down, we eventually go to the end of it.

We go over and start walking cross skiing on shale rock down.  We go about 300 yards and Cody turns and asks me “How many bullets do you have?”  I reply “Six” which I never carry six.  I never shoot twice.  Cody looks at me and says “Shit, I am gonna hike back up to the ATV to get more bullets.” I say to him as he passes me up to march up the hill “Cody, you sure?  I seriously never miss.”  That would later haunt me, because I had no idea of what I was going to thru and how far the target was going to be.  After he returns, we start hiking down this mountain and you can feel the burn in your quads and in your shins.  I slipped several times, and once really bad falling back on top of my rifle taking the bolt of the action square to my spine.  I recovered, continued after Cody who is going down the hill like the downhill racer Billy Johnson.  We find the four goats below but they are 800 yards and really do not have a good rest because of the steep terrain we were laying on.  Cody says “Lets go, we can get closer and find a better shooting spot”.  Down the hill we went, but we lost them.  They were still on the move.  Cody and I split up and I went down this logging road to make sure they didn’t go out the bottom when I spotted them.  Cody came down and we had a beautiful 550 yard shot with great rest.  I went to fire the weapon and it misfired, “Shit, they are moving again” he says.  We pick up gear to move down to get another shot and I am thinking to myself “This is one expensive custom built rifle it never does that”.  The rams do not know we are here but they are moving farther and farther down the mountain and Cody bails off another steep hill and I follow.  We find him and we stop and they are definitely moving farther away.  We set up on a old fallen tree on a serious downhill grade.  He ranges it 750, I dial it up.  I don’t feel real good about the rest and having a hard time getting comfortable.  I should have made a better rest but was confident in my shooting, but this was a long poke and I never shoot this far unless an animal is wounded.  I squeeze off the first round and it goes over his back,  Then all hell breaks loose and the all start running back towards us.  Do you know how hard it is to pick out the right ram in your scope while trying to keep your shitty rest?  Cody says “Dial up 640”.  I fire again, right over his back.  The rams stops and Cody says “450 and put it in his shoulder”.  Well I just shot over it twice and I fell on my weapon.  I am going to aim lower and fire.  So I do, this time I shoot under him and this time he runs with the rest of the sheep banditos back up the drainage we just came down.  So Cody was compensating for overshooting as well and not telling me, and really had range of 550 adjusting for my rifle, and I did the same adjustment.  I am just feeling as horrible as a hunter could ever feel.  I blew it and let everyone down.  We were out of water, so we drank from a small spring creek and filled our water bottles which would later haunt me.  Then we get the call that the ram bedded down and we start back up the hill after him.  We get on a cliff side and I have a different rifle, Scott brought me his.  We sit there on a steep side hill waiting for hours.

The Ram is bedded down behind some rocks by those trees, 620 yards
The Ram is bedded down behind some rocks by those trees, 620 yards

It was going to get dark, and the rams were still bedded and acted like they knew something was up.  Cody said “We may never see these guys after tonight.  We are going to have to make a move.”  He got on the radio and told the guys he was going to make a sound to get them to stand up.  I got on the rifle and bam they not only stood up at the sound they took off thru the trees running like they stole something.  The big one finally slowed down and Cody said “840”.  Scott’s weapon only had clicks to 700 yards.  Bye Bye Ram and we headed off the mountain and at this time I was feeling worse.  We got back to camp at dark and I just went straight to bed.  We woke up at daylight and the smoke from the John Day fire made visibility worse.  I had been battling diarrhea thru the night and morning and was not doing well.  At this point I knew it was the water I drank from the creek, probably not a good idea when it had cow shit around both sides.   It didn’t seem to effect Iron Gut Cody Cole, he says he drinks it all the time.  We decided to take the morning off and run into town for meds, water, and supplies.

That afternoon Cody said to gear up it was time to mount up and get to the top of the mountain, I still had not ate anything but Scott tried to get me to eat half of a protein bar which I did,  Scott and I met one of Cody’s buddies at the top of Fields Peak, and Thad and Cody split up to get eyes on other mountains.

Looking across to Moon Mountain. Cody was 4 miles straight across and Thad to our right around 2 miles.
Looking across to Moon Mountain. Cody was 4 miles straight across and Thad to our right around 2 miles.

We spotted for a few hours when Cody’s friend Russ says “I got a good ram by himself” and if you look at the picture above, see that  finger of trees with a rock cropping?  The ram is to the right of that almost at the bottom.  It was 7:15 pm and Russ says “You guys have to get down that rock cropping and shoot across.  There is a goat trail over there, get on it and haul ass to Cody it is gonna get dark soon.  I thanked him as Scott and I geared up and took my first rifle and Cody’s trusted Old Red .270 and started hauling ass to the trail.  We met Thad on the trail who ran from his spotting station back to us to help us carry packs and get moving,  We got to his spotting scope on the trail where he would remain to give us reference to where the ram was and to watch the entire thing,

Thad stayed for 20 hours behind his spotting scope for this hunt.
Thad stayed for 20 hours behind his spotting scope for this hunt.

Drank water and we moved out.  Russ said it was over 3 miles so we had to really step it out.  We find Cody and he says “We got to climb down this and pointed down” Then he jumped down on to a rock below and gave me a signal to follow.  “Holly Shit it is steep, don’t fall Scott you may not get out of the canyon” I said,  We are scaling down this rock face following Cody the goat.  Keep in mind its a 100 degrees and we were sweating from our race to the other side.  Cody climbs down signals me to slide down to him and he grabs me from going over.  After 30 minutes of this he finds this small rock bench and we crawl into it,  There is not enough room for us to lay besides each other so he is behind me laying on top of me giving the range.  I am sweating thru my hat that I cant see out of my eyes.  I have Old Red in on bipods, he gives me range and clicks his rifle which is on MOA the appropriate clicks and says to me calmly to aim at the shoulder when he turns.  I got him in the scope, and when he turned I was thinking “I have to make this count because I got nothing in the tank. Squeeze easy”.  The old ram by himself turned to look down the hill giving me a clean shot, I said I was gonna take him and somehow Cody got his weight off me (probably doing a push up over me or something I don’t know). I released my breath and squeezed.  The ram went down hard.  Cody barks at me to reload.  This is when I figure out it is a left handed gun so it took me a few seconds.  The Ram was dead already no need to fire again,  A lot of emotion going thru my head at that exact moment.  I was hurt and fatigued and didn’t have a lot of strength due to not eating.  I did turn around and snapped a photo of the rocks we came down.

Yikes
Yikes

Cody and I moved out to a ledge where he could use the radio to call Thad and to thank Russ for coming out to help spot.  I think surprisingly it was my few photos of Cody.

We barely beat dark to get this ram
We barely beat dark to get this ram.

By the time we reach the ram, it is dark.  My stomach is cramping, my head hurts but I got an old ram on the ground.

I don't know who looks better in the picture.
I don’t know who looks better in the picture.

We had to dig out a spot for photos and Cody called Thad who ran back to ATVs to get the pack boards and more water.

Scott and I have many pictures together, but our first with a Big Horn.
Scott and I have many pictures together, but our first with a Big Horn.  We look tired, all three of us,

Cody and Scott get to cutting and I just help by holding legs and just trying to keep it together, because I know we still have to hike out of this hole. The boys were making good progress when Thad called on the radio trying to locate us in the dark.  Took a couple of yells but he finally showed up for a photo.  We were not leaving until he got in the photo with me, without his help it would have been very hard for this to all happen.

Thad and I have been friends for over 38 years I think.
Thad and I have been friends for over 38 years I think.

We load our bags, with meat. Cody loads the horns and cape, and the four of us begin at our accent.  It was 9:23  pm.

Scott with his pack and gear going up shale rock
Scott with his pack and gear going up shale rock.

It is too steep to go straight up, basically you have to side hill 20 steps, side hill the other directions.  The shale rock is a bitch.  By the time we get to the top it is exactly 12:03 am.  We water up take a break, and the cool air is making our sweat cold and we still got a long ways to go up a goat trail to our ATVS.  Then go down a treacherous ATV trail with cliffs in the dark.  We made it home I think by 3 or 4 am.   We were all so rummy we went to bed with little celebration.

We woke up in the morning, sore.  My stomach was still hurting and I needed to get to a doctor so we broke camp and headed home.  I had a lot of mixed feelings about this hunt.  Stressful, anxiety, painful, sick, never ever again were all words that went thru my mind.  People asked me why I thought it was stressful.  I guess now it is easier for me to explain.  You have a huge support crew watching from spotting scopes, every ounce of you is focused so you don’t fall down the mountain and kill yourself, and every muscle in your body is in pain.  It is not the hunt I would recommend to those of you that are not in good shape.  I was 206 lbs when I drew the tag, and 181 when I got back, of course giardia does help with weight loss.

It was good to hunt with my friends and we put it together with minutes to spare to accomplish what most do not even get the opportunity to do.  The McClellan unit is a tough one, and really give you a different perspective and appreciation for hunting.  My one memory before I squeezed the trigger was that of an beat down old ram looking down the mountain with his broke up leg and his scars on his face thinking to himself that he lived a long 10.5 years and that it was time.  He died respectful and instantly and that is what I am the most proud of,  He was a ram of character with broomed off horns that showed his age and I guess his wisdom.

Thank you fellas for your support and enjoyment to share this experience with you.  If you ever do draw a tag, pick up the phone and call Cody Cole 541-620-2341, or email codycoleoutfitting@gmail.com as quick as you can.  It is worth every penny.  Trust me you do not want to try this alone.

Scott and I go to a little place called the Seven Devils in Idaho in November for Muleys and Elk,  I am not sure if that is a good idea or not, we both were second guessing the idea on the hike out,  Another bucket list item crossed off buddy.

Until the next one my friend.
Until the next one my friend.

