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Afield: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish

Afield: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish

5.0 1
by Jesse Griffiths, Jody Horton (Photographer), Andrew Zimmern (Foreword by)

2012 IPPY Bronze Award in the Cookbook category (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year Award Finalist (TBA)
2013 James Beard Foundation Book Awards, Nominee Finalist

Born from the principles of the local food movement, a growing number of people are returning to hunting and preparing fish and game for their home tables.


2012 IPPY Bronze Award in the Cookbook category (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year Award Finalist (TBA)
2013 James Beard Foundation Book Awards, Nominee Finalist

Born from the principles of the local food movement, a growing number of people are returning to hunting and preparing fish and game for their home tables. Afield: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish is at once a manifesto for this movement and a manual packed with everything the new hunter needs to know.  Wild foods, when managed responsibly, are sustainable, ethical, and delicious, and author Jesse Griffiths combines traditional methods of hunting, butchering, and preparing fish and game with 85 mouthwatering recipes.

Afield throws open the doors of field dressing for novice and experienced hunters alike, supplying the know-how for the next logical step in the local, sustainable food movement.  Stemming from a commitment to locally grown vegetables and nose-to-tail cooking, Griffiths is an expert guide on this tour of tradition and taste, offering a combination of hunting lessons, butchery methods, recipes, including how to scale, clean, stuff, fillet, skin, braise, fry and more. Fellow hunting enthusiast and food photographer Jody Horton takes you into the field, follows Griffiths step-by-step along the way and then provides you with exquisite plate photograph of the finished feasts. Filled with descriptive stories and photographs, Afield takes the reader along for the hunt, from duck and dove to deer and wild hog.

Game and fish include:
Doves, Deer, Hogs, Squirrel, Rabbits, Ducks, Geese, Turkey, Flounder, White Bass, Crabs, Catfish, and more.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
2012 IPPY Bronze Award in the Cookbook category (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year Award Finalist (TBA)
2013 James Beard Foundation Book Awards, Nominee Finalist

"Griffiths may be an ideologue, but his recipes adapt well to the work of the unarmed home cook hoping simply to feed friends beautiful, flavorful food in the chill of early winter. His anise brine mutes the wildness in feral boar. But it also augments the flavor of commercially raised pigs, increases the clarity of their flavor, acts as the best sort of kitchen cheat."
— Sam Sifton, "How to Tame a Wild Pork Chop" featured in The New York Times Magazine
"I don't really see myself plucking doves anytime soon—rather I tend to feed them—but I greatly admire Jesse Griffiths and his work, especially Afield. It's solid and real, not something stylish and trendy. It's clear that Jesse takes this work very seriously. That would be enough, but I have to add that the photographs are especially evocative."
—Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Local Flavors

"After the Larousse Gastronomique, this book will become my new bible. Afield is part of the new generation of culinary books. Actually, it's more than just a culinary book, it's a North American chef d'oeuvre. Enjoy!"
—Martin Picard aka "The Wild Chef," author of Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack

"A kindred spirit and fellow hunter, angler and cook, Jesse Griffiths has created a book that not only highlights the glories of Texas' abundant game and fish, but is also just as relevant and as useful wherever you can find doves and deer, crabs and crappies. It is one of a very few modern cookbooks that does justice to America's wild game and fish."
—Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook

"Jesse Griffiths practices what most of us only preach when it comes to sustainable eating. Afield shows us that hunting is as much about compassion, respect and knowledge of animals, and the land as it is about the preparation. Much praise goes to Jesse for making the art of hunting and cooking game approachable."
—Carla Hall, co-host of The Chew

"From his love of hunting and fishing, Jesse Griffiths has created a rare and beautiful book."
April Bloomfield, chef and author of A Girl and Her Pig

Advance Praise "Of all the members of The Butcher's Guild, Jesse is one of the most intrepid and iconoclastic. Gracefully teaching sustainability and holistic cooking in Texas, he has become the young grandaddy to a new generation of chefs and butchers. His prose and approach are as warm as a campfire on a Texas dove-hunt."
—Marissa Guggiana, author of Primal Cuts and Off the Menu; co-founder of The Butcher's Guild

