Bear ravioli, slow-braised lynx on the menu at Yukon game meat banquet
Fish and Game Association's annual fundraising dinner has a pretty wild menu this year
Amanda Edwards grew up in Yukon, so she's enjoyed plenty of wild game meat in her life — mostly things such as mountain sheep, or moose.
This week, though, she sampled a rodent — and was pleasantly surprised. Turns out that under all those quills, a porcupine is a tasty treat.
"I thought it ... almost like pork. Very juicy," she said.
Edwards has been working as a sous chef, preparing for what's become a popular showcase for unusual wild game meat recipes: the Yukon Fish and Game Association's annual fundraising banquet.
On the menu this year: porcupine-and-grouse gyozas (Asian dumplings), bear sausage-and-burbot ravioli, and caribou shawarma tacos. There will also be Coho salmon from Alaska, and Arctic char from the Beaufort Sea.
It's probably safe to say that some things have never been tried before, anywhere — for example, who's ever tasted slow-braised lynx meat in a Mexican mole sauce with flash-fried polenta fritters on the side?
"Like I said, the boss has got a really ambitious menu for us this year," Edwards said.
'So different, and so much fun'
The "boss" is Brian Smith, executive chef at Whitehorse's Coast High Country Inn, where the banquet will be held Saturday night. He devised the menu.
"This is just so different, and so much fun," Smith said. "You never get a chance to cook this stuff in a commercial kitchen."
This is the third year Smith has overseen the menu, and he's made it a point to experiment. Typically, he'll sample whatever game meat he can get his hands on, and then figure out how best to use those flavours.
"With the challenges of regulations and stuff, we can't do anything to a medium-rare or a medium — it's got to be 100 per cent, so finding the right cooking application for it is one of the bigger challenges," he said.
"Over the last two events that we've done, we've figured out that low and slow, and braising and stuff, is probably the best way to cook these really different items."
Edwards, the sous chef, says sometimes the more unusual game meats are very gamey, as one might expect.
"You really have to mask the flavours with other strong flavours, to kind of get rid of that gamey feel," she said.
That's where a good, rich mole sauce can come in handy. But Edwards is still not overly keen to try the lynx.
"That's not my favourite because that's my spirit animal," she said, laughing.
Quickly sold out
The annual banquet — now in its 73rd year — is the Fish and Game Association's big fundraising event of the year. Executive director Gord Zealand says it usually brings in about $5,000 to $10,000.
Tickets for this year's event are long gone — all 320 were sold out in December, a few weeks after going on sale. They cost $70 each, or $55 for members of the association.
Zealand was floored by how quickly the tickets went. He's also floored by Smith's menu this year.
"I think I need a dictionary to translate some of what he's put together," Zealand said.
"People are going to be impressed. If they're not — I give!"
With files from George Maratos