The Hunting Chef

Smoked Pork Crown Roast with Silver Fox Stuffing

I was challenged for a Christmas party, I called my good friend Ken Silva (aka Silver Fox) and told him what I was going to do and that I needed his Thanksgiving stuffing that he uses for his Turkey.  So as usual the Silver Fox complied and I went to work on the smoked crown pork roast.  I ordered the roast from Snake River Farms, and they delivered it thru the mail brilliantly to my door step packed and ready for the brine.  I would highly recommend them, they provide an excellent meat product.

First thing you want to do is get your roast into a brine.  I use apple cider in this recipe and it really turned out great.

  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups of apple cider
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 oranges
  1. Take the water and bring it to a boil.  Add the salt, honey, 1 cup of apple cider, bay leaves, garlic and let boil for 5 minutes.

Let it cool, then add 4 more cups of water, the remaining 2 cups of apple cider into a plastic container.  Cover and let sit in cool place, outside if it is cold enough or a refrigerator for 8-12 hours.  I usually do it all night.

Always brine your pork, I even brine all my chicken.  If it is white meat
Always brine your pork, I even brine all my chicken. If it is white meat,  I even thru my chicken wings for appetizer into brine.

Remove the meat from the brine, wash off with cold water then pat dry with paper towels and let air dry for 30 minutes.

I brined a whole lot of meat for this dinner
I brined a whole lot of meat for this dinner.

While the roast sits I get working on the Silver Fox Stuffing.  I make basically two batches, one for my crown roast and one for an extra dish because you cannot get your entire dish into the roast.

Silver Fox Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1 1/2 cup of onion chopped
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 links of mild Italian Sausage, cooked and broken up.
  • 1/2 Granny Smith Apple chopped
  • 1/4 raisins (I use dried cranberries because I like the looks and taste better)
  • 1 box of classic dressing, he uses Mrs. Cubbison’s.

In a large sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat, sauté sausage, until broken up for only about three minutes, then add the onions, celery and cook until translucent.  Add apple and raisins, combine dressing mix, stir in chicken broth gradually and blend lightly.  Place dressing in greased casserole dish, cover and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover last 10 minutes for crisper tops.

I cook the vegetables separate for the roast.
I cook the vegetables separate for the roast.

Sometimes the Silver Fox puts the stuffing in the 8 spot cupcake muffin pan covered, and served individually.

I take 1/3rd of the stuffing for the crown roast.
I take 1/3rd of the stuffing for the crown roast.

I get my smoker going to about 220 degrees, I use my Traeger for this roast.  However, I have to spice up my pork.

  • 4 tablespoons of spicy mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Sage

Mix it up and spread over your roast with a brush.

I actually spread the mustard then sprinkled the seasoning.  I learned the hard way.
I actually spread the mustard then sprinkled the seasoning. I learned the hard way.

Put roast directly on the smoker so you get equal smoking thru out the roast.  You are going to cook the roast for up to 4 hours or 140 degrees whatever comes first.  Slow and easy.

This is about 3 hours into it and 125 degrees.  Looking perfect.
This is about 3 hours into it and 125 degrees. Looking perfect.

Once the roast reaches 140 degrees remove onto pan and wait for 10 minutes.

The roast and the Rex Hill Reserve awaits.
The roast and the Rex Hill Reserve awaits.

Get your cutting board and make your incisions in between the bones.  We make a nice video of Big Wayne doing the process below.

It is all about the cut, and the presentation when plating it.
It is all about the cut, and the presentation when plating it.

If you follow this, you cannot go wrong and you will be the hero of the Xmas party.  The brine keeps the pork moist, you can see the perfect smoke ring on the outside.

Give it a try and be patient, great meat needs attention.  Slow and easy.

The Hunting chef

FullSizeRender

Smoked Prime Rib with Horseradish and Garlic Rub

Anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained.
4 Garlic cloves
1/2 cup of grated horseradish
1/3 cup of olive oil
2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper

Combine all ingredients into a mixer and pulse for 15 seconds until nice and smooth. Rub the rib-eye roast with mixture and then saran wrap for 2 hours and leave on counter to bring meat to room temp.   I like to prepare my prime rib by removing all the fat around the bones, to give it a better presentation.

Cut about 2 inches, then take your knife and scrape around the bone.
Cut about 2 inches, then take your knife and scrape around the bone.

I use a Traeger pellet smoker for this, so I bring the heat up to 350 degrees then down to 220.  Set your marinade prime rib in the smoker with your temperature gauge into the thickets piece.

Set in smoker and let smoke for 4 hours or until 130 degrees.
Set in smoker and let smoke for 4 hours or until 130 degrees.

We are actually smoking a turkey as well, because the Seahawks are playing the Niners and figured we had to have a Turkey for the Hawk Victory.

We got Jason's world class stuffed turkey right next to the prime rib.
We got Jason’s world class stuffed turkey right next to the prime rib.

Remove from smoker and this is REALLY important.  Let stand for 10 minutes, it will naturally climb in temp to 140.

Remove roast from Bones.
Remove roast from Bones.
Seahawk Nation in a Mexican Standoff
Seahawk Nation in a Mexican Standoff

Then plate, I always add the rib bones and they are always gone from the carnivore rib eaters.

Perfection.
Perfection.

M. Nanna Photography | Photography | ArtPal

My daughter is selling her prints to raise money for her Study Abroad, check them out!

