I have previously eaten some exotic meats, including zebra, llama and kangaroo. And I am always open to trying other wild game and more unusual animals. So my interest was peaked when I learned that the next guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Boston Wine Writer's would be Kate Krukowski Gooding, a self-published author from Maine who wrote a cookbook that included many wild game recipes.
At the meeting, I spent some time chatting with Kate and found her to be both interesting and passionate. Her discussion on self-publishing was informative, and it was clear she was not writing for money, but out of love of what she does. Kate was also kind enough to give me a copy of one of her cookbooks.
I was also intrigued that Kate would be co-hosting a wild game dinner at the Boston Wine School on April 30. Dishes will include items like Bear Salami, Braised Moose Tongue and Beaver Bourguignon. I have never eaten either bear or beaver so I am very tempted to attend the dinner. I am sure it will be a memorable meal.
Since that meeting, I have taken the time to read her cookbook. Black Fly Stew: Wild Maine Recipes ($19.95) by Kate Krukowski Gooding is published by Northern Solstice Publishing LLC. It is a trade-sized paperback with 228 pages that was originally published in October 2007. The title derives from a joke made during a toast at Kate's wedding, and you can read the details of this amusing anecdote in the book's Preface.
Kate is a self trained chef and wanted to write a cookbook, but decided to self-publish so that she could retain complete control over the cookbook. As a writer myself, I understand the desire for a creative person to want their product to represent exactly what they desire, and not the desires of some corporate employee who cares only about money. Yet self-publishing has its own tribulations, significant tradeoffs for your creative freedom.
She has written two other specialty cookbooks: Cooking with Karen's Grass-fed Lamb and another for SweetEnergy.com. Kate is also working on other cookbooks, hopeful that her next one will be published later this year, a cookbook on lamb. Besides her writing, Kate also consults, runs cooking classes, hosts dinners and much more.
The Black Fly cookbook is broken down into eleven chapters including Sides; Salads; Vegetables; Seafood; Wild Game; Birds; Desserts; Spices, Sauces and Marinades; It's Five O'Clock Somewhere; Things To Do in Maine; and Resources. It contains over 180 food recipes plus 9 drink recipes. Most of the recipes are relatively easy and most of the ingredients, except for some of the wild game, are readily available. The Resources chapter provides information for purveyors of some of the more uncommon ingredients.
As this is a regional cookbook, some of the ingredients rely on items from Maine such as Maine maple syrup. Obviously you could substitute other items for such Maine specific products. The book presents a homey, Maine ambiance and you would not confuse it with a cookbook from somewhere else in the country. And yes, there are recipes that include real black flies as an ingredient, such as the Warm Black Fly Vinaigrette and Lemon Black Fly Muffins. The book though states you can substitute poppy seeds for the flies.
There is an international flair to some of the recipes, including Greek, Indian, Asian and more. It seems that Kate has an eclectic palate, which is a good thing. As expected there are also a number of lobster recipes including two Lobster Mac N' Cheese recipes, Baked Maine Lobster Dip, and Simple Maine Lobster Stew. The Rocky Coast Clam Chowder is also a very traditional dish. Hearty and traditional New England dishes.
The Wild Game recipes are the most intriguing items for me in the book. There are recipes for bear, beaver, goat, lamb, rabbit, venison, and moose. If you are interested in trying these recipes, you can often find these meats locally at Savenor's Market. If you are not that daring, you could easily substitute other meats, like beef, in most, if not all, of these recipes. The Birds chapter also includes recipes for game birds such as partridge, goose, and pheasant. As for the Desserts chapter, the French Crunch Peach Pie with Roasted Walnut Pie Crust most peaked my interest.
A number of the recipes, mostly the entrees, came with wine recommendations, sometimes very specific wines and other times just the grape. I was intrigued to see the Bear Bourguignon paired with a 1994 Opus One, a pricey wine which might not have been your first choice with bear. My only complaint with the wine pairings is that a couple U.S. Sparkling wines, such as Korbel and Gruet, were designated as Champagnes. In actuality, only sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France can be properly labeled as "Champagne." The U.S. wines should only be referred to as "sparkling wines." There were no wines paired with the desserts.
There are numerous pictures throughout the book, most in between each chapter, and the artists are from Maine. I think these enhance the aesthetics of the book. The chapter, Things To Do in Maine, provides lists of seasonal activities and events in Maine. All of this is intended to make this a regional resource.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this cookbook and there are definitely numerous recipes I would like to try, including some of the wild game dishes. Kate has captured the essence of Maine, yet the book will appeal to many people outside of New England as well. Even if you dislike wild game, there are many recipes in the book that you will find useful. This cookbook is a labor of love and I believe Kate's passion is evident on every page. I heartily recommend Black Fly Stew: Wild Maine Recipes.