MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery — The Great Outdoors

Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert has been at it again. Check out his latest collection of images of the outdoors, taken the past couple of weeks at various locations in the Red River Valley and Minnesota lake country.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Creamy Chicken And Vegetables

Chicken ala king is one of those dishes that’s not only been a staple of many families over the years but also one that can be made with a variety of ingredients.

As the name implies, chicken is the star of the creamy entree, which also features vegetables. But which ones complement the chicken can vary from recipe to recipe.

Generally, most recipes include mushrooms and bell peppers. But when I set out to make a variation of the dish recently, I had my mind set on using peas and carrots as well as some leftover whole-kernel corn, mainly because my grandson is more fond of that trio than Therese.

After looking at a few ala king recipes, I decided to make up my own, using the three aforementioned veggies as well as some onion and celery and a can of cream of chicken soup.

The main difference in my recipe from others was that I browned flour-dredged meat along with the onion and celery in butter and olive oil instead of using precooked chicken. The flour acted as a thickening agent, so the sauce wasn’t too runny.

Judging from the reaction of my usual dinner companions, the result was fit for “a king.”

Creamy Chicken and Vegetables
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks (can substitute pheasant)
1 10½-ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pint canned carrots or 6 carrots, sliced and cooked
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup water if not using canned carrots
½ cup flour
Salt and pepper
Garlic salt
Saute onion and celery in butter and oil in 2-inch deep cast-iron frying pan. Add chicken (or pheasant) that has been dredged in flour seasoned with garlic salt and pepper. Cook until meat is done then add vegetables, soup, broth, water and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for about 1 hour. Serve over mashed potatoes.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Slow Cooker Hunter’s Stew

Hunting season has arrived in the Northland. For many cooks, that means it’s time to start digging through their recipe boxes for some tasty wild game dishes.

Over the years, I’ve listened to some of my readers complain about wild game recipes because they can’t “bear” the thought of eating magnificent Canada geese, which mate for life, or a Bambi, with whom they have a sentimental attachment from their childhood days.

But the thing about most wild game recipes is that the meat from domesticated animals can be substituted very easily without diminishing the entree.

That is the case with the original “Hunter’s Stew” — aka cacciatore — a classic dish that some say originated with pheasant or rabbit as the main ingredient but has become synonymous with chicken.

My following recipe for Hunter’s Stew, which features pheasant, is similar to the classic French entree. And for those who don’t have the stomach for wild game, chicken would work just fine.

Bon appétit!

Slow Cooker Hunter’s Stew
2 to 4 pheasant breasts (can substitute 2 chicken breasts)
8 to 10 small red potatoes, unpeeled
6 to 8 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 1½-ounce can cream of chicken soup
½ to 1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup red wine
2 chicken bouillon cubes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 onion
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 to 6 hours. Serve with some crusty bread.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Southwestern Pheasant Soup

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard someone say “it tastes just like chicken” when they are describing some other kind of meat. Sometimes, it’s said in jest. But more often, people really mean it.
Pheasant fits into the latter category. And in my opinion, the game bird tastes just as good chicken, maybe even better. I ought to know, since pheasant has been a staple in our household for a long time.
I’ve baked pheasant, smoked pheasant, grilled pheasant, made stroganoff with pheasant, even come up for recipe for barbecued pheasant in pulled pork fashion. It was the barbecued recipe that I recently shared with a friend, Mike Sandry of Grand Forks.
While the baked — with wild rice dressing — and barbecued pheasant are my favorites, a bevy of pheasant soups aren’t far behind.
The following recipe rates near the top of my soup list. It was shared with me by Terry Young of Devils Lake, N.D., who usually brings it along on our annual pheasant hunting trip.
Having just returned from an adventure hunting pheasants in Nebraska, I have a pot of it simmering on the stove on this day of high winds and snow flurries.
And guess what? It’s as soothing — and tasty — as any chicken soup you can find.
Southwestern Pheasant Soup
2 49-ounce cans of Swanson’s Chicken Broth or 6 cups of homemade pheasant broth
1 1-pound bag of Alberto’s medium egg noodles
1 10-ounce can of Rotel Mexican Lime and Cilantro
½ cup salsa
1 14½-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup
1 pheasant (breasts and thighs)
6 cups water
Precook pheasant in water. Dice the cooked pheasant meat and brown it in light olive or vegetable oil. Heat broth until it nears boiling. Then add all the other ingredients. Cook on medium until the noodles are soft. Add more broth as needed.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: Can substitute about 4 cups cubed cooked chicken for pheasant.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken With Tomatoes

Undoubtedly, many gardeners who grow tomatoes have more than they can handle — unless they do some canning.