M. Nanna Photography | Photography | ArtPal.

Mushroom Broth with Seared Halibut and Orzo Soup

One of my favorite top five fish to eat is Halibut.  Recently, I got finished a month of Salmon fishing on the Columbia river in Oregon and got to take a break to go up with my friends called the “Horseman” to Alaska.  We got to fish for Coho and Halibut and bottom fish.  We had better fishing in Oregon, but at least we got to target halibut under 44 inches, not big but perfect eaters. It gives all a chance to get together and our cell phones do not work.  We had a good time in Alaska…fishing in the rain.

Big Wayne and I hauling in our hali's.
Big Wayne and I hauling in our hali’s.

I was talking to a Native Alaska old lady and she told me about her favorite winter dish for Halibut. I made some slight modifications because I had dried morels, and like a little slight heat of Ancho seasoning.  This dish is simple, but refreshing.  I served it to my family the other night as an opener, and they thought it was great and could be a main dish.

Directions:

Mushroom broth: place a pot enough for 12 cups of water BUT DONT ADD THE WATER YET.   Over medium heat, Saute the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.  Then add the water, salt and pepper, dried mushrooms and button mushrooms, and bring to a boil.  Then turn down to simmer, once you reach simmer cover and simmer for 1.5 hours.

Once the broth has cooked strain out the mushrooms and vegetables and keep broth on warm until ready to serve.

Halibut that has been air dried, salted and peppered.
Halibut that has been air dried, salted and peppered.

Heat a skillet on medium high for the halibut, get a pot of water with salt fired up for the Orzo which takes 9 minutes (read instructions)  Start the Orzo, then fire up the fish.  Make sure that the halibut is dried and seasoned before you reach this step.  Dry the pieces of halibut with a paper towel, then salt and pepper and let rest.  As the Orzo cooks, begin with the fish.  Melt the butter for 3 minutes until melted and add the halibut filets.  Sear for 2-4 minutes until golden brown on each side.  Make sure not to over cook, so once browned remove and plate allow to rest.

Searing the Halibut in butter/
Searing the Halibut in butter.

Add mushrooms and garlic, and turn the heat up to high.  Salt and pepper nicely, then add sherry and reduce until sherry is evaporated.  Remove mushrooms and get ready to plate.

Put an assortment of fresh mushrooms into the pan with butter
Put an assortment of fresh mushrooms into the pan with butter

Plating is so simple a 4 year old can do it. I know this because Mady plated the rice.  Place a mound of Orzo in each bowl.

DSC_2152

Add some of the mushrooms from the skillet, then add some of the halibut on top, and then a few more mushrooms.

DSC_2153

Then add some of the broth, and serve immediately.

DSC_2157

The dried morels really bring out the mushroom taste, everything blends together and absorbs the flavor together making this dish worthy of the Hunting Chef.

Mushroom broth:

  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 12 cups of water (I know it seems like a lot, but you can freeze the left overs.  Trust me on this)
  • 1 lb. fresh button mushrooms
  • 1 lb of dried wild mushrooms, I use Morel mushrooms from the spring I dried, but any mushroom is okay)
  • 1 cup of trumpet, chantrelle mushrooms or whatever is in season.
  • 3 teaspoons of salt

Seared Halibut and Orzo and Mushrooms:

  • 3 Tablespoons of butter
  • 4 halibut filets.  I like to use the thinner cuts, for example smaller halibut or the tail section.  Nothing over 1/2 inch.
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon of Ancho seasoning
  • 1 lb of crimini mushrooms sliced
  • 1 cup of trumpet, chantrelle mushrooms or whatever is in season.
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry
  • 1 box of Orzo rice
  • 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper and add to taste

Give it a try, it is a simple dish loaded with flavor.

The Hunting Chef

This is what it looks like in Alaska when your buddies leave their bottle of Crown on our boat.
This is what it looks like in Alaska when your buddies leave their bottle of Crown on our boat.
The 6 Horsemen
The 6 Horsemen

Sweet Heat Peach Salsa

We have a friend that we have known for almost 15 years, Dawn Morse.  She was telling me that she was going to go pick peaches this past weekend.  I said to myself “Self, that sounds pretty interesting and fun.  What can I do with peaches?”  Dawn said she was going to make salsa, and if you know Dawn she is very competitive.  So of course on the way there the conversation turns into a peach salsa contest.  Immediately I begin to call people and do research.  I was a little nervous about the amount of jalapeños in this recipe.  However, after canning it did not turn out hot.  In fact, Dawn’s was hotter than mine.  So if you like your salsa with some heat, keep the jalapeño seeds in the recipe.  I wanted the salsa to be used in several different scenarios other than with chips.  I wanted to use this on fish and chicken dishes as well. The key to the texture of the salsa is the fine chopping and trust me, there is a lot of chopping.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 9 cups peaches, peeled, pitted, and finely chopped (6 lbs gross weight)
  • 6 jalapeños peppers, minced, and seeded.  Wear gloves!
  • 1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped
  • 2 small red peppers chopped
  • 2 small yellow pepper chopped
  • 1/2 lb red tomatoes, sliced and juice and seeds squeezed out, hulled and chopped.
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro chopped
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 of a small habanero pepper minced
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

First you have to go out and hand select every peach you put in the salsa.  I took a little monkey to scale the peach trees for me.

