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Living off the land

Afield takes the concept of local sustainable food to a whole new level

Created date

October 23rd, 2012

Interest in the local and sustainable food movement has exploded in recent years. The trend has shaped some of the most interesting restaurant menus and helped bolster business at farmers markets nationwide. Jesse Griffiths, a chef and sustainable food advocate from Austin, Tex., takes that concept a little further with his new cookbook Afield: A Chef s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish (Welcome Books). In Afield, Griffiths explores the entire experience, from hunting and field dressing to butchering and preparing wild game and fish, with every step in the process beautifully documented through Jody Horton s photographs. Griffiths forges a new approach to the sustainable movement through a compelling narrative on the benefits, both mental and physical, to catching your own dinner. Game meats and fresh fish are truly the healthiest proteins you can get your hands on, and, yes, they taste different from farmed animals, says Griffiths, who also runs a popular practical hunting school in Austin. Hunting and fishing for your dinner gives you a distinct sense of ownership and connection to your own food sources, as well as the responsibilities that come with that, like stewardship, conservation, and a deep respect for life and death. Griffiths includes 85 tasty recipes including venison burgers; wild boar carnitas; dove terrine; and pasta with crab, basil, and garlic. Each recipe is accompanied by a photo of the finished dish and often includes side dish recipes that pair well with the entr es. While dressing a freshly killed beast will undoubtedly challenge novice hunters, cooks of all levels of expertise can tackle the recipes in Afield.

Venison Burgers

Serves four

Adding in ground bacon and egg yolk keeps these burgers moist and adds lots of richness and flavor. Condiments for burgers are very relative to who s eating them, but a good, earthy cheese and mustard are prime additions for venison. Here, we recommend Emmentaler and coarse-ground mustard, along with some spicy arugula for texture. More bacon on top is not a bad idea.


1 1/2 lbs ground venison 6 oz bacon or pancetta, ground Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 egg yolks Dash (or more) Worcestershire sauce 1 tblsp olive oil 4 slices Emmentaler cheese 4 good-quality hamburger buns, toasted or grilled Coarse ground mustard Mayonnaise Sliced dill pickles A handful of arugula Directions 1. Build a really hot fire in a grill or preheat a large cast-iron pan over high heat. 2. In a bowl, combine the venison, bacon, salt, pepper, egg yolks, and Worcestershire sauce, mixing well. Divide the meat into four balls and form four large, 1 ' inch-thick patties. 3. Brush the grill or pan with a little oil and grill or sear the patties until very well browned on one side, about five minutes. Flip the burgers and add the cheese to the top. Cook about three minutes more for medium rare to medium. Serve on buns with mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, and arugula.