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Native Cooking Column

Ever notice how people are protective of the climate they live in? If its ten below all winter, they call it invigorating, guess it gives you a certain toughness. Really hot and humid, well, you get used to it. Desert hot and dry, again, you get used to it. Here in the northeast we seem to get samples of it all. I like the change of seasons. It makes the four directions fit better in the circle of life - of all things.

Winter means different things to people. I see it as a chance to almost hibernate and finish projects, organize junk, read and try out recipes. Doing that just about assures that I won't come out of my mama bear den all thin and rested in the spring.

Native Cassoulet
2 pounds dried Great Northern beans, soaked and picked through
1 4-5 pound duck, giblets reserved
1 pound venison or lamb bones
2 venison loins or 1 2-pound pork loin
2 pounds venison or lamb stew meat, or venison and rabbit cut up
1/4 cup rendered duck fat or butter
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups game or beef stock
3 tablespoons fresh or 1-1/2 dried thyme leaves
12 black peppercorns or juniper berries
6 bay leaves
2 pounds buffalo sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
4 cups cornmeal crumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped watercress leaves
Salt & pepper to taste

Put the beans in a large Dutch oven and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Bring beans to a boil briskly over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Take about two cups of this liquid and reserve. Let the beans stand covered in the remaining liquid. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the duck giblets in a small roasting pan. Cut the tips off the duck wings and add them along with the venison or lamb bones to the pan.

Season with salt & pepper. Season the duck skin and the cavity with salt and pepper and place the duck in another roasting pan. Roast the duck, giblets and bones for 45 minutes until the duck is just underdone. Remove both pans from the oven. Cover the duck with aluminum foil, let cool, cut into pieces and reserve the duck juices. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

Deglaze the giblet and bone pan in the reserved duck juices. Add water, if necessary, to make enough liquid. Add one cup of the cooking liquid from the beans and simmer bones and giblets until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Strain liquids into a bowl and reserve. Discard solids. In a large heavy skillet, heat oil and brown the stew meat and rabbit pieces. Brown in batches, so as not to crowd the pan. Reserve browned meat on a plate covered with foil.

Melt the reserved duck fat in the same skillet used to brown the stew meat and add the onions and carrots to cook for about 15 minutes. Reserve on the plate with stew meat. Add the tomato paste to the skillet and slowly stir in the stock to form a smooth sauce. Add the duck juices and pour all into the Dutch oven with all the beans and add seasonings. Bake, covered for about 3 hours. Fold in the duck pieces and buffalo sausage.

In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley and watercress. Put this mixture on top of all in the pot and bake, uncovered, for about an hour or until bread crumbs are a deep golden brown.

Serves 12 to 16.

Dried Wenomeneash
(Raisin) Bread
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
6 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups raisins
Dash cinnamon, optional

Dissolve yeast and tablespoon of sugar in warm water. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Slowly add 6 cups of the flour and the teaspoon of salt. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1-1/2 hours. Dust the raisins with a little flour (floured raisins don't sink to the bottom of the dough).

Turn dough and raisins onto a floured board and knead together lightly for about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until double in bulk, about one to 1-1/2 hours. Add cinnamon, if desired, rolling it into the dough before forming loaves. Mold dough into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans, cover and let rise one last time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves 30 to 40 minutes. Remove loaves and cool on racks.

Potato Chips

Just for fun the other day, I happened to have sweet potatoes, white potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes in the house at the same time, so I peeled one of each and shaved chips with a vegetable peeler to fry.

I dropped them into about one and a half inches of hot vegetable oil for less than a minute, just a few at a time so they aren't crowded. I removed them with a slotted spoon and drained them on paper towels as each little batch browned. They were not only delicious warm with a little malt vinegar sprinkled on them, but they were so pretty. These would be nice with a tuna salad and a pickle or two.

Notes & Tips

*The cassoulet recipe is a good example of why you should hoard bones and small amounts of game meat as it comes along. Be sure to label packages well for the freezer.

*Files again:

~ Women blink nearly twice as much as men.
~ Americans eat on average 18 acres of pizza every day.
~ Do you think we would all be happier if we were born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18?
~ Remember that nothing wastes more energy than worrying.