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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

Cookbook author and outdoorswoman Jenn Danella heats it up in the kitchen and beyond.

H&B Interview: Meet Jenn Danella

jenn danella, chef

H&B: Tell me about your childhood in Pennsylvania and who got you into the outdoors.

JD: My dad was real outdoorsy, and my grandfather was a big hunter and fisherman.  My dad started taking me fishing when I was very young, just like his father had done with him. My dad passed that down to me. He’d take my sisters, my brother, and me fishing at these little ponds down the road from where we lived. We always caught a lot of fish. I have a very distinct memory of a Barbie Princess fishing rod and my sisters and I fighting over who got to use it. Those are some of my fondest memories.

You started hunting later, tell me about that.

jenn danella, hunter

When I was younger, I played a lot of sports so I was busy—I was on soccer fields most of the time. My dad took my brother small-game hunting, and I thought it was so cool. My dad encouraged me to get my hunting license, and I finally got my license in high school and would mostly go small-game hunting on some state game land near our house and some deer hunting too.

What is your favorite thing to fish for, and where do you like to fish?

Every year my entire family goes to the beach in New Jersey, and we go flounder fishing. We get out on our kayaks or on the jetties, and we catch a ton of flounder. My dad rents a charter boat, and we all go out. I look forward to that every year.

I know it’s important to you to represent women in the outdoors and encourage women to get out there. How do you do that and why is it important?

I aim to be a role model for other women and young girls. It’s important for them to see other women camping, fishing, and hunting.  I want to show that you can be a hunting asset—you can set up decoys, you can go in a stand by yourself, you can train your own dogs. Through pictures and being a DM away, I can answer those questions and serve as a resource to other women. I want everyone to have a good experience.

How did your cookbook come about? Who got you interested in cooking?

My cookbook is called the Weeknight Wild Game Cookbook, and it’s available online basically everywhere books are sold. Quarto Publishing approached me about doing a cookbook. I had written a smaller cookbook—I did all the recipes, edited it, and took all the pictures myself—then Quarto called and asked me to do another one. I was shocked and ecstatic. It was so much work, but I love how it turned out.

When I was younger, I started making dinner with my mom. We’d buy cookbooks and experiment with recipes. When I really got in to hunting, I realized there was a lack of everyday recipes that used the game meat I had in my freezer. I started posting pictures of the meals I was creating, and people really liked it. And here we are!

Do you have a great one-that-got-away story?

Unfortunately I do! This one hurt. It was a big buck that I had been watching for years. He was very elusive. People would always see him, but no one could get a shot at him. He started showing up in the daylight, so I set up in this small field in a blind. He walks in, and he walks right by me. I could have touched him! Then, he moved far enough away that I could pull my bow back. I finally get a shot, but it deflects off a tree and lands about a foot in front of him. I think someone ended up shooting him the next year. 

What is your most memorable fishing or hunting trip?

My first big hunting trip with my boyfriend, now husband, was black bear hunting in Ontario, Canada. We spent our mornings walleye fishing, catching big pike, and then early afternoon we’d get dropped off in our stands. I ended up shooting a mature black bear on the second night. The pressure was off, and I just spent the rest of the time fishing, hiking, and exploring Ontario. It was an amazing trip.

What do you do when you’re not in the outdoors?

I love hiking, camping, cooking, and trying new recipes. I love going out to eat and trying new things. And I love a good dive bar!

If you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be and why?

I really like Guy Fieri, and I know he hunts. So it would be nervewracking, but I would like to cook him a game meal. I think we have similar flavor profiles, and he just really loves food. 

Can you give us an easy weeknight game recipe?

Sure. I enjoy unique recipes with an Asian flair.  The duck dumplings from my cookbook are a good example.

Jenn Danella’s Pan-Fried Duck Dumplings

A delicious dumpling filled with a blend of wild duck, crunchy water chestnuts, onions, baby bok choy, garlic, and fresh ginger. Once you construct them, all you have left to do is fry them in a pan and then steam with chicken broth. 

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless duck breast fillets, chopped
  • 5 water chestnuts, diced
  • 1 baby bok choy, diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 24 wonton wrappers 
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions

Recipe Directions

To a food processor, add chopped duck meat, water chestnuts, diced bok choy, green onions, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar to a food processor. Process until a fine stuffing is formed then pour into bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper lightly with cold water. Fill each wrapper with a scant tablespoon of filling. Close each one into a half-moon, making sure there are no air pockets. Pleat the edges with your hands.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a few tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Place about 8-10 potstickers into the pan, flat side down and cook for 2 minutes. 

Slowly add a small amount of chicken stock to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover, and steam for another 2 minutes. Remove and set onto a heatproof platter and place in the warm oven as you repeat with the remaining potstickers.

Garnish with chopped green onion and serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 6 servings


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