Picking fresh peaches with the Gang. Stephanie, Mady, and Dawn
Picking fresh peaches with the Gang. Stephanie, Mady, and Dawn at TK Orchards.

After you have chopped all the ingredients above, get a nice cooking pot and add all the ingredients into the pot.

Try to use the freshest ingredients from the garden you can.
Try to use the freshest ingredients from the garden you can.

Here is my biggest advice that I can offer to you, when you are chopping the jalapenos and habanero….where gloves!  Then dispose of them after you cut and add to pot.

Do NOT touch your face or eyes until after you are done and removed your gloves.
Do NOT touch your face or eyes until after you are done and removed your gloves.

Really concentrate on your knife skills here folks, it is about consistency in texture.

Get to chopping!
Get to chopping!

When you cut your peaches, depending on what type of peach you use, you will have to cut around the pit.  These are not the canning Freestone peaches, so the pit is a little harder to remove.  So I cut around the pit the best I can.  Make sure to peel the skins off first.

Add to the pot, lots of color in that pot.
Add to the pot, lots of color in that pot.

Bring pot to a boil, while stirring often.  Do not let the vegetables caramelize at the bottom, or burn.  Keep stirring.  Reduce to a medium heat, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.  Take a ladle and spoon into clean canning jars leaving 1/2 head spacing to the top of the jar DO NOT OVER FILL. Take the tin lids and  boil them in the water. Clean the top of the jars.  Remove the lids from hot water and seat them onto the jar, and put the canning ring hand tight.  Do not over tighten, just a little hand tight.  Get your canning pot, and add enough water to cover the jars by two inches. Bring to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, begin timer for 10 minutes.  Once 10 minutes is up, let sit in water for 5 minutes then remove to a dry towel on counter and listen for the jars to pop.  Check with your finger by pushing on them after 10 minutes.  If they are lids are not seated correctly they will not be hard.  They will flex and pop, making a funny sound.  Put that jar in your fridge and eat within the week.  This happened because the top of the jar was not cleaned with a towel or you had debris in between lid and jar.

Clean the top of the jars!
Clean the top of the jars!

Repeat the process until all of your cans are done.  This is great salsa for chips, it has color and the texture is perfect.  It does not have to much of a heat bite, it is slow and sweet.

Chips and Salsa
Chips and Salsa.

I seared some halibut as a test, kept the fish in the pan and poured the Sweet Heat Peach Salsa on it.  Then put it in the oven to finish at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. It was delicious.

Halibut with Sweet Heat Peach Salsa
Halibut with Sweet Heat Peach Salsa

I would use this on chicken as well.  It has a lot of components and full of flavor.  I hope you get out and pick some peaches.  I like giving these away for Christmas, nothing like telling someone you love them like making something fresh like that.

Canned, labeled and ready for deployment.
Canned, labeled and ready for deployment.

Thank you Dawn for taking us on our first guided peach hunting trip, and for being competitive enough to make me get out of my comfort zone to make something from the garden.  I am usually looking for meat and fish.  For the record Dawn did beat me in the salsa chip contest, hers had more heat bite.  Which even I agreed that I liked hers more for chips.

"Is there a bug on there?"
“Is there a bug on there?”

The Hunting Chef

Bacon Crusted Cedar Plank Salmon with Maple-Ginger Glaze

I am always doing research on food and recipes.  I know I am coming into one of the best Oregon salmon seasons in the next few weeks so I am mentally preparing and conducting my research.  I know my clients are going to ask me what to do with their fresh caught salmon.  I came across this recipe in a cook book called “Fire and Smoke” by Chris Lilly.  I highly suggest his book, it is very good. So a little shout out to Chris, keep up the good work because I really liked your style.  When I made this dish, not one person in the group could identify any of the components, especially the nice crunch of the bacon.  Give it a try it will blow you away. Take two cedar boards and submerse in water while you put everything together.  Sometimes I do this the night before.

Marinade

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic gloves, minced.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients above.  Take your salmon filet (2-3 pounds, about 1 1/2 inch thick) and use a 1 gallon ziplock bag, put the salmon in ziplock and pour over salmon.  Measure out 1/4 cup of marinade and set aside for glaze.  Put the salmon back in the fridge and marinade for about an hour.

