I’m really excited that Stacy Lyn took some time to talk with me about her new cookbook “Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook” (look for a review in the next week or so!) From the release, “Alabama chef Stacy Lyn Harris, editor of GameandGarden.com, cooking show host on The Sportsman Channel, and popular wild game cookbook author.
Hunting is a way of life for Stacy Lyn’s family of nine. Her husband always kept their freezer full of wild game and as her sons came along, they’ve had to buy more freezers to keep up with the amount of venison harvested each year. And Stacy Lyn wouldn’t have it any other way – it’s contributed to the closeness of her family, she says.” ~DesertRat
This is your 3rd cookbook. There are lots of great cooks that never publish a cookbook. What made you decide to start writing cookbooks?
It all started the day I married my husband. The freezer was full of huge chunks of meat I had never seen or tiny little birds (dove) that seemed impossible to cook. It looked nothing like what I grew up eating. I couldn’t find any cookbooks that had photos of the recipes and since I am a visual learner it was very difficult for me to want to cook wild game. I was determined to learn how to prepare the best dishes possible from wild game, make it beautiful and share everything I learn with others to make their lives easier.
This led to a life of wanting to cook everything as fresh, pure, and tasty as possible. Since I am from the South and my grandmother cooked amazing food, I added all of my family’s favorite Southern seasonal dishes to Harvest and fresh farm raised meats such as pork, beef, and lamb. Who doesn’t love Braised Short Ribs?
I knew that most people not so long ago grew and harvested their own foods. They had kitchen gardens and a few chickens running around out back. They hunted and fished and paired their harvests with seasonal vegetables available at the time. After pouring over ancient recipes trying to find the secret to cooking great fresh food I couldn’t help but share what I had learned.
It’s not only about the food for me. I’ve seen our family relationships grow throughout the years because of our common interests in bringing food to the table. Whether it be a fishing or hunting adventure, planting the garden, harvesting the fruit and vegetables and canning them together, or cooking an amazing meal together, relationships are solidified. If I can help promote that in anyway, I am there. It’s truly one of THE BLESSINGS in this life.
What is the biggest mistake people make when cooking wild game?
People try to cook wild game the same way they prepare their grocery store counterparts. Wild game is totally different than meat raised on corn and feed on a farm. Animals that forage for their food and use their muscles looking for food have more muscle fiber and connective tissue that must be addressed during the preparation and cooking.
For instance, those meats with the most connective tissue and muscle fiber like the hindquarters roasts taste best braised low and slow or cut small and pounded out and the lean cuts like the tenderloins and loins need to be cooked no more than medium rare for best flavor and tenderness.
My mission is to help people match the correct cooking method with the cut of meat. If you do this, you will always have exceptional meals on your table.
What is your favorite wild game to cook and why?
I love cooking all wild game. It’s so good for you; Usually higher in Omega Fatty 3 Acids, zinc, vitamin B, niacin, and phosphorus and lower in cholesterol and calories. Once you get the hang of how to cook wild game, it’s all pretty simple. Quail is just amazing. It’s so light and mild in flavor and the texture is perfect making it quite versatile. Roasted Quail, Quail Pizza, and Stuffed Quail are a few of my favorites.
Turkey and Pheasant are incredibly great to work with. My Turkey Piccata is a joy to eat! Squirrel is another game meat that graces our table quite often in that I have teenage boys that have a need to extend hunting season a bit. Squirrel Pot Pie is really very good, and I’ve never been a fan of squirrel.
I cook more venison that anything because my family harvests at least 13 deer a year. They are such large game animals making them go further. The sky is the limit in preparation. The loins are great steaks, the hindquarter makes great stew and fajita meat. The neck makes fantastic burgers and chili. I, like Isaac from the Bible, think Venison is the best meat in the world. Isaac requested it for one of his last meals (Gen. 27:3)
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
It kind of depends on the season. In spring, the turkey burgers are one of my favorite along with homemade blueberry pie! In the summer, I adore the Fried Squash with Tomatoes, Pesto, and Marinara as well as the fish tacos. In the fall, Slow Cooker Pheasant Nachos are a winner and in the winter, the award winning Venison Chili will ROCK YOUR WORLD.
Oh, and I can’t forget my Homemade Sausage! Tweaking the flavors will completely change the entire dish in which it used. I show you step-by-step how to make it. It’s one of the bases to many of my favorite recipes like bolognese, spaghetti sauce, gumbos, dumplings, and soups to name a few.
“Sustainable southern dishes with a healthy twist” – classic southern food isn’t (or wasn’t) known for being healthy. How much of an adaptation is it to cook healthier?
It’s really not difficult at all. Many people still remember eating exactly as I am promoting today: clean, healthy, seasonal, straight from your harvest.
It’s the processed foods that Southerner’s have begun adding to the foods just in this last century that creates the unhealthy problem. I’ve just brought back what was already there. Adding fresh herbs, a few seasonings along with using the correct method of preparation make fresh food outstanding in flavor and healthy.
Do you like to “invent” new recipes or do you enjoy perfecting (or tweaking) recipes that are handed down?
I do a little bit of both. I love tradition and remembering my grandmother and her way of life so I keep her recipes and tweak them to perfection. Many of them were already perfect. I love perfecting a recipe by cooking it over and over in a week or month or whatever it takes to get it right.
For instance, this week my focus has been on meringues. Our chickens started laying tons of eggs and I need to use them up. What better than way with meringues and custards! I finally have it – it’s such a great feeling to make a no fail meringue or anything for that matter and then be able to write about it on my blog or books.
But I also love to create brand new recipes. My most recent was a Pumpkin Lasagna with Homemade Pumpkin Noodles. It was so creamy and delicious with a smooth silky white sauce.
Using wild game in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily can become an obsession if you let it. I suppose that’s why I love writing books. I say I am creating these recipes for the readers, but I derive so much pleasure from it, it may be mainly for me.
Who should buy this cookbook? Beginners? Experienced cooks? Folks new to wild game?
Anyone who likes great food should buy my book. Truly, I think anyone will love it. I have traditional recipes such as Fried Green Tomatoes and I added a lighter version of a Crunchy Baked Fried Green Tomato recipe. I have sweet potato fries with chipotle, but give additional tips to make it a sweet cinnamon flavored dessert.
I have over 15 “how to’s” in the book from preserving, gardening, and saving seeds to step-by-step instructions on deboning a quail or making homemade biscuits and crusts.
If you are new to wild game, this book is a must. You will save your hard earned time, and money by making the most of your harvest the first time you cook it. Even if you don’t cook wild game, the techniques I cover in the book and the vegetable recipes are well worth it. I also have a wild game substitution table in the book so you can buy the right meat for the recipe from the grocery store to use if, God forbid, you run out of wild game.
It’s so funny, my kids who are cooking age (above 3) are always asking, “Where’s Harvest?” I want to make a pie crust, or sweet potato biscuits, or stuff a loin, etc. It’s a guide, reference and friend in our home. I even find myself using it from time to time.
I’d really like to thank Stacy Lyn for taking time out of her busy schedule to share some thoughts with my readers. You can purchase the new book on Amazon where it is enjoying amazing reviews! As mentioned, look for an upcoming review. The recipes look amazing, and I can’t wait!