"The recipes are spot-on (I cook; my son is a chef), the photography is gorgeous, and the philosophy is a welcome breath of non-self-righteous rationalization."
—James R. Babb, Editor, Gray's Sporting Journal

"This book is inspiring. Jesse captures the energy of the hunter gatherer in a refined and approachable way. This book makes me want to eat Snipe and smoke my own catfish."
Jamie Bissonnette, chef and butcher at Coppa and Toro in Boston

"Jesse Griffiths knows what's important about food...that it's fresh, local and allowed to speak for itself. He's an old school chef with deep respect for the land, his farmers and purveyors and the food they produce and it shows through his cooking."
—Dave Pasternack aka "The Fish Whisperer," according to the New York Times; author of A Young Man and the Sea

"For all who want to take increased responsibility for meat eating and plan to hunt it themselves, Afield is the book to follow. For all who may aspire to hunting, it is the book to read closely for a real sense of the experience. For those who already know the pleasures of the hunt, but may not know how to maximize the pleasures of the table, Afield is the book to cook from."
—Deborah Krasner, author of GOOD MEAT

"The magic, and why I think Afield is a special work, is that it fully portrays a way of living and thinking that allows us to return to a more simple way to be measured and respected. And it does so without lecturing or pandering. It reminds me that by living a more principled life, I can make my world a better place and I can use food and cooking to do it. This book is a beautiful piece of work, and after you read it, and cook from it, please get outside and get dirty with it. Wherever you are, the great outdoors is waiting for you, afield."
Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, from his introduction to Afield (Andrew featured Griffiths breaking down a feral hog on the Bizarre Foods Austin episode that aired on August 13, 2012)

"It's not news that we're rethinking how we eat. Between money issues, and the conglomeration of differing ideas about where we should get our food and what we should do with it, I'm surprised we've not seen a book like Afield before now. Then again we've not had a Jesse Griffiths stepping forward before now. With this book he reaches beyond those who have always hunted. He lives that idea of working with what is around you and hunting naturally comes out of that for him. Hunting is not for all of us, but this book has much to teach about working with meat, cooking game well, and for some us, it offers a gentle, thoughtful introduction to a way with food that seemed foreign in the past. It could be a marker for the future."
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of public radio's national food show, The Splendid Table®, from American Public Media (Griffiths' segment will air in mid-September)

"If things get tough on Planet Earth, you'll want Jesse Griffiths at your side, or at least, his educational and entertaining book, Afield! Read Jesse Griffiths' Afield for inspiration, and then get out to the wilderness and bring home a wild hog, or at least a few fish! Then flip through the pages of this beautiful book to learn what to do with your catch. Jesse Griffiths is an omnivore's inspiration — one of Texas' greatest supporters of and educators on local foods of every kind — he's just as good with vegetables as he is with game. Afield is Jesse Griffiths and his cohorts at their finest. If you don't have a gun or a fishing pole, just delve into Afield for a great armchair experience!"
—Carol Ann Sayle, organic vegetable farmer, Boggy Creek Farm, Austin, TX

 “Griffiths takes you inside the moment with him, into his head, as he searches for a downed doe or sets the hook in a catfish’s mouth. It’s impossible to miss Griffiths’ reverence for the lives he literally consumes.”
—Kim Pierce, Dallas Morning News
“Everything you want to know about hyper-locavorism can be found in this book of stories, recipes and how-tos that will take you from couch potato to wild boar hunter in no time. Well...maybe a little time.”
—Jesse Kapadia, Food Republic
“Lots of the recipes - for turkey, duck, fish, crab, and rabbit in particular - could be happily used by cooks with no intention of actually harvesting it themselves from anywhere but the butcher shop.”
—Molly Watson, About.com
“Calling Afield a mere cookbook would be…like calling the Grand Canyon a large ditch. A philosophical journal, a field guide, a visual work of art – all of these would be fitting descriptions of the new book. Half of [the photographs] will inspire you to never eat anything processed again, while the other half will make you want to grab your rod or gun and head out into the wild right away.”
Bearings: A Southern Lifestyle for Men
Afield is at once anecdotal and educational… In a country where gun ownership is more associated with NRA zealots than food sourcing, Griffiths wants to open up people’s minds to living off the land once again.”
—Veronica Meewes, CultureMap Austin
“Afield will inspire you to do—to roll up your sleeves and catch a flounder, clean a rabbit, field dress a feral hog, butcher a deer, cook up a squirrel, and make your own sausage—all in the name of a good meal.”
—Sarah Hebbel-Stone, FarmPlate
“Part recipe collection, part Hemingway-esque adventure read, [Afield] comes from one of Austin’s fiercest talents.”
—Paula Disbrowe, Daily South
“Yes, it’s a cookbook, but more specifically, it’s an impeccably written, extensively photographed manual that takes people through the hunting process from land, lake, and sea and right back into the home kitchen.”
—Layne Lynch, Texas Monthly

