Hunting with Hemingway: A Recipe Guide

EH 1306N    July 1934
Ernest Hemingway with marlin. Havana Harbor, Cuba. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.

Dine the Hemingway Way Tonight

So if you're anything like Ernest Hemingway from 1926 to 1929, you've been traveling the world and taking up some exciting new hobbies: deep sea sportfishing in Cuba and duck hunting in the American Midwest. He chronicled his adventures--how many large fish he caught, how well the hunt went--in letters to friends and family members, collected in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 3: 1926-1929.


Of course the meat you catch is only as good as the dish you can cook with it. So whether you’re on the Caribbean high seas hoping to hook a swordfish or waiting in the Wyoming woods for waterfowl, here are some recipes you can make use of when you bring home your catch. And for those of you not as ruggedly outdoorsy and well-traveled as Hemingway, just take a trip to the grocery store–one bite of these easy dishes and a few letters from Volume 3 and you’ll be transported

Swordfish à la Martinique with Spiced Sweet Potatoes

This recipe from renowned chef Daniel Boulud brings the flavors and local produce of Hemingway’s Cuba and the Caribbean to your swordfish steaks.

Serves 4

Daniel Boulud's Swordfish

Photo by Elle Decor

For the swordfish:
  • ½ tsp. chile powder
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 8 oz. swordfish steaks
  • Salt, as needed

In a small, dry sauté pan, toast the spices over medium heat. Stir in the lime juice and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil. Place the swordfish in a shallow dish and coat with the spice mixture. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

When ready to serve, preheat a grill to high. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the fish. Grill until well marked and just cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side.

For the sweet potatoes:
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. chile powder
  • ⅛ tsp. ground allspice
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 3 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, lime juice, spices, and salt. Add the sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Spread the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

For the sauce chien and mango salad
  • 2 habanero chiles, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and julienned
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • Salt

To make the sauce chien, pulse chiles, onion, garlic, and half of the cilantro leaves in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the lime juice, olive oil, and tomatoes. Season with salt to taste.

In another bowl, toss the mangoes and peppers with the remaining cilantro and one-third of the sauce; season with salt if needed.

Top each swordfish steak with some of the mango salad, and serve with the potatoes and remaining sauce chien on the side.

Duck Breast With Mustard Greens, Turnips, And Radishes

November duck hunting in Wyoming means you can use every part of the fresh bird, so here are two recipes: one from Bon Appétit pairs easy roasted duck breasts with root vegetables and a punchy mustard sauce.

Serves 8

Photo by Christopher Testani

  • 3 lbs. boneless duck breasts (3–4)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbs.vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbs. English mustard powder
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 4 small turnips, scrubbed, thinly sliced, plus 2 cups torn turnip greens or kale
  • 6 cups torn mustard greens; plus any mustard flowers (optional)
  • 1 tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Score fat side of duck breasts ⅛” deep in a crosshatch pattern; season both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. Cook 2 duck breasts, skin side down, until fat is rendered and surface is deeply browned and crisp, 10–15 minutes; transfer to a plate. Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining duck and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil.

Arrange all duck breasts in skillet, fat side up, and roast in oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of breasts registers 135°, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Whisk Dijon mustard, mustard powder, lemon juice, and 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a small bowl; season mustard sauce with kosher salt and pepper.

Toss radishes, turnips, greens, flowers (if using), vinegar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper.

Thinly slice duck. Scatter greens over a platter and top with duck. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with mustard sauce alongside.

Cassoulet with Duck Confit

This recipes from Food & Wine makes confit duck legs part of a hearty French bean stew–perfect for late fall in the Midwest and a callback to Hemingway’s adopted home of expatriate Paris.

Serves 8



    5 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

  • Two 1/2-inch-thick slices of pancetta (4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 lb. dried flageolets or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 2 hours and drained
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 large head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 pieces of duck leg confit, trimmed of excess fat (do it yourself!)
  • 3/4 lb. French garlic sausage, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 4 oz. lean slab bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tabl. chopped parsley

In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until the fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the beans, thyme sprigs, water and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring and skimming occasionally, until the beans are al dente, about 1 hour.

Add the garlic cloves to the beans and simmer until the garlic and beans are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs. Season the beans with salt and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the saucepan overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Rewarm the beans over moderate heat. Transfer the beans to a large, deep baking dish. Nestle the duck legs, garlic sausage and bacon into the beans. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cassoulet is bubbling and all of the meats are hot. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and the parsley over the cassoulet and serve.

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