December/January Book Club: 'Girl Hunter' by Georgia Pellegrini

This month's book club pick is a true story of one woman's journey from wall street into the wilderness. Enjoy the memoir with a plate of the author's chicken and apples.

by Ann Hood
GeorgiaPellegrini
Photograph: Terry Allen
Georgia Pellegrini's lyrical memoir is a fervent treatise on the way we eat as well as an unlikely tale of one woman's transformation from stiletto-heeled Wall Street banker to hard-core hunter. Aching “to smell fresh air again, to feel the dirt [under] my fingernails, to collect eggs and stir ruby-colored jam in a pot and watch it grow thick,” she sets out to find her way back to the land and, during a year of traveling to hunt with ace shooters, discovers the profound pleasures of stepping “away from the grocery aisle and into the wild.”
 
A cast of outdoorsmen (and, rarely, -women) teaches her how to track her prey and when to pull the trigger—challenges that at first bring distress and later exhilaration. In Pellegrini's wilderness, hills and plains “glisten crimson and mustard in the light,” and small hogs look like “running sausages.” Her gift for language softens scenes in which she skins javelinas, plucks feathers from newly felled turkeys and bleeds boars dry, and she makes a convincing argument for humane hunting, for not wasting “a single morsel.”
 
With each kill, she moves closer to an understanding of what it means to be an omnivore in the modern world, to be a part of the cycle of life at its most basic level. An accomplished chef, she serves up recipes and techniques for cooking game, stocks, rubs, brines and sauces. She also shares tidbits about geology, history and food production—all to whet our appetite for the changes that are possible, personally and globally, if we pause and experience “what occurred on the journey from the field to the table.” (amazon.com)
 
Chicken with roasted apples recipe:
 
This dish was originally made with pheasant, but chicken is a delicious alternative.
 
Prep time: 18 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes
Serves 4
 
1 chicken, quartered, trimmed of extra skin
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 large apples, cored and sliced into ¼-inch wedges
1 tablespoon Calvados or other brandy
½ cup heavy cream
 
Preheat the oven to 450°. Season the chicken parts with salt and pepper.
 
In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, and brown the chicken, skin side down, 5 to 10 minutes.
 
Remove chicken parts from the pan, and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan, and fry the apples quickly. Place the chicken on top of the apples, skin side up. Cover, and place in the oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 425°; cook for 45 minutes. Five minutes before removing from the oven, pour the Calvados and heavy cream over the chicken. Serve very hot with the apples and sauce.
 
 Adapted from Girl Hunter by Georgia Pellegrini. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.
 
For a review of David Finch's The Journal of Best Practices, click here.
First Published November 8, 2011

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