"For a reader who knows the magic of a duck blind at sunrise, the writing is evocative; for the novice, it offers additional insight into why hunting and fishing are favored pastimes for millions in this country."
—Kerry Luft, Chicago Tribune

"Griffiths forges a new approach to the sustainable movement through a compelling narrative on the benefits, both mental and physical, to catching your own dinner."
—Michele Harris, Erickson Tribune

“A practitioner of the new hunting-cooking movement, Griffiths also happens to be a gifted writer who captures the drama and romance of moving through a creek slowly so as not to spook the fish or gutting and scaling whiting directly into Gulf waves while surf fishing… [It’s] Hemingway-esque.”
—Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle
“[Afield] is one of the better game cookbooks in recent years, equally accessible to avid hunters and fishermen and those who are just starting out, as well as those who are debating whether to begin.”
—Kerry Luft, Latino Times
“We have come a long way from our days as hunter-gatherers, yet there is still deep satisfaction in catching a fish and cooking it yourself…Jesse Griffiths has tapped into that primordial urge.”
—Michael Hoinski, Texas Monthly

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Read an Excerpt

Foreword - Andrew Zimmern
Introduction by Jesse Griffiths

Foreword - Andrew Zimmern

For thousands of years a man was measured in simple terms. Honor and hard work gave him the respect of his peers and status in his community. Over the last century, we have seen that change. Impermanence of lifestyles, class privilege determined solely on wealth, the cultish narcissism of the age of celebrity, and the diminished returns on achievement—these societal woes have all contributed to a cultural standard that our grandparents, who knew that the reward was in the doing, wouldn’t recognize. Good or bad, it’s a fact. In an age where the world is changing so quickly, in our disposable culture, the ability to pause and put some space between what we think we want and what we decide to do is one of our greatest necessities. Which is why I sought out Jesse Griffiths one day a few years back on a trip to Austin, Texas.
Here was a man living a life that is supremely of the moment, his professional code of conduct couldn’t be more fitting with everything that is right about food in America. And more importantly his “way of doing” provides thought leadership and actionable pursuits.
Instinctively we realize that we live in an age where we no longer just want to see recipes with bacon in it, we want to know how to cure the bacon ourselves. So here was a chef who not only was providing us with those answers, he was educating us about lifestyle choices that go beyond the gold standard.
Jesse leads by example. We can talk all we want about sustainability, traditional food arts, great cooking, locally sourced foods, and every other neutered catch phrase of the modern food world, but we need heroes who are willing to show us by doing, not by talking. Jesse is that kind of guy, and trust me they are rare and precious. He is a tireless worker, who hunts and fishes, appreciates our great outdoors, understands the importance of what we need to preserve in our cultural heritage, and translates it for the modern age—is there anything more important? That he chooses to do it in the food space is just the icing on the cake for someone like me.
Nothing is more important, or timely, in the search for a solution to the breakdown to our global systemic food system than the thorough study, reimagining, and ongoing education of Americans on the subject of hunting, fishing, and cooking as an inseparable triptych. If some of our modernist ideas are failing, if production and mechanization compromise our health and well being, if you are curious at all about pursuing solutions instead of tilting at windmills, then you will want to understand fully a food system that is economically, culturally, and environmentally sustainable. Jesse understands at a grassroots level what it takes to live truthfully, in a meaningful way that is deeply felt and personal. He doesn’t speak in sound bites or create lifestyle choices with a publicist. He lives and works in accordance with his own principles and that is what I admire about him the most. The benefit we all have is that we can learn from inspiring leaders like Jesse, and act locally while thinking globally. For me the appeal of his book is that it is approachable and engaging for us all.
For those committed to big ideas, or simply for a way to have more fun in the field and in the kitchen, this is a must read. The outdoors-person’s approach to food has worked…does work…and will always work, and within its ideology are practical ways that anyone interested in changing their world one delicious plate at a time will want to learn about. Slowing down the food systems we sped up, solving our food-health issues, and preserving the best practices of our lost generations are all attainable by living the hunting-cooking lifestyle.
At the end of the day, this is an inspiring collection of stories from the field, replete with 85 recipes that are as delicious as they are fascinating to page through. Anyone who loves food will enjoy this book. The magic, and why I think Afield is a special work, is that it fully portrays a way of living and thinking that allows us to return to a more simple way to be measured and respected. And it does so without lecturing or pandering. It reminds me that by living a more principled life, I can make my world a better place and I can use food and cooking to do it. This book is a beautiful piece of work, and after you read it, and cook from it, please get outside and get dirty with it. Wherever you are, the great outdoors is waiting for you, afield.


