When we asked Randy King to be a Boise Weekly freelancer, it wasn't because he was a great writer. He wasn't. He was, and is, however, an accomplished chef and avid hunter, giving him a unique perspective on Idaho life.
Over the years, King contributed essays and articles, sharing behind-the-heat-lamp stories about restaurant kitchens, tall fishing tales, divisive hunting pieces, offbeat recipes and more. He was never afraid to voice his opinion, but he was always respectful of those who didn't agree with him.
During the years King freelanced for BW, his writing not only improved but garnered him a wider audience. He has contributed to Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunting, Northwest Sportsman Magazine, to name a few, and his debut book Chef in the Wild: Recipes and Reflections of a True Wilderness Chef (Caxton Press, 2015) has been mentioned and/or praised in an array of publications from gocarnivore.com to The New York Times—deservedly so. Through recipes, personal essays and photos, King's book blurs the boundaries between memoir and cookbook, giving it a wide-ranging appeal.
Chef is divided into four parts: Air, Land, Water, Home. The stories in each section are about hunting for game (or foraging) in said realm and often include touching remembrances of his father, the man to whom King dedicated his book: "For Dad. My love of wild places and wild food, I owe to you."
The recipes in each section feature whatever ingredient was killed or dug up, as well as how to prepare it: "deboning a hare leg," "butchering an antelope leg," "tips for cooking grouse," etc. The main ingredients in King's recipes are common—rabbit, venison, grouse—but as a longtime executive chef and current corporate chef at J.R. Simplot Co., King elevates his recipes, finding the sweet spot between highbrow and hearty dining: Almond Crusted Steelhead with Chilean Barbacoa Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes or Breaded Turkey Cutlets with Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes with pan Roasted Orange. However, King's sense of humor is evident, too. Case in point, the following recipe:
Smashed Quail with Mountain Dew Ponzu
Like many people of my generation, Mountain Dew was a food group when we were growing up. Over the years, I've tried to turn this beverage into various things, including desserts, corn cakes and, in this case, a sauce for quail. The drink has two major flavors in it: citrus and sugar. A classic Asian-style ponzu sauce has three flavors: citrus, sugar and soy. Use the Mountain Dew as a base, and you are two-thirds of the way to ponzu sauce.
8 quail, plucked and gutted
1 can Mountain Dew
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 green onions, sliced
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
To turn these ingredients into a mouthwatering dish, you'll need to get a copy of Chef of the Wild. If you love hunting, cooking or just a good read, you'll want one anyway.