Last week, I attended the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s (AWF) Wild Game Cook-Off at the Birmingham Zoo, where I got to taste a wide spread of locavore delicacies. Here are my top five favorite bites from that event:

1.  Smoked Frog Leg Étouffée with Andouille Sausage Over Steamed Rice

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by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Birmingham Alabama Chapter
This dish stood out to me for several reasons. The frog legs weren’t fried, which was a nice change of pace from some of the other dishes that incorporated frog legs. It also tasted like home. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, not far from New Orleans, where étouffée is a familiar dish that is typically served with shrimp. The smooth texture of the frog legs paired nicely with the sausage, and they soaked up all of the delicious flavors in the rest of the dish. My bowl was scraped clean!

2.  Crappie Cakes with Pepper Jelly

Crappie Cakes with Pepper Jelly

by the Coop Cut-Ups
These were a close contender for the No.1 spot on my list because they brought back fond memories of the fish cakes my mom would make, but they did place third overall in the fish division. Crappie are abundant here in Alabama, and they’re fun to catch, but not many folks fillet them for dinner. More often than not, they’re thrown back into the water so someone else can have fun reeling them in. While I’ve caught several of these over the years, I never tried them until this event, and, man, have I been missing out! The fish was flaky and delicate, and frying it was a great way to showcase the meat. I’d love to attempt making these myself the next time I reel in some crappie!

3.  Fried Turkey Nuggets

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by JH Berry Multi-Family, Inc.
It was difficult to not just walk away with an entire plateful of these fried turkey bites. They were SO good — and the kids were all about them. They couldn’t tell the difference between these and a pack of McNuggets. Luckily for the parents (and me), these are a much healthier alternative to the fried pink slime. The tenderness of this turkey breast meat was unreal, and the honey mustard dipping sauce wasn’t half bad, either. I’d love to experiment with making these at home if I’m ever lucky enough to bring home some freshly harvested turkey meat. Frying them was delicious, but I’d bet that they would do well baked in the oven, too.

4.  Roasted Quail with Smashed Potatoes and Dark Ale Mushroom Gravy4_RoastedQuailGravy14457541_10157594685715624_43510891290088361_n

by Kirkpatrick Concrete Co. Inc.
Prior to this experience, I had never tasted quail, and I was a bit nervous to try it. I assumed the meat would be dark and fatty like duck, which I’m not too fond of, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. (You know what they say about assuming…) The fowl paired exquisitely with the smashed potatoes, and the dark ale gravy was out-of-this-world delicious. My husband went for the venison chili with spiced oyster crackers and cheese by Kirkpatrick Concrete pictured at the top of this article, which was also quite tasty, but the real winner here was the quail.

5.  Molasses-Cured Catfish over Corn and Cabbage Slaw with Fried Cornbread

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by CHI Grillers
This was by far some of the best catfish I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t have thought that molasses would pair well with such a flakey white fish, but it did, and so well. The slaw and fried cornbread on the side was also a nice touch, and while the flavor profile was a little sweet for my taste between the molasses, coleslaw and sweet cornbread, overall it was scrumptious, and I would definitely love to try it again if I’m ever presented with the chance.

What are some of your favorite wild-game cuisines or recipes? Would you try any of these listed here? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or email me at ahoward@grandviewmedia.com.

Featured photo: Venison chili with spiced oyster crackers and cheese by Kirkpatrick Concrete