Fishermen are happy right now, at least in saltwater. Bites in the bay are average or better, always better if you land a hog-sized striped bass or barn door size halibut, there is still action along the Marin shoreline for salmon. If you’ve never landed a big silver sided fish you are in for a big happy, then you get to take it home and eat it.
An excellent recipe for a fresh salmon fillet is to flash fry or ‘sear’ it in a hot pan or wok in an inch-deep peanut oil. The wok is used to better control some of the splash that happens any time you sear in very hot oil. Be sure to blot the fillets with paper towels before searing, to further reduce spatter. The surface quickly crisps and retains natural moisture. Peek under the fillet to see how the browning is going, turn the fillet once a brown crust forms, use two spatulas to carefully turn to the second side, which will finish much faster. Have the rice and steamed vegetable ready to go when you start the fish, also seat the eaters to make it to the table hot. Depending on fillet thickness it will cook in just a few minutes. Turn off the flame to prevent fire ignition, remove the fillets with the two spatulas, being very careful with the hot oil and place them on a pie pan with two layers of paper towel to soak up some oil, then portion into individual plates. Serve with a small scoop of herbed butter and a twig of parsley or fresh dill.
If you are not a fisher then go fishing at Costco, check out their fillets that come in a plastic domed thing with a small scoop of herbed butter on each fillet. Be sure to remove the butter before cooking as it will melt and burn in the wok. The cooking process will leave a messy, but easy to clean surface on your stove. The key ingredient is ‘hot’.
Now that you are hungry, wild boar are coming into the fall months and can be very tasty. Harvest the very small pigs, they tend to be tender and juicy. They do best in a moderate oven with a light covering of foil. Salt and pepper are the only seasonings needed although the spice shop may come up with a delicate spice blend. One mild un-peppery seasoning is Pinchinto from southern Spain, add a liberal shake on chicken or pork, it will become a favorite. Remove the foil when the thermometer reads 140 degrees to crisp the outer skin. A twenty-pound live weight pig will serve eight with some leftovers.
Venison is one of those wild flavors that can easily be over spiced. Venison is very lean, the fat layer is between the muscle and the hide which is removed in the field. Some people have the whole deer made into sausage and jerky. They miss out on one of the most delicious aspects of wild game, the natural flavor. For venison steak, add salt and pepper and sear in a heavy pan or wok. Cook only to medium rare to rare and serve with your most beloved steak sauce. PickaPeppah sauce is one that always ranks high, like an improved A-1 with deep, complex flavor. Do not expect the steak to taste like beef, it does not, it has its own wonderful, woodsy flavor. Serve venison steak as you would a beef steak and wear red and black flannel with an Elmer Fudd cap.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.