Cooking Wild in Missouri

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From Missouri Conservationist: Aug 2011

By Rebecca Maples

The Conservation Department now offers beginner cooks to gourmet chefs a colorful new cookbook that emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients in tempting appetizers, fresh salads, savory stews, elegant entrées and delectable desserts.

Cooking Wild in Missouri, created by author Bernadette Dryden, presents more than 100 kitchen-tested recipes along with detailed instructions to help savor Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms. Cooking Wild in Missouri also features color photographs on nearly every page and tips to make time in the kitchen easy, efficient and fun.

“I adapted Missouri’s foods to recipes I had made before and recipes from other Conservation Department staff, and I created some recipes on my own,” Dryden said. “It was just a matter of adapting local foods to the knowledge I already had, and experimenting.”

Dryden, a former publications editor for the Conservation Department, is a lifelong cook and food enthusiast. She has travelled extensively and experimented with various cuisines, many of which influenced recipes in her book. For example, Dryden adapted Missouri’s wares to Italian gelato, French Niçoise and cassoulet, Greek moussaka, Chinese and Korean dishes and even sushi, along with a bounty of classic Missouri dishes.

“My aim is to give Missourians a collection of recipes for cooking native foods in a variety of ways,” Dryden said. “Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms adapt beautifully to recipes from around the world.”

Dryden is a firm believer in the benefits of eating locally grown foods for several reasons.

“Fresher always tastes better, so the closer you can eat something to its source the better it will be,” she said. “Just as important, is that when you hunt, fish or forage, you know the source of what you’re eating.”

Dryden also noted the importance of the state’s culinary heritage in creating the cookbook.

“I intend for this book to reflect proudly upon our state’s native culinary traditions by giving voice to people involved in the producing and procuring of local foods,” Dryden said.

While writing the book, she interviewed nut growers, mushroom and fruit foragers, hunters and anglers, many of whom she features in chapter introductions and sidebars. These include a hickory-nut grower from Osage County, a waterfowl hunter from Boone County and a few tips from hunters and anglers on bringing in the best meal and passing on traditions.

Dryden shares various pointers throughout the book on stocking a kitchen, selecting the best ingredients, finding foods and farmers markets in Missouri, developing a personal herb garden, using freshly ground spices, adapting recipes, possible pairings, re-using leftovers, general cooking advice and how to bring out the best in each dish.

According to Dryden, appreciating the foods Missouri has to offer is a way of connecting with nature.

“We have to eat to live, so why not enjoy food to its fullest, including learning where it comes from and how to prepare it?” she said. “If you pursue fresh, local and seasonal foods, you’ll inevitably find yourself out in nature.”

Cooking Wild in Missouri can be purchased for $15 plus shipping and handling, and sales tax (where applicable) by calling toll free 877-521-8632 or visiting You may also visit locations in our nature centers and field offices where MDC products are sold (see Page 3 for regional phone numbers to call for a location near you).

For a sneak peek at Cooking Wild in Missouri, try these tasty temptations:

Bernadette’s Catch-All Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1∕3 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup golden raisins (or part dried cranberries, dates or figs)
  • 1 cup pecans or hickory nuts (toasted lightly, preferably)

Blend together first four ingredients (sugar through salt) in one bowl and next three ingredients (oil through buttermilk) in another. Then, gently mix all seven together.

Meanwhile, pour water over bran and fruit in a separate bowl; let stand a few minutes, then stir and gently combine with the batter. Stir in nuts. Pour into medium-sized muffin tins lined with paper cups. (Batter also will keep in refrigerator for at least a week.)

Bake in a 400ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in muffin’s center comes out clean. Turn muffins onto a rack to cool.

Makes about 20 muffins

Trout and Sprout Salad

  • Left over grilled or baked trout, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Fresh spinach
  • Mixed lettuces
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro
  • Green onion
  • Garlic tops (the green tops of fresh garlic) or freshly minced garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice wine vinegar

I tossed the trout together with all the vegetables, a little soy, toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. It was perfect! You also could add such things as peanuts, mung-bean threads and avocado. Fresh orange sections, carrots, red peppers or cucumbers come to mind, as well.

Serves 1 to 20 depending upon how much trout you have

Pecan-Orange Granola

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Juice and zest (chopped) of 4 oranges
  • 2 cups chopped dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the oats, nuts, seeds, coconut and salt. Over low heat, warm the honey and oil in a medium saucepan, stirring until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract and orange juice. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir well with a wooden spoon. Work the mixture with your hands, if needed, until everything is damp.

Spread mixture no deeper than 1/2 inch on large, rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring several times, until crispy and golden. When the granola has cooled, stir in the zest and dried fruit. Store granola in jars.

Makes about 5 pounds (a generous gallon) of granola

Chanterelle and Polenta Foil Packs

  • 2 cups fresh chanterelles
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 polenta log
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Clean chanterelles and tear into bite-sized pieces, leaving the very small ones whole. Saute´ in butter with salt and pepper to taste for 4 to 5 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated.

Cut 4 12- by-12-inch squares of aluminum foil. Spread olive oil lightly on each piece. Place a slice or two of polenta on foil. Top with chanterelles and a rosemary sprig. Fold up foil and bake over hot coals for about 10 minutes, or a bit longer if you prefer the polenta edges crunchy.

Serves 4

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler