Hunters share Cajun recipes
By Sandy Bond
Hunting can foster friendships that span generations and the continent and can last for decades. Hunting companions know no demographics, only a passion for birds far afield and in the slow cooker and friendships gleaned from the pursuit. So it is for friends from Minnesota and Louisiana. Separated by thousands of miles, when pheasant hunting overlaps goose hunting, they journey to the Dakota plains. Their favorite haunts are land belonging to Cliff and Trudy Bieber’s Spook Ranch and Lou and Vaughn Spiry. They bunked at the comfortable accommodations of Spook Ranch.
When they first came to Walworth County in 1999, all the available motel rooms had been booked solid for over a year. Then they heard that Biebers might have something available at their ranch. They’ve been coming here ever since. They have their own sleeping, dining and even cooking accommodations and often bring samples of Cajun cuisine to share with the natives. This year oysters on the half shell were on the menu and as well as frog’s legs, alligator and shrimp.
Among them were Brian Grott, a retired art teacher from Minnesota; Paul Blomkalns, a student nurse practitioner from New Orleans, La.; George Gold, Little Falls, Minn.; Jay Hirsch, cabinet maker, Buffalo, Minn., and Stanko Glamuzina, Braco Madjor and Braco’s father-in-law Mijo Lozina, an oyster fisherman originally from Croatia. Mijo Lozina, 78, bagged his very first bird.
Hunting with a good bird dog (they brought Tori, a Gordon setter; Kodiak, a black Labrador, and Jack, a German shorthair pointer) is paramount, they said.
Cajun cooking is named for French-speaking Acadians or Cajuns, who were immigrants deported by the British from Arcadia, Canada, in the 1700s, following the French and Indian Wars. These included the providences of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Some of them settled in Louisiana and adapted their recipes to those foods available in their new home, including seafood, rice, bell peppers and cayenne pepper.
Frogs are a delicacy in Cajun cuisine. The best time to hunt jumbo frogs is at twilight and spearing is the favored method. A frog’s eyes will shine just as a flashlight is shined on the water. The problem is, so will a cottonmouth water moccasin, a highly poisonous snake.
Baited hooks are used for hunting alligators with the bait suspended a foot or more above the water. Thirteen feet is not unusual for a good-sized gator and the skin can be sold to make luxury leather shoes and purses.
Slow cookers can be used for simmering all day long, but purists distain slow cookers as being for “lazy” people. They advocate simmering over low heat for up to 16 hours.
Oysters, everyone in the group agreed, are best eaten raw. Sliding down the throat, they said, they taste like butter.
The men negate the fear of salmonella, saying that no one with a healthy immune system should fear eating raw oysters. Those with a liver ailment or hepatitis probably should abstain.
“It’s good for what ails ya,” Stanko said. “Rich in zinc and other nutrients, did you know that Casanova regularly consumed raw oysters? When the area is closed because of red tide, that’s when you can’t eat raw oysters. But I can recall that happening only once. Nothing is wasted and the shells are used to feed chickens.”
Paul is the more experienced cook but don’t ask him to come up with his own recipes. He cooks using a tried and true method-“a little of this and a handful of that.” It’s never written down and is never exactly the same. Andoullie, a spicy dry smoked sausage lends itself to everything from wild duck to wild boar. He did suggest a good reliable cookbook to get the novice started and presented Lou Spiry with one of his favorite books.
Cajun Oyster Soup
6 doz. shucked oysters (reserve 1 cup of juice)
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup oil
1 cup green onions (chopped finely)
3 cloves fresh garlic (finely chopped)
2 Tbsp. bell pepper (coarsely chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup half and half
In a heavy pot, melt butter in with oil to bubbling point. Sprinkle flour into the oil and simmer until flour turns a deep tan (not brown). Toss in remaining ingredients except oysters and half and half. Add the juice from oysters. Simmer until vegetables turn semisoft, stirring constantly. Add half and half and stir. Add oysters about 15 minutes before serving.
4 Tbsp. oil
6 lbs. okra
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. flour
2 yellow onions (minced)
1 bell pepper (finely chopped)
3 cups tomatoes (diced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
3 cups water
1 1/3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 cup basil
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups rice
1 Tbsp. shallots (minced)
2 Tbsp. parsley (minced)
Heat oil in heavy pan and fry the okra until tender. Add 1 Tbsp. vinegar if okra is slimy. Fry the okra for 20 minutes. Remove okra and pour the chicken stock in pot. Heat until almost bubbling. Add flour, stirring constantly, and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, until well blended. Add the 3 cups of water, salt, thyme, basil, peppers, and bring the mixture to boil. Remember to stir constantly. When the water boils, stir in rice and let the water come to a boil once again, stirring constantly until rice is mixed with other ingredients. Cover the pot and reduce to simmer; cook until rice is tender (20 minutes or so). Five minutes before serving, toss in the shallots and parsley, cover the pot and cook for another 5 minutes and simmer on low heat.