More than one contestant in the Missouri Conservation Agent’s Association Wild Game and Fish Cook-Off had something to crow about Sunday in the Home Economics Building at the Missouri State Fair.
While Pat Finkes, of Steelville, placed first for her Rustic Catfish Stew and Rodney Carr, of St. Louis, took second for his Wild Turkey Salad with Frills, Candi Lordo, of Lampe, was crowing with third place with her Crow-Off Summer Sausage.
The event hosted each year during the MSF has two categories, wild game and nature’s harvest featuring wild non-meat edibles.
Jackie Barb and Debra Barb, Home Ec contest coordinators, both agreed the contest often brings in unusual entries.
Debra Barb said Carr “had some burgers one year,” and the burgers were made with raccoon. He called his entry “Bandit Burgers.”
“I told my husband about that, and he’s never forgot it, it was the cutest thing,” she added.
“It’s a creative contest,” Jackie Barb added.
Debra Barb said many people make standard dishes with fish or venison, “but crow?”
They agreed that this year, Lordo’s entry was the most unusual.
“Nobody’s ever done it,” Lordo said of her crow sausage. “I have done so many things over the years. I’ve done crappie, I’ve done deer, I’ve done fish 300 different ways. I’ve done squirrel enchiladas.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and where else could I go but to crow,” she added. “Now I have something to crow about!”
She said there is a hunting season for crow; it runs from January to March.
Contrary to what many many think, eating crow isn’t bad at all; Lordo’s summer sausage tastes somewhat like mild, tender deer meat.
“It cooks very similar to deer meat,” she noted. “If it cooks too long, it’s not edible. That’s why I came up with summer sausage. I’ve made it six different ways and all of them have turned out delicious.”
Lordo knows a family in Mountain Home who hunts crow. They were able to provide her with the meat for cooking.
“That’s what they do for fun, they shoot crow,” she added. “They let me have some of the crow that they shot.”
So, it is interesting to note that a group of crows is actually called a murder of crows, and Lordo’s dish is made with 20 to 25 crow breasts. She adds beef suet and a combination of smoke-flavored seasoning, mustard seed, garlic salt and black pepper to make the sausage.
Lordo isn’t a novice when it comes to wild game — she’s been entering MSF food competitions since 1996.
Second place-winner Carr, smoked a wild turkey, cut it up, added garlic, relish and egg to make a salad. It was then served rolled into a flour tortilla and cut into bite-sized chunks. The smokey flavor of the turkey was prominent with seasonings taking a backseat.
“You want the flavor to get through to you,” Carr said. “I got two turkeys this year, I’ve never done that before in my life.”
Carr has been participating in the MCAA contest for 15 years.
“I just did it as a whim, thinking ‘yeah I know how to cook,’” he said of his first entry in 2000. “When I came here and saw what it takes, I thought ‘wow.’”
Each year Carr has tried to become more creative and often he and Lordo are neck-to-neck in the competition.
Carr added that it isn’t always the taste of food itself that makes a dish a winner; it is the combination of the taste and the presentation.
“It’s how you present it,” he said. “Does it look appetizing? Does it look like you want to eat it? When somebody has something that wins, it jumps out.
“I lost to Crappie Pizza one time,” he added. “I was like ‘whoa! How many ways can you fix a pizza?’ I wasn’t upset because whatever they had, it wowed the judges. You just say, ‘OK I’ve got to go back to the drawing board.’”
Always planning ahead, Carr likes to take photos of the other entries as ideas for next year.
“When I walk out the door today, I’m thinking of what I’ve got to do,” he said. “Because I’ve already seen what people have served and you got to have something different. I’ve seen some different things, I see crow, but I haven’t seen wild turkey in a while.”
First place-winner Finkes said she used channel catfish, creole seasoning and spicy-hot vegetable juice to create her slightly tangy dish.
“I love stews,” she said. “I thought ‘well why can’t you do one with catfish?’ I always do it with beef … and then I went with a little spicier than I would for your normal stew.”
Finkes added that her dish would work well served over rice. She said although she doesn’t cook at home much, she will possibly fix it again for her family.
“This one I definitely would (fix),” she added. “It made the house smell really good.”
The creative contest is sponsored by the Missouri Conservation Agent’s Association that is made up of agents or administration, said representative Andy Bullock.
Bullock, a Missouri Conservation Department agent in Henry County, has been attending the contest for eight years to pass out awards.
“The Agent’s Association, we do this to further hunting and fishing in Missouri,” he said. “We want to try and promote it, and how else can you promote hunting and fishing than by sponsoring something like this.”
Each year the Agent’s Association gives $125 in prize money for both the wild game and fish and nature’s harvest categories.
“This our way of trying to do something out here, and we are probably going to continue to do it,” he added.
Winning recipes are published in the Missouri State Fair Cookbook plus in the Missouri Conservation Agent’s Association Cookbook.