A New Breed of Hunters Focuses on the Food

WASHINGTON’S BIRTHPLACE, Va. — It was chilly crouching down on this home made goose blind on the edge of a frozen cornfield close to the Potomac River.

The early-morning January solar gave off significantly much less warmth than a lightweight bulb. All we needed to eat was a communal bag of venison jerky, a satsuma and, ultimately, the hunk of darkish chocolate I had saved hidden in my pocket till I felt too responsible.

I had 1,000,000 questions, however you’re not supposed to speak a lot whenever you’re ready for geese. I had a shotgun, however I had by no means killed an animal. It didn’t matter as a result of there have been no geese, anyway.

After about 5 hours, a small flock began to land in entrance of us. Someone yelled. “Take them!” Everyone besides me stood and fired. Two Canada geese fell.

A canine named Tug introduced them to us, and we packed up and headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner what Wade Truong, the chef who invited me right here to hunt, calls the rib-eye of the sky.

Mr. Truong, 33, grew up working in his mother and father’ Vietnamese restaurant in Harrisonburg Va., He by no means considered searching till he dropped out of the University of Mary Washington and began cooking professionally.

Like many younger cooks, Mr. Truong determined that he wished to get as near his meals as potential. So 9 years in the past, he picked up his first searching rifle. He took a hunter’s security class, studied an previous Army sniper’s handbook and headed into the woods, he stated, “overgeared and underprepared.”

After a number of tries, he managed to shoot his first deer. He was decided to subject costume it himself. He studied photos he pulled from Google, and pried a number of suggestions out of some hunters. None of it ready him for what the course of was actually like, particularly how shockingly scorching the inside of a deer will be.

“It was a lot for a kid who grew up on meat that was on sale,” he stated.

His girlfriend, Rachel Owen, 29, didn’t develop up searching, both. But like him, she liked fishing. The two, who received collectively once they labored at the similar restaurant, talked about searching on their first date.

Now, eight years later, they’ve 30 weapons between them. They maintain an empty caviar jar in a drawer close to their eating room desk to gather any stray shot left in a duck breast. They blog.

It’s the kind of modern love story you don’t hear about much. “I can’t imagine us as a couple without hunting,” she said. “It’s foundational.”

Hope, they say, might lie with a health-conscious, outdoors-loving slice of the millennial generation who were raised on grass-fed beef and nose-to-tail eating, but didn’t grow up in hunting families, where taking game is about both tradition and filling the freezer.

“One of the big drives for me is trying to make everything we pursue exceptional,” Mr. Truong said. “It shouldn’t be, ‘I ground this up to make a burger with Cajun seasoning all over it.’ ”

Becoming a hunter had never been on Mr. Truong’s radar. His parents grew up in the city then called Saigon. They met in a refugee camp in Indonesia. With the help of a Mennonite family who sponsored them, they settled in Virginia and opened the Saigon Café in Harrisonburg. It was the only Vietnamese restaurant in town.

“I basically grew up there,” Mr. Truong said. “You go to an Asian restaurant, and there’s a kid in the back doing his homework. That was me.” (His parents, who have since divorced, sold the restaurant about six years ago.)

As a teenager more interested in partying than school, he didn’t always get along with his father. But their fishing trips together were a bright spot, and cemented Mr. Truong’s love of the outdoors. Unlike many fathers in this part of Virginia, Mr. Truong’s never taught him to hunt. He had fought alongside Green Berets during the Vietnam War and had no interest in picking up another gun.

But to the son, hunting seemed like the next logical step — especially as his cooking career took off.

He started with deer. Waterfowl came a few years later, after Mr. Truong became the executive chef at Kybecca, in Fredericksburg, a city of about 28,000 that serves both as a tourist town for history buffs and a commuter town for people working in Quantico or Arlington.

It was a French-fries-and-bison-sliders kind of place, but Mr. Truong slowly started to change the menu, adding Chesapeake Bay oysters and sophisticated entrees that used vegetables from local farms. One of his suppliers was Blenheim Organic Gardens, run by Rebecca and Lawrence Latané, who is a descendant of George Washington’s family. They live on about 200 acres of farmland that has been in the Washington family for centuries.

Geese migrating to and from the Ungava Peninsula in far northern Quebec like to winter over in the Latanés’ grain fields. That makes for good hunting. One day, the couple’s son, Cameron Latané, invited Mr. Truong and Ms. Owen to join him and his father on a goose hunt. They have been close friends and hunting partners ever since.

Although Mr. Truong says he prefers cooking duck, he has come to see Canada geese as the workhorse of his kitchen. Some goose hunters contend that other, more tender game birds, like the specklebelly goose or the sandhill crane, are the true rib-eyes of the sky. But the dark, rich meat from a migrating Canada goose is reliable and delicious, Mr. Truong said. He can thaw frozen breasts as fast as chicken and sauté them for an easy weeknight supper.

Mr. Truong braises goose legs barbacoa-style for tacos, and simmers carcasses into stock for pho styled after his mother’s, though he tops his with lightly charred goose breast, venison braised in hoisin sauce or thin slices of goose heart.

He has botched some dishes, too. He roasted the ribs from his first deer, and they were terrible. Now he braises venison ribs for hours to get rid of the chalky, sticky taste.

Then there was the time he tried to prepare mergansers. These ducks eat fish, and their flesh can take on a funky, marine flavor. He tried to make a wild-game version of the Vietnamese dish ca kho in which the breasts were braised in a caramelized sauce.

“It tasted like I burned a can of anchovies and added fish sauce,” Mr. Truong said.

He has since become a much better game cook. He is close to perfecting beaver-tail lardo, which he set out in thin slices on a charcuterie board alongside venison pastrami and a few types of sausages when we got to the Latanés’ farmhouse kitchen after our hunt.

A Peking goose was roasting in the oven. Three days earlier, Mr. Truong had inflated the skin with an air compressor, stuffed it with paste made from five-spice powder, ginger, garlic and chiles bound with some hoisin sauce, and then glazed it before leaving it to dry in the refrigerator.

On the stove, a pair of goosenecks stuffed with maple-scented venison breakfast sausage fried softly in a cast-iron pan, the heads still attached. “That’s pretty metal,” he said.

As we sat down to eat, Ms. Owen talked about the negative response they sometimes get from other millennials who either don’t like hunting or won’t eat game.

Source link Nytimes.com

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