Hunter's got 'game' in the kitchen

Staff reports

Dom Castaldo of Mount Morris e-mailed us some of his wild-game recipes. We were so interested in those, we wanted to know more about their creator.

Name: Dom Castaldo

Age: 52 years young (I’ve been hunting since I was 14 years old.)

Occupation: I am a biology instructor at Highland Community College. I also do freelance writing on various nutrition topics.

How much time do you spend hunting? In the fall and winter, I go hunting at least once per week. During winter break, I hunt two or three times a week.

Why is now a good time for game recipes? The upland game — rabbits, pheasants, quail — season started Nov. 7. Bow-and-arrow season for deer and waterfowl (ducks/geese) started in October and runs into January. Nov. 20-22 was the first half of the Illinois shotgun deer season.

In other words, we are right in the middle of the game harvest. Illinois has an abundance of hunting opportunities. Even if you don’t hunt, most hunters are generous and will share their catch. Also, this is the time of year for holiday get-togethers. Wouldn’t it be nice to serve — or bring — a game dish to a party? Maybe some venison chili or some pheasant “fingers”? It is unlikely that another guest will show up with exactly the same dish. You say you don’t hunt or know a hunter? Don’t worry. Local shops such as Eickman’s in Seward or MacFarlane’s Pheasants in Beloit, Wis., sell processed game meat. Some grocery stores sell farm-raised rabbit and goose.

What is your favorite game recipe? I love Rabbit and Chicken Cacciatore. When I was young and growing up in New Jersey, it was the only way my mother prepared rabbits and pheasants that my father and uncles caught. It is excellent when the dish includes both rabbit and pheasant cooked together. It has a unique taste — not beef, not chicken, but game. The flavor brings back memories of the family sitting around the table enjoying the meal and retelling the story of the hunt. I am an Italian-American and according to my mother, “cacciatore” means “hunter-style.” In my home, I cook the game dishes. My cacciatore doesn’t taste exactly like mom’s, but it is close.

Rockford Register Star

Pheasant Fingers

2 pheasant breasts

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground garlic

1/2 teaspoon rosemary)

1/2 teaspoon oregano (or use 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend or poultry blend)

De-bone the pheasant breasts and slice into 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips. Mix the flour and seasonings in a 1-gallon plastic bag. Place 4 to 5 strips into the bag and mix until the strips are thoroughly coated in the flour-seasoning mix.

Fry the floured strips until they are golden brown, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Before the strips cool, season (again) with seasoning of choice and a few dashes of Tabasco, if you wish. Serve with honey or blue cheese salad dressing.

Turtle Soup

Turtle meat (about 1.5 or 2 pounds) from one large snapping turtle

1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic

3 diced potatoes (1-inch pieces)

1 package of baby carrots

1 onion, cut up

1 can of chopped clams (optional)

12 large shrimp (optional)

1/2 can of corn

Salt, black pepper, red pepper, Italian seasoning, oregano, chili powder

2 tablespoons of Pillsbury gravy flour

1 cup sweet sherry (optional)

Brown the turtle meat in a little vegetable oil and chopped garlic. Boil the meat, carrots, potatoes and onion in about 1.5 quarts of water for about one hour.

Add the clams and shrimp if using, and corn. Add the seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the gravy flour, then add the sherry just before serving, if using.

Rabbit Cacciatore

2 rabbits, quartered, or one cut-up chicken

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 can mushrooms or package of fresh mushrooms 

1/3 cup wine vinegar

1 cup dry wine

1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1 lemon, quartered

Salt, black pepper, rosemary, Italian seasoning, garlic, oregano

Brown the rabbit or chicken and chopped garlic for about 20 minutes. Place the rabbit and drippings in a casserole pan. Add the mushrooms, vinegar, wine, oil and lemon. Add about one cup of water. Apply seasoning. 

Cover and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Squirrel and Dumplings

2 squirrels

1 can of biscuits

Pillsbury gravy flour

Salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, oregano

Boil the squirrels and remove the meat from the bones. Add the meat back to the squirrel broth. Bring broth to a simmer. Add the seasonings.

Flatten and cut the biscuit dough into 3-inch strips. Add strips to the simmering broth and meat. Cook for about 20 minutes with occasional stirring. Add gravy flour to thicken.

Venison Pot Roast

Deer roast, 3-5 pounds

Garlic cloves, quartered

2 potatoes, unpeeled and quartered

1 package baby carrots

1 onion, quartered

1 package mushrooms

3 beef bullion cubes

Salt, black pepper, oregano

Make incisions in the roast 1-inch long and 1-inch deep. Insert the garlic cloves into the incisions. Place in a slow cooker and apply seasoning. Add vegetables. Cook under low heat for 6 to 8 hours.

Barbecued Beaver

Hindquarters of 1 beaver

1 bottle KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce

Olive oil

Salt, black pepper

Place beaver on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Apply seasoning. Drizzle olive oil over the meat.

Cover beaver completely with barbecue sauce. Add about one cup of water. Wrap the aluminum foil closed. Cook on an outdoor barbecue for about 2 hours or bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Add water as necessary to prevent the meat from becoming dry.

Goose Stew

1 goose breast, skinned and deboned

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 diced potatoes, 1-inch pieces, unpeeled

1 package baby carrots

1 package mushrooms

1/2 can of corn

Pillsbury gravy flour

Salt, black pepper, oregano, celery seed, Italian seasoning

Cut the goose meat into 2-inch-wide chunks. In a pot, slightly brown the meat in a bit of vegetable oil and the chopped garlic. Add the seasonings and vegetables to the pot. Add about 2 quarts of water and simmer for approximately one hour. Add the gravy flour to thicken the broth.