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THRILL OF THE HUNT

Horsemen's breakfast mixes Old-World tradition with a heaping side of Nevada gusto.

WRITTEN BY BARBARA TWITCHELL
PHOTOS BY SHEA EVANS

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The dining room is silent. In front of the wood-burning stove, a Great Dane stretches out, large as a proverbial bear rug. Suddenly, his ears perk up and he raises his massive head. Hoof beats and the baying of hounds in the distance signal the return of the hunters.

There is no way to adequately describe the energy that suddenly fills the room as the riders enter. It vibrates. It’s electric. And it’s also hard to fathom. These people have been riding for hours — not just riding, mind you, but galloping, chasing, jumping. They should be cold, hungry, and totally exhausted.

And they are. But they’re also exhilarated beyond reason — and they have stories to tell. Tales of the day’s adventures are enthusiastically volleyed across the table. Plates are piled high with food that is devoured as hungrily as the humorous anecdotes and tall tales being recklessly bandied about. Liquor flows freely; laughter abounds. The noise level is at times almost deafening.

This is a hunt breakfast, Nevada style!

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Crazy like a fox

Lynn Lloyd, founder of Nevada’s first and only foxhunt, has been called the Annie Oakley of foxhunting — a fitting title, if ever there was one. Free spirit, savvy businesswoman, cowgirl, hunt master, traditionalist, non-conformist … all apply to this enigmatic woman who, once upon a time, had a wild and crazy dream to bring a king’s sport to the Wild West.

Red Rock Hounds, located on 640-acre Ross Creek Ranch just outside of Reno, celebrates its 35th anniversary this season. With the ranch adjacent to more than two million acres of BLM land, Lloyd and co-owner Angela Murray say there is no other hunt in the country — and probably the world — that has as much accessible land. They hold another record: hunting an amazing 110 times a year, more than any other club in the country. This is a world-class operation of international renown, yet, ironically, most locals don’t even know it exists.

About the chase

There’s something about the shared fellowship of riders, the connection with horses and hounds, the adrenaline rush of the chase that appears to be absolutely addictive. On hunt days, the riders gather in the morning chill, regardless of the weather. Rain, snow, or wind be damned; the foxhunt goes on.

It’s important to clarify that foxhunt is a misnomer. They actually chase coyotes, not foxes (what else would you expect in Nevada?), and this is a no-kill club. It’s really all about the chase.

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Tradition with a twist

The morning hunt generally starts off with the stirrup cup, a longstanding tradition in hunt circles. This small, shot-sized vessel, filled with either port or sherry, is offered to riders of legal age just before the hunt. Traditionally, the cups were crafted from silver and brought out by servants. At Ross Creek, the stirrup-cup tradition lives on, but the shot of liquid courage is a self-serve, paper-cup affair.

Hunt breakfasts, which traditionally follow a foxhunt, can be pretty elaborate events in other parts of the country and the world. Red Rock Hounds takes a more casual approach. Members take turns providing the meal and are free to serve anything they desire. Some people go basic, some fancy.

The rule of thumb is, just make sure to have plenty of food, whatever it is.

“We’re privileged to have two world-class chefs as members,” Murray says. “Needless to say, everyone comes hunting on the days they make breakfast!”

Providing for a voracious horde is trickier than it seems, especially when the cook du jour is out riding with the group. Food must be prepared in advance, ready to serve, and remain palatable for anywhere from two to five hours. You never know how long the hunt will last. That means that hunt breakfasts might be served any time, typically between 1 and 4 p.m.

Members Jerry Dugan and his girlfriend, Dani Harris, though not chefs, are known for their exceptional breakfasts. Dani, a non-riding member of Red Rock Hounds, stays behind to put the finishing touches on their meal. Delicious homemade soups (butternut squash and creamy tomato basil) and gourmet grilled sandwiches (bacon and turkey, dripping with oodles of melted cheese) comprise the fare offered to the group this day, accompanied by Red Rock Mules (aka Moscow Mules, renamed in the club’s honor). It’s a hunt breakfast sure to please the group.

But to be honest, this isn’t exactly a tough crowd to please, especially after a long day of riding.

“I remember it was bitter cold and snowy and we had hunted all day,” Lloyd recalls. “We were so hungry that we just made sandwiches on the tailgate of a pickup. White bread, baloney, and mayonnaise.” She smiles at the memory. “It was the best thing I’ve ever eaten!”

With apologies to the lords and ladies of the king’s court, that, too, is a hunt breakfast — Nevada style!

Writer Barbara Twitchell and photographer Shea Evans spent two memorable days with members of this warm, friendly, enthusiastic group, accompanying them on hunts (from the safety of a pickup truck) and sharing in hunt breakfasts. Their adrenaline levels still haven’t returned to normal.

