If there ever was a cookbook that made you want to pull on your Hunter boots and stroll through wet prairie grass–to forage for and feast on dinner–it’s Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish by Jesse Griffiths (with stunning photographs by Jody Horton, one of our favorite photographers), published today by Welcome Books.
Part recipe collection, part Hemingway-esque adventure read, the book (with foreword by Andrew Zimmern) comes from one of Austin’s fiercest talents. With a wooly beard and passionate devotion to traditional foodways, Griffiths is the poster child for the growing tribe of cooks devoted to procuring their own ingredients. He’s the chef/owner (with partner Tamara Mayfield) of Dai Due, a Butcher Shop at the Austin farmer’s market. Weekly offerings like molasses bacon, pimento cheese and bread and butter pickle sandwiches, and shredded rabbit tostadas with refried beans, guacamole and red chile salsa have earned a cult following and long lines each Saturday.
He’s also gained national attention for a series of practical, hands-on-the-trigger hunting and butchering schools that draw students from across the country, and his pop up supper clubs (held on farms and in hip boutique hotels). Seated between a lamb rancher and a rockstar, I rang in a particularly memorable New Year’s Eve at one of Jesse’s dinners on a leafy urban farm. He throws those kinds of parties.
To peruse the book is like stepping into an Orvis catalog, which explains why the lab- and camouflage-driven store will sell Afield in all of its locations. But Afield is more than handsome fantasy. The chapters (photographed in rural Texas), including Dove & Snipe, Feral Hog, Deer & Turkey and The Spring Run (white bass and crappie), are packed with smart, rustic cooking techniques, methods for field dressing, storing large game before processing, plucking ducks, and how to forage respectfully and hunt and fish sustainably.
Even if you’re not prone to sporting a quiver or shotgun shells, there’s plenty to interest home cooks, including tips on cooking with herbs, filleting fresh fish, and preparing side dishes like Pickled Onions and Braised Greens, Avid hunters will relish recipes for Grilled Venison Heart, Roasted Whole Baby Hog, and Smoked Goose Sausage. The rest of us can hit the farmer’s market (or Whole Foods) for soulful dishes like Turkey Potpie, Venison Chili, and Crab Posole.
In a time when so many menus breathlessly try to hit every gastro- and nose-to-tail whim, Afield is as welcome as a sudden downpour, and as grounded and gritty as the fertile smell that lingers after. If you’re looking to create thoughtful, delicious meals with soul, start here.
Afield is on sale today, buy it here. And just to keep you hungry, here are a few more photos from the book.