I love cookbooks. I have a couple hundred of them on the bookshelves in my house. So when a copy of The Field to Table Cookbook by Susan L. Ebert showed up in the mail for me to test out, I was beyond excited to start reading and cooking my way through it. The Field to Table Cookbook is a whopping 288 pages of beautiful pictures and magnificent recipes. The author is a lifelong hunter, fisher, forager, and gardener from Austin, TX.
The recipes are organized by season, with each season broken down further by month. With each passing chapter, Ebert details what’s seasonally available to hunt, fish, forage, and garden. She takes us on a yearlong journey of cooking and eating wild foods. The book kickoff in September with a dove hunt. January might be recognized as the beginning of a new year for grocery store shoppers, but hunters across the country recognize September as the true New Year of hunting, when last year's game is gone and seasons are beginning to open anew.
But I don’t always go by season when I cook, thanks to my freezer. Whenever I get a new cookbook the first thing I do is flip through the pages to see what jumps out at me. The first recipe that caught my eye was for teal grilled on a can of orange juice. We’ve all either tried or at least heard of beer-can chicken, so seeing these small ducks set up on a grill with a can of orange juice set inside them made sense. I immediately went to the freezer to see if I had any ducks left from last season and was lucky enough to find three whole wood ducks, plucked and ready to go. I read through the recipe and got the ducks prepped for the grill. They were some of the juiciest, most tender ducks I have ever tasted. The orange juice steams the ducks from the inside, adding just the right amount of orange flavor to the meat. The jerk rub seasoning crisps and flavors the skin on the outside while the grill cooks the flesh to a perfect medium-rare .
So I returned to the book and found another recipe for duck skewers with a yellow pepper sauce. I didn’t have any more ducks to use, but I did have plenty of buffalo. I made the marinade per the recipe and got the buffalo skewers ready for the grill. Even though I had to change the protein, the recipe still worked perfectly. (To read about that experiment, check out last week’s post here.)
I made the Home-Run Venison Sliders on p. 111 and the Lomo Adobado (marinated pork tenderloin) on p. 262. I tried to make as many recipes as I could with what I had in the freezer. I baked the Peaches and Cream Pie on p. 234—that had all of my co-workers drooling and asking for more. The surprising addition of cream cheese and vodka to the pie crust really pushed that one over the top in the best way possible. The creaminess of the pie crust balanced the sweetness of the peach filling perfectly.
Everything I have tried so far has been a great success and I really can’t wait for the turkey season to begin up here in Minnesota so I can try some of her wild turkey recipes. The best part is that all of the wild game recipes in the book are feasible to reproduce for most anyone who picks up the book.
I would say that the only limitation to this book is that it is fairly regional. Many of the foraged ingredients are only available in certain regions of the US. Paw paws and American beauty berries are not available in many parts of the country. Certain ingredients, like Mesquite flour are not available except via online ordering. Many of the fish used in the recipes are regional as well, but would still be available at specialty fish stores.
That said, the Field to Table Cookbook is ultimately a beautiful cookbook with amazing pictures and delicious recipes. Sandwiched in between those are thoughtful stories, excellent hunting tips, and a lifetime of knowledge from the author.
If you're interested in picking up a copy, you can find it on Amazon for $26.