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posted: 6/24/2014 5:30 AM

Cook of the Week: Hunter tracks down recipes to feed growing girls

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  • Brian Peterson of Elgin hunted and butchered the venison that goes into his Italian Hunter's Pie. The dish can be made in a cast iron skillet, or the meat can be seared on the grill and transferred to a baking pan with the remaining ingredients.

       Brian Peterson of Elgin hunted and butchered the venison that goes into his Italian Hunter's Pie. The dish can be made in a cast iron skillet, or the meat can be seared on the grill and transferred to a baking pan with the remaining ingredients.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Brian Peterson of Elgin

 
By Sally Eyre
dpankey@dailyherald.com

With Father's Day a recent holiday, it seems appropriate that today's Cook of the Week was nominated by his two daughters.

"We would like to nominate our father, Brian Peterson, because he is a great cook and he specializes in venison … venison was the first red meat we ever ate." It is also significant that Brian learned to hunt at the age of 10 with his father, and continues to hunt with his father, brother and uncles and cousins, every year around Thanksgiving, when hunting season begins.

"Hunting for the meat is the primary thing. Getting a trophy buck is nice, but most of the deer are does and it is good meat for the family. Deer is the leanest meat out there, with the exception of buffalo, and technically it's organic -- they just eat corn and soybeans, and they have no antibiotics or growth hormones," says Brian.

Brian and the other hunters butcher the meat together before they go home, it is an elaborate process made easier when everyone pitches in.

Because a deer will last his family for a year, there is little doubt that the recent Father's Day cookout may have found Brian grilling venison. Though Brian grew up eating traditional venison dishes, he prefers to shake it up a bit.

"I like to add some different flavors. One of the things I make is venison curry; I like exotic foods," said Brian.

Another way he cooks venison is by putting a full roast on the grill and then covering it with a bottle of Italian giardiniera.

"It runs down and marinates the meat," he explains.

It might be hard to picture men hunkered down in a blind discussing the merits of sautéing vs. broiling, but Brian assures us that some of his best recipes have come from other hunters. On their hunting trips, Brian's father makes a traditional hunter's pie -- venison steaks sautéed with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce with risotto. Who knew hunters ate risotto?

Of course, Brian doesn't only cook venison.

"I was blessed with my mom, aunts and grandmothers -- all good cooks. I've been fed well all my life," Brian says. "Family recipes live a long time in our family. At any family gathering, certain dishes are required."

One favorite is his grandmother's pastina, an Italian chicken soup recipe that Brian shares with us today.

When he was young, Brian's family spent a lot of time outdoors, camping and cooking over a fire. He enjoys taking his daughters on camping trips now and showing them how to make a Dutch oven pizza, right on the fire. As a result of that upbringing, his girls are very adventurous eaters.

"They eat raw oysters, calamari and liver pate -- not your typical kids who want chicken tenders!" he laughs.

When they come of age, he says the girls will be invited to the hunters' weekend. You might assume the men folk would have to clean up their act a bit, but then again, maybe not. The girls would probably enjoy talking recipes and sharing risotto.

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