Introduction by Jesse Griffiths
I once described hunting to my antihunting mother as the same as planting, growing, and harvesting a carrot, just compressed into a few exciting moments. There is the preparation, the commitment, the anticipation, and the payoff—the sad and final moment when the food comes to hand, dead or soon-to-be. A carrot’s journey between seed and plate takes about four months, give or take. The span of time between a stick bobber disappearing into a murky creek and a fat crappie flopping onto the bank, or a mourning dove being hit and spiraling down into mesquite thicket is about ten seconds, give or take.
In hunting and fishing, the moment the animal is brought to hand is not the end, but rather the middle of the story. There is still much more work to be done— scaling, skinning, packaging, braising, frying—and the final result is far more rewarding. A gorgeous justcaught fall pompano, gutted and rubbed with olive oil, or a tray full of fresh sausages are the real reasons we spend time afield.
I grew up fishing with my father and only came to hunting in the last few years, which has doubled the time I spend outdoors and pretty much keeps me helplessly distracted year-round. Under the tutelage of many generous people, I have been able to forge a relationship between fish and game and my passion for cooking. This book is not written from the perspective of an expert hunter or fisherman, but from an obsessed one who spends a lot of time preparing and sharing what he catches. Some of the best times I’ve ever had were with friends on the bank of a river, drinking a little beer and frying up that evening’s batch of redbreast sunfish. Or maybe sautéing a fresh venison liver with some bacon and onions after a long, cold day in the woods, knowing that we will have good, ostensibly organic, free-range, grass-fed meat in our freezer for the rest of the year.
Over the past few generations, we’ve collectively lost the skills that our ancestors possessed to live off the land. Perhaps this is because the need is no longer there, with the proliferation and ubiquity of mass-produced food. Game meats and fresh fish are truly the healthiest proteins you can get your hands on, and, yes, they do taste different than farmed animals. This is because they’ve fed on wild grasses or minnows or croton seeds, and reflect the beautiful and austere surroundings from which they were gathered. In many cultures, this is perceived as an advantage—a boon to the lucky eater.
This book means not only to explore the world of direct sourcing—that is, being wholly involved in sustaining oneself —but to enlighten and encourage more responsibility and thrift in preparing, cooking, and sharing food from the wild. Hunting and fishing for your dinner gives you a distinct sense of ownership and connection to your own food sources—as well as the responsibilities that come with that, like stewardship, conservation, and a deep respect for life and death.
I don’t remember exactly how this project started. I was easily enamored with Jody’s photography, and I love the outdoors. I also work round the clock at my job as a chef and wanted to find a way to incorporate hunting and fishing into my daily life somehow. The solution seemed obvious: instruct people to cook what they hunt and fish for, and include good pictures.
Jody is also a hunter and fisherman, but he favors his camera more. He never really puts it down to cast a rod for more than a couple of minutes, and he did once annoyingly take six shots at some doves, dropping four, before casually resuming his photography while I went to collect and pluck his downed birds.
This book allowed us to spend time with our peers and friends who are as attuned to eating well as we are. They are fellow chefs, guides, writers, architects, ranchers, farmers, nurses, teachers, carpenters, lawyers, and, of course, Tink—who defies categorization. Every anecdote shared in the pages that follow is real. Every animal shot or caught was happily eaten and, be assured that we were having a seriously good time throughout.
These stories take place in the Great State of Texas, specifically the Central Texas Hill Country around Austin, where we are blessed with clear-flowing limestone streams, muddy prairie lakes, and pine forests within a couple of hours drive in any direction. Add a couple more hours to that and you have saltwater bays and surf, semi-arid plains, and impenetrable South Texas thickets, teeming with deer, javelinas (peccaries), and huge boars. It is truly a beautiful and bountiful place, but the information contained in Afield is germane to any place game or fish are found. We emphatically encourage experimentation and substitution with these recipes depending on the geography and seasons.
