Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some Winter Shots

These are some shots I've taken over the years.  I always enjoy looking back to photos from the early years of the house and seeing how much the bushes and trees have grown! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Deer Project - The Dinner (Part 3)

(From December 2012.)

The best part about the hunting is the eating.  I invited a bunch of people up for a little feast in December.  This was pre-blog, so I don't have good photos.

The two main dishes were venison bourguignon and backstrap filets in a pepper sauce.

But first, slices of the heart and tenderloins, quick sautéed in a cast iron pan.

I don't think I've ever eaten heart before.  It was surprisingly good.  I expected it to be tough and gristly, but it was pretty tender.  Strongly flavored, like an aged rib-eye.  I had no idea how to cook it.  I sliced thin the "meaty" parts of the muscle, avoiding the ligaments and valves.  Then tossed it in the hot skillet.  The tenderloins were also seared quickly and sliced.  

For the bourguignon, I used Julia Child's beef bourguignon recipe.  First I took a top round (I think it was a top round) and some random chunks and browned them in the Le Crueset.

I added the onions and carrots, wine and stock, and let it simmer.  Separately, I cooked the mushrooms and then the pearl onions. Added it all together at the end and .....

Sorry, I didn't get a picture!

The backstraps are the equivalent to the New York strip on a cow -- much smaller.  These were sliced into 1" thick steaks and seared in the cast iron skillet.  Some wine to deglaze the pan, lots of pepper, some butter and cream.

The venison was tender enough to cut with a fork.  It has a distinct flavor, but not as strong as a good lamb.

J. Dominick's Trattoria

     Among some of my friends in New York, "red sauce" Italian food is, well, a bit of a joke.  "It's not authentic!  No one in Italy eats that!".  "It's too heavy!"  "It's too greasy!"  "It's fine to feed your kids, but it's not a real cuisine!"

     It sure tastes good to me.  Although I admit that it's getting harder and harder to find good Italian food, at a reasonable price.  From over-cooked pasta, to mushy parm, and, of course, marinara sauce laden with sugar, most of these places deserve the bad reputation they're getting.

   And then there's J. Dominick's Trattoria.  This place opened a few years ago on Route 44, just outside of Poughkeepsie.  We stopped by one Saturday night a while ago and were shocked to be told that it was already booked for the night.  Most restaurants in the area were struggling.  So a few weeks later, we made a reservation for dinner with a friend.  We've been back about a dozen times since then, and our friends from the city want to come up just to have dinner here.  (Apologies in advance for the poor photos.)

    A glass of wine to start?


    The food is terrific.  All of my fond memories of eating Italian food as a kid are wrapped up and served here.  They start you with a plate of home made dinner rolls, warm out of the oven, served with whipped butter and marinated vegetables.  Try not to eat too many.

   We've had a bunch of the appetizers in our many visits.  Don't miss the hot and spicy shrimp, served in a vinegary cherry pepper and tomato sauce with lots of butter.  (And feel free to ask for the hot and spicy shrimp over pasta for your entree.)

The fried calamari is as good as you're going to find anywhere.  If they have the stuffed artichoke on the menu -- go for it.  We got a softball sized artichoke, liberally covered with breadcrumbs and butter.  Wonderful stuff.

     Moving on.  If you like veal or chicken parmigiana, this is the place to get it.

On the lighter side, broiled seafood plate:

Scampi over pasta:

And the stunner of the evening, zuppa de pesce.  I'm telling you, it could feed a family of four:

My main complaint about the food is that the pasta is often over-cooked.  Not badly, but it's not the al dente that it should be.

I can also recommend the pork chops (ask for them to be cooked medium), and the lemon cake for dessert.

J. Dominick's Trattoria
779 Dutchess Turnpike
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
(845) 486-9400

The Deer Project (Part 2)

(From November 2012.)

Part 2 of the Deer Project was going to be about processing the deer.  But on second thought, I think discretion advises that I not post pictures of skinning and butchering.

So, I'll just say that if you're interested in learning how to butcher your own deer, there are many helpful videos on youtube.  And, unfortunately, many more unhelpful ones.

I recommend the videos from Willies Butchery.

Stay tuned for Part 3...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Deer Project (Part 1)

(From November 2012.)

Growing up in Westchester, I didn't get much opportunity to go hunting.  I had a short archery phase in 8th grade or so.  My friends and I bought cheap plastic recurve bows at the local sporting good store and headed out to the golf course to cause trouble.  Without getting into too much detail, it's amazing we didn't kill someone.  Did you watch The Sopranos?  The third season with Ralph Cifarreto (played by Joe Pantoliano)?  The episode when Ralph's son and a friend were playing in a yard and shooting arrows up in the air to dodge them?  Yeah, that's the kind of stuff we did.  But never mind.