Even those who put up whole tomatoes, tomato juice, salsa or the like might have their hands full if they were overzealous and plotted too many plants, especially this summer in which there have been ideal growing conditions for those who have kept blight at bay.

So, with that in mind, here’s a recipe that will lessen the burden. It comes from The New York Times’s archives and is authored by the 60 Minute Gourmet himself, the late Pierre Franey.

I was a big fan of Franey’s column while serving as the food copy editor and later food editor at the Grand Forks Herald in the 1990s. Franey, along with the Times’ Craig Claiborne, served up some tasty dishes that eventually found their way to my dining room table. The recipes were easy, quick and inexpensive, all very important to me at the time.

The only improvisation I’ve made to the latest edition of this dish is to substitute pheasant breasts for chicken breasts.

Now, if I could find about a dozen more good tomato recipes. Readers?

Chicken With Tomatoes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2¼ pounds
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoon dried
8 ripe plum tomatoes cut into small cubes (or one 28-ounce can of tomatoes, drained and chopped)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup drained capers
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottom skillet. Add the chicken breasts and saute over medium-high heat, turning the pieces often until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the shallots and garlic around the chicken. Cook briefly; add the tarragon, tomatoes, vinegar, capers, wine and tomato paste. Stir to dissolve the brown particles adhering to the bottom of the skillet.
Blend well; bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 9 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken Cacciatore

If ever there was a dish that hunters should embrace, it’s cacciatore. It means hunter’s style in Italian. (The French call it chasseur, the Spanish cazadores.) The stew, which is usually made with chicken, also includes mushrooms, onions, sometimes sweet bell peppers and an assortment of spices. It is fairly low-cal and quite tasty.

Apparently, the dish originated during the Renaissance period (1450-1600), when the only people who could afford to enjoy wild game and the sport of hunting were the rich, hence the chicken substitute. (I’ve also seen recipes for turkey cacciatore, meatball cacciatore and tofu cacciatore.)

I’ve made cacciatore a few times over the years, often using pheasants that were harvested in western North Dakota. In fact, some of last fall’s bounty is still lurking in my freezer and needs to be eaten up soon, which is why you are reading about it here.

The following cacciatore recipes are a few that I’m considering for a meal later this week. Each of the recipes is a little different. There is one that can be made fairly quickly and easily, and two that require a bit more time.

Regardless, the result will be something I can get my arms around.

Chicken Cacciatore
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs (can substitute pheasant)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced
1 cup green bell pepper, sliced
½ cup celery, sliced
2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Blend
1 14½-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, undrained
½ cup red wine
1 pound spaghetti, cooked, drained
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add in chicken and cook over medium heat on both sides until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan. Add in onion, green pepper, celery and Mrs. Dash. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes and red wine. Return chicken to skillet and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in middle. Serve over spaghetti.