Resources

During the fall and winter months, Red Rock Hounds hunt club members ride Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from mid-September through mid-April annually. For details, visit http://www.Redrockhounds.com or call 775-969-3243.

Recipes

This hunt breakfast always is a favorite of the Red Rock Hounds after a cold, fast, and exhilarating foxhunt. Nothing warms the belly better than dipped cheesy sourdough bread into a tart or spicy soup.

Hot Madras Curry Butternut Squash Soup

(courtesy of Dani Harris and Jerry Dugan of Red Rock Hounds. Serves 4 to 6)

1 butternut squash

1 onion, white

1 bunch celery

½ pack (6 ounces) turkey bacon

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons hot Madras curry powder

1 32-ounce box low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch of chives

Sour cream (optional)

Bread

Salt and pepper, to taste

Poke squash with fork on each side. Then microwave squash for 3 minutes or until soft enough to cut lengthwise. Then bake or broil until slightly browned and soft. Chop onion, celery, bacon, and garlic.

In large stockpot coat bottom with olive oil, add chopped onion, celery, bacon, and garlic. Add curry powder, salt, pepper, and stir until all ingredients are coated and yummy looking. Use spoon and fork to scoop out squash, discard skin. Add squash to pot and stir. Add chicken broth and cook covered for 20 minutes. Use immersion blender to blend to desired consistency. A blender will work as well; it’s just messier. Serve with chopped chives and bread. Add dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

(courtesy of Dani Harris and Jerry Dugan of Red Rock Hounds. Serves 4 to 6)

4 large, meaty tomatoes — peeled, seeded, and diced

4 cups tomato sauce

14 leaves fresh basil

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place tomatoes and sauce in stockpot over medium heat. Simmer 30 minutes. Purée tomato mixture along with basil leaves with an immersion blender and return purée to stockpot. Place pot over medium heat, and stir in heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until butter is melted. Do not boil. Garnish with fresh basil.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Bacon

(courtesy of Dani Harris and Jerry Dugan of Red Rock Hounds. Serves 4)

8 large slices of sourdough bread, thickly sliced

3 to 4 cups grated cheese (mix two or more of types: gruyere, cheddar, pepper jack, Asiago, chipotle jack, or any other stinky, fun cheese)

8 pieces of bacon

Mustard (any type you prefer)

Sriracha

Herb butter

1 stick butter

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

To create herb butter, combine garlic powder, oregano, and basil with stick of softened butter; spread generously on one side of each slice of bread and set aside. Cook bacon until desired doneness; meanwhile, grate cheeses and blend. Spread mustard and Sriracha generously on other side of bread slices. Pile on ¾ to 1 cup grated cheese and 2 strips of bacon on each of 4 slices of bread and cover with 4 remaining slices of bread. The herb-buttered side should be on outside of each sandwich. Cook on panini press or hot pan. If in pan or griddle, be diligent to turn and flip. This is where the love comes in. Serve with Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup. Lots of dipping recommended.

Turkey Pesto Grilled Cheese

(courtesy of Dani Harris and Jerry Dugan of Red Rock Hounds. Serves 4)

8 large slices of sourdough bread, thickly sliced

8 or more slices turkey, thickly sliced

3 to 4 cups grated cheese (mix two or more types: gruyere, cheddar, pepper jack, Asiago, chipotle jack, or any other stinky, fun cheese)

Pesto (homemade or store bought)

Mustard (any type you prefer)

Fresh basil (optional)

Sundried tomatoes (optional)

Herb butter

1 stick butter

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon garlic powder

To create herb butter, combine garlic powder, oregano, and basil, with stick of softened butter; spread on one side of each slice of bread and set aside. Spread mustard and pesto generously on other side of bread slices. Place 2 slices of turkey and ¾ to 1 cup grated cheese blend onto each of 4 slices of bread. Add fresh basil and/or sundried tomatoes, if desired. Cover with 4 remaining bread slices. Herb-buttered side should be on outside of each sandwich. Cook on panini press or hot pan. If in pan or griddle, be diligent to turn and flip. Great served with soup. Dip and enjoy.

Red Rock Mule

(courtesy of Dani Harris and Jerry Dugan of Red Rock Hounds. Serves 1)

4 ounces ginger beer

2 ounces vodka (a heavy hand is recommended here, this really makes the difference)

1 lime

Finely shredded or grated fresh ginger (peeled)

Fresh mint

Ice

Fill a glass or preferably a copper mug to the rim with ice.  Add copious amounts of vodka. Add juice from 1/2 the lime and a pinch of ginger. Top with ginger beer, stir, garnish with wedges cut from remaining lime half and a few sprigs of fresh mint.

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