What are seasons, really? When hunting, fishing, farming, or foraging, one is, by default, confined to eating seasonally. Just as there’s a right and wrong time of year to grow and pick different types of produce, the same is true for wild fish and game. Ducks arrive (here) en masse in late winter; the crappie spawn when the wildflowers pop in the spring and the sunfish will bed up around the first full moon of May or June. Don’t ever shoot a rabbit in the summer, unless you want to see some parasites. These natural parameters present a preordained guide to eating what is available throughout the year. This sequence of beginnings and endings wrapped up in a year provides constant opportunity, in perpetuity.
The recipes, or rather the cooking techniques, in this book are based not only on the availability— legal and literal—of fish and game, but of the things that grow around them. This newfangled ideal, practiced since the dawn of time, not only makes sense, but is inherently frugal, pleasantly self-reliant, and it tastes better. As a regimen, place-oriented eating was the norm for every generation up until that of our greatgrandparents. Nowadays, you may commonly hear of this style of eating, or food grown without chemicals and in the proper season as “organic”, as being expensive or elitist compared to “conventional” meats and produce. However, food planted with the seasons, hunted in season, and gathered in season was once simply known as good food.
With so much time, effort, and resources spent on acquiring our own game, it seems incumbent upon us to spend some energy honoring the animal when we eat it. The pork added to sausage to increase its fat content should be good pork, raised happily outside, just like deer; otherwise it’s like diluting a dusty, twenty-yearold bottle of Châteauneuf-du-pape with convenience store swill. That venison from the doe you shot that’s going in that sausage is some of the best meat available anywhere and deserves good company. Good garlic, good salt, good spices, good pig.
The vegetables and fruit that cosmically appear throughout the seasons should likewise be of high quality. If it were up to me, there would be an opening day for strawberries, too, because they just aren’t right until they’re ready. Sure, you can stretch it out, buying strawberries whenever you want them, but they don’t want to be eaten until they’re red and ripe and sweet and from someplace nearby. A very religious and conservative farmer friend once told me regarding food, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” Mr. Alexander’s simple tenet of good eating was remarkably enlightening: our food surrounds us, just don’t take too much. I also would have never pegged him for a Stones fan.
Treated in this way, food becomes much, much easier to make, not harder. I promise you that. When you hunt, fish, and harvest or buy your ingredients locally, the decisions have already been made for you. Recipes become methods and concepts instead of rote standards. Your shopping list is literally handed to you by your surroundings. And all that’s left for you to do is to decide how you want to heat them up.

Meet the Author

Chef JESSE GRIFFITHS embodies the forefront of the new hunting-cooking movement.  He has gained national praise for his strictly local butcher shop and supper clubs (Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Country Living, Garden & Gun) and his series of practical hunting schools are the first of their kind.  In less than a year, they have drawn students from around the country and have gained attention from The New York Times, Texas Monthly, and others. Jesse was nominated as Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef in 2011, and is the owner and chef of Dai Due with his life/work partner, Tamara Mayfield.  The couple received Austin's Local Hero award in 2010.

JODY HORTON is an Austin-based food and lifestyle photographer. His work has appeared in Garden & Gun, Esquire, Food & Wine, Southern Living, Texas Monthly, and the New York Times. He is a frequent contributor to Texas Monthly, Garden & Gun, Edible Austin, and Southern Living. Find more of his work at www.jodyhorton.com.

ANDREW ZIMMERN, regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world, is a James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer, and teacher. He is the co-creator, host, and consulting producer of the Travel Channel's hit series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.

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Afield: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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