Chicken Cacciatore
1 pound pasta or egg noodles
4 chicken thighs, with skin (can substitute 8 whole pheasant thighs, with skin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 red bell peppers, cored, sliced (not too thin)
2 green bell peppers, cored, sliced (not too thin)
5 cloves garlic, diced
12 ounces mushroooms (white or crimini), sliced
½ teaspoon ground thyme
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, crushed, to taste (optional)
¾ cup dry white white
1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes (with juice)
Chopped flat-leaved parsley
Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook! Drain and set aside.
Salt and pepper both sides of the pieces of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin down in pan, 4 pieces at a time. Brown chicken on both sides, then remove to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken. Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard.
Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic. Stir around for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir around for 1 minute. Add thyme, turmeric and salt. (And crushed red pepper flakes if you like things a little spicy.) Add extra black pepper to taste. Stir, then pour in wine. Allow to bubble. Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chicken, totally submerging the chicken. Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven. Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate. Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate. Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high. Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes.
Pour cooked, drained noodles on a large platter or in a big serving bowl. Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and pasta (amount to taste.)
Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Chicken Cacciatore
1 whole chicken, with skin, cut into serving pieces (can substitute 2 pheasants)
¼ pound pancetta, or 4 strips bacon
4 tablespoons olive oil (chicken fat)
1 chopped celery stalk
1 chopped carrot
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 onion, sliced into half-moons
1 quart crushed tomatoes
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
4 bay leaves
Dried porcini mushrooms (about a handful)
½ pound cremini or button mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons minced parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using, cut the pancetta into little batons about ¼-inch thick. In a large braising pan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil or chicken fat over medium heat and cook the pancetta or bacon. Remove and reserve.
Add the chicken pieces and brown them well. Take your time and do it in batches. Remove the chicken pieces as they brown.
Add the carrot, celery, onions and the fresh mushrooms and turn the heat up to high. Saute them until the onions are wilted and are beginning to brown. Add more oil if needed. When they begin to brown, add the garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the herbs, dried mushrooms and the white wine and turn up the heat to maximum. Stir well. Let the wine cook down by half. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Add some salt if needed. Add the bacon and the chicken pieces, skin side up. Do not submerge the chicken, just nestle the pieces into the sauce so the skin stays out of the liquid.
Cover and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Check to see of the meat is thinking about falling off the bone. Sometimes with a young pheasant all it takes is 45 minutes. An hour or more is typical. When the meat is as tender as you want, remove the cover from the pot and cook until the skin crisps, about 30 to 45 more minutes.
Move the chicken pieces to a plate. Add the parsley to the pot and mix to combine.
To serve, ladle some of the sauce out, top with a chicken piece and serve with either polenta or a good crusty bread.
Yield: Serves 4. Recipe can be doubled.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Creamed Chicken

There’s nothing better than some comfort food on a day that’s cold and windy. And today is one of those days! (Well, actually, you could say that about a lot of days if you live in the Northland, especially North Dakota and Minnesota.)

Many dishes fit that bill, but one that does it for me is creamed chicken (in my case, a lot of time pheasant is the star). The dish is warm, filling and satisfying, especially when served over a bed of mashed potatoes. To me, it’s the epitome of comfort food.

Of all the times I’ve made cream of chicken, it’s doubtful any two have been exactly alike. I like to play around with different seasonings and soups.

The following concoction is one I threw together after looking through a few of my treasured, old church cookbooks, taking bits and pieces from three or four of them.

What I’ve come up with is sure to take a bite out of the cold north wind!

Creamed Chicken and Mashed Potatoes
3 cups cooked chicken, cut up (can substitute pheasant)
1 10½ ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 10½ ounce can cream of celery soup
¼ cup half and half
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup frozen peas (optional)
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken, soups, broth, sour cream, half and half, peas and spices. Simmer for ½ hour to ¾ hour. Serve over mashed potatoes.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Fowled-Up Stroganoff

Anyone who hunts and also is handy around the kitchen knows that most of the game that can be taken in the field is interchangeable recipe-wise with meat that is raised domestically.

And those who are familiar with me aren’t too surprised by the number of entrees I’ve prepared over the years that feature wild game. The total probably vastly exceeds any of those that makes use of animals raised on a farm.

That’s not to say we don’t eat some beef, pork or chicken. But when you have a freezer full of game such as elk, venison, pheasant, grouse, partridge and ducks and geese, you don’t find yourself buying a lot of meat from the supermarket.

One of my favorite wild-for-domestic substitutes is pheasant for chicken. I’ve barbecued pheasant, baked it and roasted it. I’ve used pheasant in casseroles, stir-fries and salads.

Perhaps one of my favorite recipes using pheasant as a chicken stand-in is for stroganoff. Originally, I used the recipe for venison and elk stroganoff, the combination of two recipes that looked appealing to me.

Some time later, when looking through one of my many cookbooks, I saw a picture of chicken stroganoff and immediately thought about using the hybrid recipe for pheasant.

And the rest, as they say, is history. It’s been a hit at our house ever since the first time I made it.

Pheasant Stroganoff
1 pound pheasant meat, about ½-inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
½ pound mushrooms, washed trimmed and sliced
1 medium onion, minced (about ½ cup)
1 10½ ounce can condensed chicken broth
1 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons flour, divided
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup cooking sherry
3 to 4 cups hot cooked wide egg noodles
Cut meat across the grain into ½-inch strips, about 1½ inches long. Melt butter in large skillet. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until onion is tender. Add and saute pheasant until cooked through. Add half of the flour, spices and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add soup and half of broth. Stir in ketchup, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Blend reserved broth and flour then stir into meat mixture along with Worcestershire sauce. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Reduce heat. Stir in sour cream and sherry, heat through. Serve over noodles.