A few years back I decided that it would be fun to go deer hunting.  I cook and eat a lot of meat, and I like to throw parties.  I thought it would be interesting to go through the entire journey -- hunt, field dress, skin, butcher and eat.

Around 2009, I guess it was, I took the hunter safety course at the Pleasant Valley Trout & Game Club.  They were all very nice and very serious about the safety training.  It's necessary to take a class to get a license, so I recommend it.  Then, I went to K-Mart and picked up a Big Game license, and I logged onto Cabelas.com to buy camo gear, a knife and other doo-dads.

I headed over to Quattro's Poultry Farm and Market on Route 44 for the rifle.

Quattros is a great place. Half of it is a general store with a terrific butcher shop. I highly recommend the pheasant sausage.  They will cut a steak for you any thickness you want.  They make their own pastrami and other cured meats.  Look in the freezer for anything from local rabbit, rendered duck fat and duck breasts, to bison steaks, and lobes of foie gras.  The other half of the store, of course, is a gun and ammo shop.

I walk in, fairly clueless.  I went bird hunting once, and have fired a rifle a few times.  But I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew that in Dutchess County, big game hunting can only be done with a shotgun, not a rifle.  The area is too congested to shoot anything that is lethal up to a mile.  For the shotguns they shoot sabot slugs -- 1" chunks of lead -- not pellets.  After some talk with the sales staff  I settled on a used 12 gauge Savage 220 bolt action slug gun and a Nikor scope.  I think the whole set-up was around $700.  (Please don't tell me if I got ripped off.)  They sold me some Lightfield Hybrid Slugs.

I took the rifle back to the Game Club during their public "sight-in" day.  I fired a whole bunch of shots at the targets and adjusted the scope to get the aim right.

Damn, a 12g hurts.  My shoulder was bruised for a week.

Regular big game season in Dutchess County usually starts on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and lasts three weeks.  (It's preceded by bow season and muzzle-loading season.)  I tend to take that whole week off anyway.  And I got permission from a friend up in Milan, NY to hunt his backyard.

A quick note about the verb "hunt".  I had always thought it was an "action" verb.  It's not.  It's passive.  As in, find a decent place behind some brush, sit down on the cold frozen ground, and wait.  After about 5 minutes, you think:  "what are the chances that a deer is going to happen to walk by right in front of me?"  Well, for me, for 4 years, the chances were slim to none.  That is, for four years, I sat out -- usually starting a 6:30 in the morning -- waiting for a deer and not seeing anything.

Eventually, I had a number of choices for lang to hunt.  A friend's place in Milan, two friends with amazing land in Columbia County, my own back woods and the neighbor across the street.  My woods would be great, except that I know there are usually two other hunters the next property over, and the deer trail (often littered with fresh droppings) will bring the deer past them to reach me.  The guy across the street already has two friends hunt his land, so I can only go if I don't see their trucks parked on the side of the road.  The other properties are fine, but a tad inconvenient.

Well, let's jump forward to this year (2012).  Because there's not much to say about the prior years, except that I sat out in the cold for hours and didn't see anything I could shoot at.  The first day, I saw two young deer, about 20' in front of me.  They just stopped and started at me.  I raised the rifle and took aim -- and they didn't move.  But, they were too young to shoot.  This past year, on one of the early days, this young lady stopped by to check me out:

I didn't have a doe permit for the area I was hunting, and I couldn't take that shot anyway.  There was nothing behind the deer -- if I missed, the slug would just keep going and could hit someone.

The day after Thanksgiving, my neighbor told me that he had a buck in his back yard every afternoon, around 3:30 p.m.  He said I should come by the next day.  So I did.  He's got about 30 acres, including long sloping grass-covered hill, about 50 yards, that goes down to the woods.  He and his sons built a shed at the top years ago -- and it's a great place to hunt.  On chairs, and out of the wind.  I got there around 3 and settled in.  Another friend of theirs stopped in and we chatted a bit watching the treeline.

"Shhh, he said, there's a doe right there."  I couldn't see anything.  But in a few minutes a doe walked out of the woods and started feeding on the grass.  "You take it," he said, "I got a buck this morning."
I shouldered the shotgun and had a perfectly clear shot.  The deer was feeding about 50 yards away, with her left side towards.  I was very concerned about taking a good shot -- the last thing I wanted to do was wound the animal.  I sighted the cross-hairs on its chest, held my breathe and pulled the trigger.  I'm happy to say that the deer jumped and fell over dead.  No suffering.

Field dressing wasn't too bad -- although I admit that I got help. We were running out of light, and I was too timid.  I really did not want to tear the pouch and make it any messier than necessary.  And, It was quite nice that the friend had a 4-wheeler nearby, so we could quickly drive out the carcass to my pick up.

(Next, the butchering....)