Friday, September 30, 2011

Dawn of the Ptarmigan

Out of the pre-dawn mist, rises a Ranger of the North.

The young world is held captive in mist and wind,

frost and ice.

Yet, our hero braves the arctic break of light in search of the (not so elusive) feather footed creatures of the tundra...

There! Off in the (near) distance, a wing of premature winter.  Your mistimed camouflage did you in, snow wing.

The Ranger of the North, stealthily (or as stealthily as one can while wearing Gore-Tex), takes aim.

Our Ranger of the North, returns to camp with his brace of feather footed prey of the silent 'p'.
( A little etymological trivia: The word 'ptarmigan' originates from Scottish Gaelic 'tarmachan' .  The pt- spelling is a mistaken Greek construction from 1680's, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. I know, I'm such a geek.)

He heralds two of the tundra’s most feared tailed mercenaries to flush out the rest of the (not so elusive) feather footed creatures of the tundra. 

Lyra squeals,  “I smell them! Over here! Hurry, hurry!”

“For dog’s sake,“ mutters Loulou,  “calm down before you pee on yourself.”

Onto the rolling tundra they traverse, in search of the rest of the feather footed creatures of the tundra.

In the end, our Ranger of the North returns to camp with the morning’s bounty.

My darling, dashingly handsome, dear husband (yes that his official blog designation) ran off for a few days with the girls and a hunting buddy in search of caribou and moose.  This was the closest they got to a caribou:


As you can see,  he did find plenty of small game to fill the Rubbermaid bounty bins.  
Apparently, he was keen on taking down the equivalence of a caribou’s worth of ptarmigan. Not that I’m complaining...

Stay tuned to find out what madcap culinary adventures are in store for these feather footed yummies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Duck Interrupted

My darling, dashingly handsome, dear husband recently took to the water with his qayaq, a huge 19 foot expedition hunting craft that could fit a Hong Kong family in the cockpit with room in the front hatch for their Filipino nanny. With a full hunting arsenal strapped under his deck rigging, he made his way across the lakes and creeks in search for southbound teal and other ducks on a layover from Ulukhaktok to Rio de Janeiro.

He returned with a bin full of ducks and a big grin. Whee!!

After a fierce outdoor plucking session, followed by delicate feather singeing by Primus stove to get rid the smaller more tenacious feathers and finally a degutting and cleaning session, I ended up with a denuded duck. So lovely, it makes me blush.


The duck was brined for a couple of days and then marinated in lemon, garlic and aromatic herbs for a few more days. The brining and marinading are neccessary this time of year otherwise the duck would taste like fish. Not just any fish but pondweed smoking, mudflat gangsta fish.

When I say brining, I don't mean anything more than rubbing the ducks with generous amounts of salt, dumping them into a small vessel and adding enough cold water to cover and tossed into the back of the fridge or in our case, onto the back porch. 

Before roasting, give the duck a quick rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Then prick the skin with a small knife, deep enough to puncture the skin but not the meat.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper then toss it into a pan breast side up and shoot it into a 450F preheated oven.

Let it roast for about 20 minutes or until the smoke alarm goes off.

I broiled it for a few more minutes to crisp up the skin (it's all about crispy skin in this house). It rested on the counter for another 10 minutes while the puppies paced back and forth waiting for me to let down my guard so they could steal a lick and nibble. 

Carving into it was just a matter of finding the keel of breastbone (the thin plate that runs down along the sternum, perpendicular to the ribs) and slicing along that. Then cleave right through and along the of the spine.

 The duck was just enough to share between my DH and I.

The girls got duck hearts and organs in the puppy stew that night!

Let me introduce myself...

I used to post here when we live on the wonderful, wet coast of BC. Then in the beginning of 2008, Kevin (the DH) and I piled into our Mitsubishi Delica van,  and started out on a 3 week climbing trip which evolved into a 4 month climbing adventure through the Rockies, down into Montana, out to Wyoming and back to the Rockies because that is what you do when you own a Delica.

The climbing trip morphed into a road trip north which ultimately led us up to the end of the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, NWT. Being greedy wanderlust road brats, we pushed even further north and onto the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk when the Delica conked out. We took it as a sign to stick around for a while. So we got jobs, a mortgage and a couple of puppies.  

Ok, so I skipped a bunch of details but it’s pretty much what happened.

This is apparently not an unusual occurrence up here.  Ask any ex-pat how they ended up here. The story usually begins, “Well, I came up for a 6 month contract...” or , “ I followed my boyfriend/girlfriend at that time up here...” or “I was hitching a ride with this reindeer herder...”and it usually ends with “...and that was 18 years ago."

In case you're wondering, Inuvik is at the northwestern corner of the Northwest Territories, a no frills town admist the labyrinth of lakes and waterways known as the Mackenzie Delta:

Life in the arctic runs on ‘make do’ culture. You rarely have everything you want, when you want it or all together at the same time. However, you’ll find that you have what you need, or at least, the raw materials to improvise something and make do for now.  The most surprising things show up when you least expect it. 
This is especially the case when it comes to food up here.  I have no problem finding organic quinoa or salted duck eggs but its hit and miss when I’m looking for regular oats and oyster sauce.  
Mochiko? Aisle 3.
Whole grain flour? Nope, try again next week.
You just have to learn to improvise and stretch your culinary muscles.  It also helps to have a nice big pantry so you can stockpile bags of whole grain flour when it does show up :) 
Better yet, the land and water around here is nature’s grocery store.  Needless to say, we quickly fell in love with the bounty that the arctic has to offer throughout the year. Through hunting, foraging , fishing, growing and bartering, we’ve been filling our pots with some pretty good grub.
Come back for more tasty bits of our arctic adventure!

(me and stew pot critters)