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Average Score: 5.0 out of 5.0
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The fruit of Jesse Griffiths’ one-year labor is an exquisite and attractive book on how to clean, butcher, and cook your harvest (and what to pair it with!). Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish combines simple Southern cooking with haute French cuisine suitable for gourmet dinner parties, but which can be especially enjoyed over a backyard grill with buddies.
More than just a cook book, Griffith subtlety interjects his stories from the field and occasionally delivers a nugget of wisdom within the description of the meal you’re about to prepare. For instance, he dispelled a long-held belief of mine that catfish should be avoided in cuisine because it was a dirty bottom-feeder. The fish is, in fact, a predator as well. He also inspires us to put a unique twist on our cooking such as his recipe for roasted, bacon-wrapped snipe where the snipe’s long bill is used as the “toothpick” to hold the bacon around the bird.
Among the recipes, you’ll find advice on complimentary dishes, how to make homemade mayonnaise, sausage and step-by-step instructions (with photographs) on how to clean and butcher/fillet every animal or fish mentioned within the book.
Find recipes for dove, snipe, duck, goose, turkey, venison, squirrels, rabbits, boars, javelina, catfish, bass, bluegill, sunfish, mackerel and more. Afield presents recipes for fried or grilled cutlets, soups, polentas, stews, pâtés, stocks and tacos among other American and international dishes.
The only problem you might have with this book is not getting it dirty as you get your hands into some guts and prepare them for the grill.
Afield is an incredibly satisfying book to hold and it's easy on the eyes. The binding is quality and will surely last a long time, while the various meals that have already been dug into on the cover entice the reader to peer inside.
The art and layout within are exquisite and appealing. Tempting photographs make you want to learn how to make it yourself. The text does not overpower the page just like spices and herbs in the recipes do not overpower the main ingredient.
Jesse Griffiths is a chef and butcher committed to locally-sourced ingredients with an emphasis on seasonal and nose-to-tail cooking. He was raised as a hunter and angler by his father. Griffiths runs a strictly-local butcher shop, organizes supper clubs and runs hunting schools that have drawn students from around the country and praise from numerous institutions.
His honest approach to hunting and cooking undeniably shine through in his book and Griffiths makes mention of the importance of seasonal food. "Just as there's a right and wrong time of year to grow and pick different types of produce, the same is true for wild fish and game," Griffiths writes in the introduction. "Don't ever shoot a rabbit in the summer, unless you want to see some parasites."
The $40.00 price tag is a steal for the hard cover, nearly 300-page book full of timeless recipes. You could use this book for an entire year of various game and fish seasons and still have fresh recipes for next year. Lined with photographs on each page and short stories from the field, you'll even have something to look at when you're not cooking.
I highly recommend this book to novice hunters and anglers who are still trying to perfect their game cleaning and butchering skills as well as expert hunters and cooks who are looking for new, simple ways of preparing their harvest. The book is also peppered with suggested from-scratch side-dishes, drink pairings (beer encouraged) and methods on curing, smoking and conserving meat and fish.
Image of Afield by Agnieszka Spieszny