AWF Cook-Off Teams Cook Up Humor, Tasty Fare
By DAVID RAINER
In times of trouble, I’ve always considered it a virtue to maintain a sense of humor – lesson learned from my mother, who always seems to find a reason to laugh at almost any situation.
Take, for instance, as tragic as the Gulf oil spill appears to be, the folks who participated in the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Wild Game Cook-Off recently on Mobile Bay, couldn’t help but cook a little levity into the situation.
While there were several dishes named in BP’s honor, there was one dish that excelled – Team Fowl Mouth’s BP Bottom Dwellers Bang-Up. The dish not only took the top place in the fish category, it also was voted the best dish in the entire competition. As one of the judges, I can assure you that was quite an accomplishment. The overall victory sends Team Fowl Mouth to the State Finals Aug. 7 in Millbrook.
As for the winning dish, Chef Jamie Roussos and his cohorts – Scott Stimpson and Billy Bixler (Jay Beck, a regular team member had a scheduling conflict) – based the dish on pond-raised catfish, a resource that won’t be affected by the oil spill except that demand may increase significantly.
All humor aside, the dish is more practically called Blackened Catfish and Crab Cakes with Cajun Shrimp Cream Sauce.
This was a delicious take on the traditional venison burger that was tasty and didn’t suffer from a lack of juices, as the name implies. One of the tricks was to stuff the burgers with pimento and cheese, but not with just any old cheese like cheddar.
Team member Philip Davis said they use Colby and pepper jack cheese with red pimentos, half and half and mayonnaise to make the stuffy. He also suggests forming the venison burgers and then put them in the fridge to get them nice and cold before adding the stuffing.
The burgers are then skillet-fried to retain the juices.
The tomatillo sauce is made by combining the minced tomatillos with minced red onions, minced jalapenos (charred and peeled), a teaspoon of lime juice and a teaspoon of sugar. Combine and spoon over the hot burgers.
The winners put the burger and sauce on pumpernickel bread, which really added a savory sensation to the dish.
In second, a very close second I might add, in the game division was CCA Alabama’s Mama Mia Lasagna, followed by Team Buckshire’s Venison Chim Churri.
The winning dish in the fowl category was Team Buckshire’s Boudin-Stuffed Quail with Mango Sauce. I tried unsuccessfully to get the recipe, but the name of the dish pretty much spells it out.
Second in fowl was Dirt and Whiskey’s Smoke Quail and Fried Green Tomato Panini, followed by Choctaw Bluff’s Wild Turkey Pookytaya.
Of course, there were plenty of serious moments at the cook-off, as well. AWF Executive Director Tim Gothard was busy signing up attendees for a database of potential volunteers to combat the effects of the oil spill.
Gothard said the wild game cook-offs have been a big part of AWF’s outreach effort for the past 15 years. AWF, established in 1935, has 30,000 members and supporters. Gothard said the group’s mission is to be an advocate for the wise use and responsible stewardship of our native wildlife resources.
“Our cook-offs serve three primary purposes,” Gothard said. “It’s an opportunity for our members to interact and our guests to learn more about the Alabama Wildlife Federation. Second – and the one that got this whole thing started – to show as responsible hunters and anglers that we properly utilize the game and fish we take, and that it makes great table fare. The cook-offs also generate funds to support our conservation work in three areas – conservation education, resource stewardship and hunting and angling heritage.”
PHOTO: (By David Rainer) Team Fowl Mouth, from left, Billy Bixler, Jamie Roussos and Scott Stimpson, claimed the overall prize at the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Coast Wild Game Cook-Off held recently on Battleship Parkway.