Minnesota Vikings’ defensive end Jared Allen ranks No. 7 among active NFL players with 83 career quarterback sacks and is 45th all-time (tied) since the statistical category was first officially charted in 1982.
Yet when he moves his game to the kitchen, the gregarious lineman isn’t defined by a sack lunch. Rather, the three-time All Pro and part-owner of two Arizona restaurants fancies himself a graduate of the faux “Culinary Academy,” presenting himself as much when introduced on nationally televised games. This past fall, Allen released The Quarterback Killer’s Cookbook ($18.18 via Allen’s site or for under $10 for Kindle through Amazon), a collection of recipes that complement his reputation as an avid outdoorsman.
But are the dishes up to snuff for a Super Bowl party?
“Absolutely,” Allen writes from Arizona via e-mail. “You would get a broad mixture of great-flavored meats.”
With platings as diverse as pheasant, ostrich, bear, wild boar, elk, venison, and, um, rattlesnake, Allen offers no shortage of attempting something unique for your Packers vs. Steelers gathering.
Accompanying ingredients for the recipes herein are huddled around cupboard standards, but tracking down the wild game signatures may initially appear something of an arduous task, lest you know an avid hunter. Not the case. Rather, all of these unique offerings can be found at Specialty Meats & Gourmet (a division of Venison America) in Hudson, WI.
The shop’s staff is extremely helpful in navigating the rarities featured in Allen’s book, and vice president Steve Loppnow (aka “The Meat Detective”) receives requests for meat as exotic as lion to stock in his freezer alongside the likes of oft-available alligator, crocodile, kangaroo, python, frog’s legs, and turtle.
To be sure, some of these exotics are costly. Want to tackle, say, Allen’s “Rattlesnake Croquettes”? That will snake through your wallet at the cost of about $32.00 / pound.
I tried two recipes that seemed a good match for a Super Bowl feast: “Jared’s Famous Pheasant Nuggets with Country Gravy” and “Wild Boar Ragu with Fettuccine.” Lacking a dehydrator, I had to unfortunately skip Allen’s recommendation of trying his “Elk Jerky,” of which he says: “Fill up a bowl of those in front of the television and watch them disappear.”
Explaining the origin of both the pheasant and boar dishes, Allen continues: “I was on a hog hunt in South Texas with only a knife; that was chaos. I won the battle that time but it could have gone the other way fast. I’ve always wanted to try different hunting styles: bow, spear, knife, etc. It really evens the playing field and makes the hunt more of a challenge. I wanted to try something different with the recipe as well. Our Chef at The Lodge in Scottsdale helped me fine-tune the Wild Boar Ragu recipe. It’s delicious.”
Allen describes the Pheasant Nuggets as “Just an easy-to-cook recipe that everyone can enjoy. It’s more of a snack than anything; it never makes it to the table. Those are gone off the skillet.”
The dish calls for “8 pheasant breasts,” although those babies run for $15 per, so I instead went the route of picking up an entire pheasant for $23. The wild boar is markedly more affordable at $15 for a pound of great-looking medallions.
Modifying the “breast” element and instead using all parts of the bird’s white and dark meat trimmings to make the nuggets didn’t prove a problem. The preparation is somewhat labor-intensive should you need to carve an entire bird, but beyond that it’s a really basic process of tossing the meat with the flour-based coating and then browning the pieces in a skillet. The gravy is so easy to make that even a culinary knucklehead like me who’s more adept at the gridiron than gastronomy can whip it together with minimal direction.
“Famous” may prove too aggressive an adjective in titling this dish, just as the gravy (and called-for side of mashed potatoes) may be overly disordered for a sizeable Super Bowl gathering. On their own, the coated nuggets make for really fine fowl. These could be ideally served with a toothpick, and I might recommend a mango chutney for dipping.
The Wild Boar Ragu would make for an excellent halftime serving. Although a white meat, the boar browns like a steak and simmers so powerfully with the accompanying vegetables (mushroom, bell pepper, onion, along with assorted herbs) that the aroma could mask even the most pungent of locker rooms.
You might try benching the pasta altogether. The cubed pieces of boar can be served on their own after being removed from the sauce (which makes for a fine stew the day after). Per the pheasant: Toothpicks would work just fine. And akin to a pork chop, mint jelly would serve as a perfect complement. These would match just fine with beer, but if you’re going wine, a young red zin with vibrant fruit will prove an ideal pairing.
Both recipes call for copious amounts of both butter and oil in their preparation; from a pure taste perspective, those can both be cut in half.
That’s not a health-related opinion, mind you. Because over the course of a few dozen Super Bowls I’ve surely eaten enough pizza, cheeseburgers, onion dip, and pretzels to feed the entire Vikings’ special teams unit. But if you’re looking to extend to your guests something a little different between the commercials, an Aaron Rodgers scramble, the Black Eyed Peas, and a James Harrison helmet-to-helmet hit — there’s little gamble that a wild game dinner won’t find the Packers the only favorite for the 45th edition of one of America’s most celebrated gathering days.
Jared’s Famous Pheasant Nuggets with Country Gravy
8 pheasant breasts
2 cups flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup water
½ cup butter salt and pepper to taste
Dice breasts, reserve trimmings. Mix all seasonings with 1 ½ cups of flour, toss pheasant pieces to coat. Over medium heat in a heavy-bottom skillet, heat vegetable oil to the smoke point. Fry up diced pheasant until golden brown.
Add half of the butter to baste, season with salt and pepper and hold in warm oven. In a small sauce pan add 1 teaspoon oil and pheasant trimmings coated with flour. Add garlic, onion and remaining butter and flour, and whisk in milk. Cook until thick, adding water as needed to thin to desired consistency.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
Wild Boar Ragu with Fettuccine
1 pound of boar, cubed
1 small white onion diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 small carrot, grated
2 cups of wild mushroom
½ cup of tomato sauce
½ cup of tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp of crushed red chili flakes
¼ cup of chopped fresh herbs
½ tsp sugar
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ pound fettuccine, cooked al dente
1 cup olive oil
In a heavy bottom saucepan over high heat, add the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown well, then remove and reserve. Add the onion and bell pepper and season to taste, cook until tender. Add carrot, garlic and mushroom. Cook until mushrooms are browned, season to taste, then add red wine vinegar, chili flakes and tomato puree. Bring to a boil, then add red wine and tomato sauce. Add boar back to pot and lower to simmer.
Cook until meat is tender, approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours. Add herbs, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked fettuccine and serve with parmesan cheese plus more crushed red chili flakes.