LEWISTON – Justin Townsend grew up hunting and fishing in Oklahoma where his family used wild game to supplement food purchased from supermarkets.
After college and a stint cooking in some of the top restaurants in New Orleans and San Diego, Townsend launched Harvestingnature.com, a multiplatform website, in 2011 with the goal of sharing his passion for cooking and introducing people to the benefits of wild game, fish and foraged food.
“As long as we approach it in a sustainable manner, it’s the best food out there. It’s nutrient dense, it’s not processed and it’s great to get out and get your own food because you have to be active to do so.”
The website has about 20 contributing writers and support staff. In addition to recipes and articles, it includes podcasts and videos featuring luminaries in the wild food movement, cooking technique and hunting and fishing adventures. In 2017, his cookbook “Eat Wild Game: Recipes for the Adventurous” was published. Last year, Townsend added a series of spice blends to the mix and launched a quarterly electronic magazine.
The company recently stepped out of the virtual realm and began offering wild food field camps where people sign up, travel to a location and are immersed in hands-on hunting and cooking. The next one, in December, will be held in northern Texas and participants will spend three days learning to hunt, process and cook wild hogs and become familiar with techniques easily transferred to other big game species.
“It’s been great to see it all come together and continue to evolve and just be a really awesome space to engage with people,” he said of the website.
The goal from the beginning has been to help people enjoy wild food whether they are long-time hunters or just getting into it.
“We want to inspire people to get outdoors to hunt and fish and forage for their food. We don’t want it to be intimidating,” he said. “We say here are some great ways to prepare food, methods, tips and tricks. Here are some adventures we are going on.”
Townsend shares two recipes here. The first, “The Best Venison Mississippi Pot Roast,” is an adaptation of a popular slow cooker recipe.
“I like that one because you can use a variety of cuts of meat, just mix it all together and put it in a crock pot and let it go. You can serve it over potatoes, rice or pasta,” he said. “It’s a take on a popular dish. The dish that became (internet) popular used ranch season packets. This one uses fresh herbs and takes that same flavor but re-creates it so you are not eating a bunch of processed food.”
The Best Venison Mississippi Pot Roast
- 3 lbs venison roast
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp oil
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 3 tbsp flour
- 8 pepperoncini
- 4 tbsp vinegar from pepperoncini
- 2 tsp minced fresh dill
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp minced fresh chips
- 2 tsp minced fresh parsley
- Your favorite starch
PREPARATION: Remove roast from the fridge and allow to temper for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the slow cooker to low heat.
Bring a cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat. Coat the roast with the mayonnaise and season with salt and black pepper. Add the oil to the pan and sear each side of the roast in the pan.
Add the seared roast to the slow cooker. Reduce the pan to medium-low heat.
Melt the butter in the cast iron pan and add the onions. Saute the onions until slightly translucent. Stir in the flour and mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Scrape the onions and flour into the slow cooker.
Add the pepperoncini, vinegar, dill, garlic powder, chives, and parsley.
Cover the slow cooker and allow to cook for 6-8 hours or until the meat easily pulls apart with a fork.
Once finished, set aside the pepperoncini. Place meat and juice in a large bowl and shred to incorporate the meat and juices. Serve over your favorite starch garnished with the pepperoncini.
The second recipe, Sous Vide Peking Dove, is a take off on Peking duck. Townsend substitutes plucked whole dove for duck but said any small game bird can be used. He also forgoes the traditional roasting and drying steps and instead prepares the dove sous vide – which means vacuum sealing the meat and then cooking it slowly, at precise temperatures, in a water bath. He then finishes it on a hot grill to give the dish a crispy skin. The sous vide technique has become popular in the last decade or so and equipment is widely available.
“I like to keep a lot of game birds whole so you can get the full flavor. You are going to slow simmer it in sauce, pull it off and give it a little char on the grill.
Sous Vide Peking Dove
- 6 whole doves, cleaned
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Pickled vegetables
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced (1/4 inch)
- 1 carrot, finely shredded
- 4 shallots, minced
- Sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 cups of prepared jasmine rice
- Sesame seeds
Preparation: Bring your sous vide to 140 degrees. Place doves in a sous vide bag and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine honey, Chinese 5 spice, soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well.
Split the sauce in half and reserve half. Pour the remaining half in the bag with the dove. Move the dove around to coat all edges. Vacuum seal the bag or remove all the air.
Place the sealed bag in the sous vide and cook for 1 hour at 140 degrees.
While waiting, prepare vegetables and rice.
In a mixing bowl, combine cucumbers, salt, pepper, vinegar, carrots, and shallots.
Place in refrigerator and allow to cool. Within the last 15 minutes of the dove cooking, bring your grill to high heat.
Remove the dove as the hour finishes and place the dove on the grill. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Plate your rice, then veggies, then dove, and top with sesame seeds and the remaining sauce.