Beth Schatz Kaylor
 

When Hank Shaw planned his cross-country book tour, starting from his home in northern California and heading east with stops in Bismarck and Fargo, he was hoping for a warm reception - but the weather had other ideas.

"It was, well, challenging," says Hank Shaw with a laugh, recalling when he found himself driving through an early October North Dakota blizzard. "I just popped my truck into four-wheel drive and slowed down."

Despite the weather, and to the delight of diners, Shaw arrived in downtown Bismarck in time for the Duck, Duck, Goose dinner at Pirogue Grille to greet guests, dine on the duck and goose-themed meal, and sell some cookbooks. But if you think this wild game and foraging expert's cookbook is filled with kill-it-and-grill-it recipes, think again.

"As a hard-core duck hunter, I work with wild birds a lot," explains Shaw. "Over the years, I've figured out how to cook all sorts of species and all parts of the bird and I want to pass that information along to my fellow hunters. I find that a lot of duck hunters either choke down their ducks or have just a few ways to cook them. I mean, I love duck poppers and jerky as much as the next guy, but there's more you can do with wild waterfowl than that."

Describing Hank Shaw and what he does isn't simple. He's not just a writer, although his blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook at honest-food.net has earned him national recognition. He's not just a chef, even though he has won many culinary awards, including the coveted James Beard Foundation Award.

Through his writing and cooking, Shaw has honed a niche for himself as a foraging expert. Take him to a sea shore or a prairie or a mountain side and he'll find the edible plants and show you how to best prepare that fish you just caught or that duck that will become your dinner.

When planning the duck and goose dinner, Shaw and Pirogue Grille's Stuart Tracy drew inspiration from the cookbook, creating a memorable menu that included a root vegetable soup with apples and duck ham and an entrée of pan-roasted goose breast with orange and ouzo. "(Stuart and I) brainstormed together to develop the menu," said Shaw. "I wanted it to be a mash-up of his ideas and mine - it's so much more fun that way than just having my recipes served back to me."

After all the preparation (and the treacherous drive on Interstate 94), Shaw was thrilled with the response he received from diners in both of his North Dakota stops. "Bismarck and Fargo have been two of the highlights of the trip," said Shaw. "Great response, sold a ton of books and I loved hearing the stories - both in the kitchen and in the marsh - from everyone. I probably should have stuck around in North Dakota for a few days longer!"

While Shaw was greeting guests and signing books in Bismarck, his newly released cookbook was climbing the book sales rankings. In fact, at the time of this writing, his cookbook is in the top five best-selling books in the Hunting & Fishing category on Amazon.com - and notably, the only one not tied to the Duck Dynasty television show.

Before packing up his pick-up truck with the remaining cookbooks and heading to Minnesota for his next event, Shaw took a break and spent a day fishing for walleye on Lake Sakakawea. While reeling in some fish and eyeing buffaloberries onshore, Shaw found inspiration for a new ultra-local North Dakota-inspired dish.

To start, Shaw filleted the fish, roasted the bones and made a fish stock with the roasted fish remnants. The broth became the base of a creamy barley risotto ("No rice grows in North Dakota, and y'all grow barley up here, so it seemed appropriate."), topped with fresh walleye fillets poached in butter. Then came the sauce and garnish. "For a sauce, I mixed buffaloberry syrup with some chile and malt vinegar and salt for a sweet-sour-spicy kick," explains Shaw. "And on top? Chicharrons made out of the walleye skin. Crispy, light as air, they were an awesome kicker to the dish."

While Shaw wraps up this leg of his book tour, he hopes to return to North Dakota in the near future. "Maybe in late spring," said Shaw. "I really want to come and catch either paddlefish or burbot. I have a thing for unusual fish. I like to show people that they can be delicious, too."

The cookbook Duck, Duck, Goose by Hank Shaw is available at most major book retailers. For Shaw's recipes and more information on all things wild, visit his blog at honest-food.net.