  • 1 2-3 pound of salmon filet with skin on.
  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup

Put a large skillet over direct heat, add the bacon and cook until it is blondish-brown BUT NOT CRISPY. Transfer bacon and the grease to a food processor, add the panko and process until fine crumbles are formed.  Transfer to a baking sheet, arrange them tightly on an area that is the same size as the filet. Start your Traeger and get it to 450 degrees if you can, if not try as hot as you can get it but do not go over 500 degrees. Remove the salmon from the marinade and press the pink flesh side down into the bacon crumbles.  Lay the salmon on the cedar plank, skin side down.  Put the cedar plank on the grill grate in the Traeger bbq smoker set on 400-450 degrees or as hot as you can get it.  If you are not using a Traeger grill, just use a regular bbq and keep an eye on it.  If the boards catch on fire, move them to the other side of the grill that is not lit, only light half of the gas grill is what I am saying.  Close the lid and let cook until the samon and bacon crust browns, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile take the reserve 1/4 cup of marinade and mix with maple syrup in a small bowl to make the glaze. Open the grill lid  drizzle the glaze over salmon and cook until the salmon until the temperature reaches 130 degrees, about 7 minutes.  Remove the cedar plank from grill and let salmon rest on the plank for 3 minutes.  I usually serve family style straight off the plank.

I put the planks on a cookie sheet to transport. Keep in mind the boards are very hot.
I put the planks on a cookie sheet to transport from BBQ. Keep in mind the boards are very hot.

This dish has some very interesting complex flavors.  The crispy bacon on top, along with the glaze brings not only an awesome texture but a smokey sweet finish.  This recipe had people who were not a fan of salmon going back for seconds.

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Salmon done perfect

I hope you get out this year and land some Kings and Silver Salmon this year.  I can hardly wait, it is going to be the best salmon run of my life this year on the Columbia River.  Perhaps I will see you out there.

The Hunting Chef

Homemade Pheasant and Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

I am going to be the first to tell you that you can substitute chicken for pheasant with this dish.  You can also use chucker, and or quail.  The tomato basil sauce comes from a little Italian joint in South Shore Lake Tahoe called Scusa’s.  Stephanie and I found this little place and fell in love with it.  The old chef had this tomato basil cream sauce that would knock your socks off, he was very kind to us and slipped me the recipe.  Several years later, I went back and he had retired.  They also relocated to a larger restaurant which changed the entire mafia, dark lit, ambiance it once had.  I recently came across this recipe in one of my many books of notes, and recipes I keep.  I fired up the grill and made some fresh ravioli’s and this sauce.

Ravioli Filling:

  • 4 Pheasant breast, cut into 1/2″ strips (two chicken breast because they are larger if you are substituting).
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese graded
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1.5 teaspoon of parsley chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of mozzarella
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add butter and olive oil to the pan on medium high heat and add the breast into the pan.  Cook for 4-5 minutes then add garlic.  Toss and turn until the chicken is cooked brown and remove along with garlic and set aside on a plate.  In a food processor, add the meat and all the ingredients listed above into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Place in the fridge and begin working on the pasta.

Fresh Pasta Sheets:

  • 6 egg yolks (farm raised eggs are the best)
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus a cup on stand bye for adding if you need or dusting your work table while folding.

In a blender, blend all ingredients, except the flour.  Do this in a food processor for 12 seconds pulsing until combined.

Farm eggs are the best for fresh pasta.

Pour this mixture into a mixer with a dough hook attachment and add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix for 5-8 minutes, and scrape the dough down off the sides of the bowl every so often.  you want the dough to be pretty tight and not all that sticky.  Add a little flour if it is sticky and wet.  Tightly wrap the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.  Lightly dust your working table and roll the dough out to the width that will fit whatever width of pasta maker you are using.  I am using my grandmothers old Kitchenaid with a pasta maker attachment that works very nicely.

Rolling the pasta thru Old Faithful.

I run my first thru the roller, then do it again, cut my sheet in half, then adjust the roller to a thinner adjustment fro #4 to #3, and roll it again.  Fold the pasta with your other hand as it comes out of the pasta roller.  Set aside.

I use a ravioli press, if you have one, make sure you dust the heck out of it with flour so you can get them out of the mold.  Lay down your pasta sheet on top of the ravioli press and fill with the filling.

Press down on the mold to allow for the fililng.
Press down on the mold to allow for the filling.

Add the pheasant cheese mixture with a tablespoon.

Ready for the second sheet.
Ready for the second sheet.

Now if you do not have a ravioli mold, and have a pasta cutter.  You can do it the old fashion way and lay down a sheet, use flour on the cutting board, put a spoonful of filling and lay down your sheet and manually press with the cutter.

Old school way
Old school way.

I did two different fillings and I manually cut the second style just so I could keep track of the different pasta’s I made.

These were stuffed with a smoked lamb, garlic, onion, mixture for a different sauce.
These were stuffed with a smoked lamb, garlic, onion, mixture for a different sauce.

Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

  • 1 QT heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks (nothing is better than farm raised eggs)
  • 2 cups of parmesan cheese graded
  • 1/2 cup of marinara sauce
  • 1 teasp. of dry basil
  • 1/4 cup of fresh chopped basil
  • white pepper and salt to taste.  Taste the sauce, it may need more salt than you think.

I use a olive oil pesto for garnish.

Add all the above ingredients to the food processor and process until nice and smooth.

Pulse until smooth
Pulse until smooth.

Then add the sauce into a nice pot and bring temperature to a boil, stirring so it does not burn at the bottom.  Turn down heat to low, keep stirring occasionally and allow sauce to reduce by a third.  This process takes about 25 minutes.

