Up there with the Paupered Chef blog Hank Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog is a resource I’ve turned to consistently since I started blogging myself. With two nominations for a James Beard Award for Best Blog and a win from the IACP it only makes sense that Hank now has an excellent book out called Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast (Rodale).
Back in May he hit the road is his white Toyota pickup for a an old-school book tour that this week has brought him to Toronto.
I had the chance to drop in on his demo at the Evergreen Brickworks today. For the ebbing and flowing crowd he made a traditional Spanish Chilindron stew with rabbit and other ingredients from the Saturday farmers’ market.
Though rabbit, lamb, and chicken are this recipe’s traditional proteins in its native Aragon, Hank assured us that it would work with any meat (except maybe beef) and could be adapted for those who eat like rabbits by upping the mushrooms and adding potatoes.
The session started with a tutorial on how to break down a rabbit. The guidelines are pretty standard across animals: remove organs and separate them from their fat and membranes; follow the seams between meat and bone, and use knives to cut flesh, sturdy kitchen shears for bone.
Moving into the basics of stew making we went through how every stew is made up of foundation, long-, medium-, and short-term flavours. The worst thing you can do to a stew is add everything at once.
For the portion of the tutorial that covered browning the meat Hank really hit his stride. The usual instructions about not crowded the pan were followed with:”You’ll hear the meat hum,” and here he adopts his best Yoda voice for, “mmmmm flipped now we must be.”
The book is just as approachable and casual in tone. It’s organised into three parts on foraging, fishing, and hunting. Each part is further divided into families of similar species and goes through how to find, hook, or kill and prepare each and then gives recipes for how to cook the bounty.
Hunting is treated in a way that is human and humane; sensitive but unapologetic.
Hunt, Gather, Cook stands out as one of those very rare food books that breaks new ground. It mentions and references specialised guides that went before it but is unique as such a well-rounded view into the wild-food gleaning lifestyle. In the same territory as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book except that I’d bet the average reader is more likely to actually go out foraging for acorns than ever raise their own cows.
If you missed the demo at the Brickworks, Hank Shaw will be at the Drake Hotel on Monday October 17 selling and signing copies. The Chilindron Stew recipe can be found on Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.