Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Tis the Season For Birds on the Wing


Ducks at dusk, Creole, LA.


In the R'evolution kitchen, we've begun work on the "Wild Game" portion of the menu, which is inspired by dishes from my childhood.

When I grew up we knew months not by the calendar, but by what was in season. It wasn’t September or the beginning of autumn; it was dove season and the start of deer season. November meant quail, squirrel and rabbit seasons. Snipe season was December and the New Year brought geese, ducks and coots.
 

Duck hunting in Louisiana.
It’s duck season now in Sportsman’s Paradise. Located at the apex of the Mississippi Flyway, Louisiana is home to some of the best waterfowl hunting in America. Our coastal wetlands, marshes, rivers and lakes are home to mallards, pintail, teal, white fronted geese and snow geese. In Louisiana, waterfowl hunting is a passion…some would say a birthright.


Hunting in Louisiana is generational.
I remember as a young Cajun boy, laying on my back looking up the sight of a 410 barrel at a sky blackened with birds. Lying beside me looking upward were my five brothers, all steady at the aim, great shots, who effortlessly seemed to bring down whatever bird was in their sight.

Not me. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn. It was then that I realized once and for all that I was not a hunter. I wasn’t destined to harvest the wild game; I was meant to cook it. So, I became a chef. I came from a long line of great hunters. I don’t know how many generations of grandfathers preceded the two that I knew, but I’m sure just as they were hunters, those unknown great-grandfathers taught them the skill as well. Naturally, my father was the best of the best. He knew the swamp like no other and was as comfortable there as he was on our front porch.


Chef John Folse and Cajun Escoffier Lee Roy Sevin, Cocodrie, LA.
Our home was filled with ingredients from the swamp floor pantry. I vividly recall trying my best to hide the contents of our old Frigidaire ice box from visiting friends, because it was filled with wild things including heads, feet, feathers and furs, while most of theirs contained domesticated meats such as beef and pork destined for the table. Little did I realize how blessed the Folse family actually was. In fact, we wanted for nothing, because the swamp floor was indeed the richest of all pantries and one an aristocrat could only hope for.

My culinary education in the art of preparing wild game delicacies came at the hands of the “Escoffiers” of Cajun Country. At Uncle Paul Zeringue’s camp on Cabanocey Plantation we learned to chop the trinity and make the best duck and andouille gumbo anyone could ever hope for. At Ivy Bye’s camp on Burton Lane I learned to cook ducks in sauce piquante and fricassèe. At Guy Caire’s camp one could watch an African-American cook from St. Emma Plantation prepare the best of the swamp harvest for governors, senators, state representatives and those too high and mighty for us to know. At Camp La Pirogue on Richbend Plantation my brother, Larry, and Griz Granier manned the stove for venison stews with wild mushrooms and dove breast fricassée. These were the classrooms where we were educated in game cookery, and although we felt that we graduated with honors, none of us could ever cook a dish to resemble that of our teachers. We still long for and create those unique flavors today and are excited to include them on the menu of Restaurant R’evolution.

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