Once the sauce has a creamy texture, remove from heat.
Once the sauce has a creamy texture, remove from heat.

Get a boiling pot of water ready for your pasta, add tablespoon of salt and some dashes of olive oil.  Cook for 4-5 minutes drain and serve.  Pour a little bit of the sauce over the pasta, dash a little of the pesto to garnish and serve.

DSC_1887I like to serve family style as well, here is a little shot of that action.

Family Italian style.  Forgetaboutit!
Family Italian style. Forgetaboutit!

Smoked Balsamic Pork Loin

This recipe is so easy, just about anyone with a Traeger smoker or any bbq smoker can pull this off.  It is so easy, and produces such good flavor that my four year old ate half the loin by herself.  It is a simple marinade and takes 2 minutes to make, and for those of you that need a weekday, easy to make dinner this is it.

Balsamic Marinade

  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Oil (EVO)
  • 1/2 Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon of Montreal steak seasoning
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin.

That is it?  I told you it was simple but you are not out of the woods yet.  Poor the marinade into a bowl and mix well.  Pour marinade into a large zip lock bag, large enough for your entire loin to fit in.  Close the bag, getting out every bit of air you can.  Then put into the fridge and marinade, turning it when you can for 12-15 hours.  When you are ready to cook, remove loin and let rest while you take 30 minutes to get your smoker bbq to temperature, which is 190 to 210 depending on the season when you do it (Winter is around 190 degrees in these parts).

The loins and the marinade go into the cooking tray.
The loins and the marinade go into the cooking tray.

Pour some marinade into the bottom of the cooking dish.  I wrap a cooking casserole dish with aluminum foil so it doesn’t get all black with smoke.  Lay the loins on top of some marinade and poor remainder over the top.  Put your meat thermometer into the thick part of the loin and close your bbq.

This is how it should look after 45 minutes, the meat should be around 95-100 degrees
This is how it should look after 45 minutes, the meat should be around 95-100 degrees.

Once you the loin reaches around 100 degrees remove from pan, and lay the same side down.  You want to get a little smoke taste to the bottom of your loins.  At this point, shut your door of bbq and raise the heat to 350 degrees.

Turn up heat to 350 degrees. Keep your pan and sauce in the bbq, LAY YOUR LOINS ON THE SAME SIDE THEY WERE IN THE PAN.
Turn up heat to 350 degrees. Keep your pan and sauce in the bbq, LAY YOUR LOINS ON THE SAME SIDE THEY WERE IN THE PAN.

Once the loins reach a temperature of 135 degrees I put them back into the pan and let sit on counter for 15 minutes or until they reach 145 degrees.  This is how you serve pork now, this is not the 1950’s where Granny cooked it to 250 degrees so it was so tough to chew you needed applesauce to get it down. Do not throw that cooked marinade out!

Cooked to perfection, 143 degrees internal temperature.
Cooked to perfection, 143 degrees internal temperature.

This is great served with mashed potatoes, or veggies or anything you want.  I plated it on top of a nice bed of mashed potatoes, along with some veggies.  Take a spoon and drizzle the marinade over the top of the loins, and serve.

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Served on bed of mashed potatoes with sauce drizzled over the top.

This is simple, but will come to the party with a smoky tang taste that will pleasantly surprise you.

Give it a try.

the Hunting Chef

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Lasagna with Elk and Goat Cheese Ricotta

I have been working on this Italian classic for nearly a decade, each time making it better and better with new little twist and turns that takes me this.  I am honored to say it was collaborate effort of not only people like Ken Silva, who gave me an ancient Italian meat sauce from a long time friend of his, but the feedback I got from the hundreds of people that tried my lasagna over the years.  Look at me, it is like I am receiving an Academy Award or something.  This one is for my Grandma Davis, who was a fantastic cook and could make anything from her freezer taste good in a matter of minutes.  I loved her cooking.

This recipe takes some time, but is well worth it and yields about 10 people.  You will need about a 4 inch deep casserole dish, or two regular ones.

http://www.thehuntingchef.com/2013/02/the-silver-fox-italian-red-sauce/  here is the link to the sauce on the blog.  This sauce is great on everything from lasagna to spaghetti.  One of my all time favorites.

Silver Fox Red Meat Sauce:

  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 5 Italian Sausage (mild)
  • 1 lb. of Elk hamburger (you can use beef, or bison)
  • 1 can (28 oz) of can plum tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 0z) of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomatoe paste
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 of button mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 cup of basil
  • 1 Tbs of Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Food Processor
Lets get this party started with the Italian sausage, chives, and garlic.
Lets get this party started with the Italian sausage, chives, and garlic.

Get a large pot out, turn to medium heat.  Remove sausage from skin links, and brown in the post.  Once done, remove and set aside on a plate.  Keep the drippings in the pot for flavor.  Add a little olive oil, then add green onions and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes over medium heat, add mushrooms and cook for an additional four minutes until mushrooms are translucent.  Remove the mushroom sauté and put into a bowl for later.

The mushrooms are added into the dish.
The mushrooms are added into the dish.

Add the elk burger into the same pot and cook until burger is done about 8-10 minutes, remove and drain and wipe pot out.  You can add the mushroom sauté back into the same pot at this time.  The next step you will need a food processor.  This important for consistency, so the lasagna is not lumpy between noodle sheets. Process the sausage so it is smooth, then return to pot.  Do the same for the elk burger.

Process until you get a smooth texture.  About 20 seconds.
Process until you get a smooth texture. About 20 seconds.

Now that the both meats are the processed and back into the pot.  Do not put food processor away you will need it for the next step.  Add the can of plum tomatoes to the processor and pulse for 10-12 seconds until smooth and season with salt and pepper and then add that to the pot.

Please use fresh basil.
Please use fresh basil.

Then take the 3 cans of stewed tomatoes, the paste, and the basil into the processor, along with sugar and salt and pepper to taste.  Pulse until blended well and smooth consistency, then add to the pot.

Cook on low heat for an hour
Cook on low heat for an hour

It will appear that there is a lot of sauce.  I personally use every ounce of it for my Lasagna, and that is probably why it weighs 12 pounds when finished.  Later, you can decide how much you want to use and freeze the rest if you are inclined to do so.

Goat cheese ricotta mixture:

  • 2 Ricotta 15 oz. containers
  • 1 cup of Italian style Mascarpone cheese, Vermont Creamery.
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of good goat cheese.  I used local Fraga Farm.
  • 1 TBS of dry Italian seasoning
  • 1 farm egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 fresh mozzarella balls for the top of lasagna
The secret ingredient.  Goat Cheese!
The secret ingredient. Goat Cheese!

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, make sure to blend very well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set in fridge while you make the pasta.

You right now are thinking…”I got to make pasta???”  You really do not have too, you can purchase Lasagna sheets from the store.  However, there is nothing as good as fresh made pasta.  You can also go to Whole Foods and purchase their pre-made pasta sheets which is a step up from the dried ones.  You will need a pasta maker though.

Fresh Pasta Sheets:

  • 6 egg yolks (farm raised eggs are the best)
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus a cup on stand bye for adding if you need or dusting your work table while folding.

In a blender, blend all ingredients, except the flour.  Do this in a food processor for 12 seconds pulsing until combined.

Farm eggs are the best for fresh pasta.
Farm eggs are the best for fresh pasta.

Pour this mixture into a mixer with a dough hook attachment and add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix for 5-8 minutes, and scrape the dough down off the sides of the bowl every so often.  you want the dough to be pretty tight and not all that sticky.  Add a little flour if it is sticky and wet.  Tightly wrap the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.  Lightly dust your working table and roll the dough out to the width that will fit whatever width of pasta maker you are using.  I am using my grandmothers old Kitchenaid with a pasta maker attachment that works very nicely.

Rolling the pasta thru Old Faithful.
Rolling the pasta thru Old Faithful.

I run my first thru the roller, then do it again, cut my sheet in half, then adjust the roller to a thinner adjustment fro #4 to #3, and roll it again.  Fold the pasta with your other hand as it comes out of the pasta roller.  Set aside.

Take the cooking dish, spray it with Pam.  Then take a little of your sauce, try to scoop the top layer of the red sauce that contains only juice if you can and put it on the bottom of the dish evenly and layer the first pasta sheet.  You may have to cut to size smaller sheets to make it fit and even.

Layer your sheet on top of the sauce.
Layer your sheet on top of the sauce.

Once you have the pasta layered, then scoop the cheese mixture on to the top of the pasta sheets.

scoop cheese mixture on to the pasta sheets
scoop cheese mixture on to the pasta sheets.

Take a spatula and evenly press spread the cheese mixture so it is a nice even layer. Then generously layer sauce on top. Repeat this process as many times as you can.

Layer the sauce over the cheese.
Layer the sauce over the cheese.

Once you get to the top of your dish, cut the mozzarella balls into 1/4 inch thick slabs and layer over the top of Lasagna, then take a little parmesan cheese and dust the top.

This is starting to shape up.
This is starting to shape up.

Place in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and cook for 60 minutes.  Make sure to pay attention to the lasagna to assure that it does not get burned.  Here is a little Italian secret.  Always pre-cook your lasagna, I usually do this a day ahead.  Then Saran wrap the top and put into fridge.  This is called the “Set up” Process.  You can easily bring it back to temperature the next day in the whole casserole dish at 350 for 30 minutes, make sure to cover it, use aluminum foil if you have too.

It is so hard to put this into the fridge without digging a fork into.
It is so hard to put this into the fridge without digging a fork into.

After reheating the dish, plate individually and watch the people you are serving acting like they are all Tony Soprano.  Forgetabout it!!!!

Lasagna with elk and goat cheese served.
Lasagna with elk and goat cheese served.

I know it is a long process for perfection, but this is by far the best Lasagna dishes I have ever made.  This would be my family secret and my legacy I am not only sharing with all of you, but with my family so they know how to make it.  They probably won’t, but at least they can take it to a chef or one of my daughters will pass this one on down the family line.

Buon cibo e buoni amici e la famiglia

The Hunting Chef