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Take a Quick Breather When You Can

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Sometimes, through no fault of your own, life starts to get a little bit frantic.  You look down the road a bit and see chaos, disorder, and general suckiness headed your way. It’s the way life is.  You have to take the bad with the good.

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My first instinct, as is probably the case for many of you, is to scramble around, creating order where there will soon be none.  Batten down the hatches, as it were. I find myself swiffering within an inch of my life.  Dust bunnies are rounded up  and vacuumed to their death.  The refrigerator is purged of suspicious contents. Every article of clothing is washed and pressed.  Deerslayer’s socks look fabulous!  Then I collapse for the evening, after preparing a killer meal, with a couple glasses of a soothing beverage… and brace myself for an upcoming crisis.

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I’m not saying that this tactic is a good one, just the one I’ve always employed.  It usually leaves me frazzled and exhausted in the face of chaos, disorder, and general suckiness.  This year’s first stumbling block has me stepping back and trying something new, a more relaxed approach.

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I will take life one day at a time, handle things that I’m able to, pray about the things I can’t, and appreciate and be thankful for my loving family, friends, and sunrises at a South Texas Hunting camp.  And throw in a few posts as well. Who am I kidding?  Head ‘em up. Move ‘em out, dust bunnies!

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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Wild Game Osso Buco (Means “I Love You!”)

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 017Deerslayer had a delicious meal in Vail a while ago that he was excited for me to research and try to replicate.  He was so enthusiastic (and cute) that I couldn’t  say, “no”.   The dish was Osso Buco (which means bone with a hole) and is traditionally made with cross-cut veal shank that is then braised in a savory mix of veggies, tomatoes, and wine. If a hunter decides to prepare this recipe with wild game, keep in mind that venison shanks are pretty puny for this particular application.  The shanks need to be decently large and meaty like might be found on an elk, bear, wild pig, moose, or NILGAI!

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This photo shows very clearly the sinewy layers that seem to run through the muscle of nilgai meat. Not just shank but other muscle cuts as well!

Since we don’t purchase meat from a grocer, how fortuitous that we recently acquired some very nice nilgai shanks as part of the reward of  a successful hunt.  As I began to scour the blog world for wild game versions of this recipe, I found posts dealing with bear, moose, and elk. I was thrilled to stumble across Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. There’s some pretty powerful stuff in the wild game cookery department on his website.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new wild game cooking bible.  His books are definitely on my birthday wish list!  I ultimately ended up preparing a version of his recipe.

Deerslayer and I also needed info on the best way to cut the shanks so that we’d end up with the clean cross-cut slabs.  We wanted them to be about 2 to 2½ inch sections. The meat was slippery and difficult to hold on the cutting board because of the fascia (silverskin).

Of course, having the proper tools for the job makes everything much easier.  Since we didn’t have a butcher’s meat band saw, we tackled the problem by wrapping both ends of the semi-frozen shank with clean kitchen towels on either side of the cutting line.  Laying the towel-wrapped shank on the cutting board, (and having me hold one end) Deerslayer was able to use an LEM hand-operated meat  saw without the meat sliding all over.  We ended up with 4 servings per shank.

Wild Game Osso Buco

*This recipe is for about 4 large shank servings or 5 small ones.  We went crazy and prepared two whole shanks (8 servings or 2 large dutch ovens’ worth!)

1 large wild game shank (about 4 servings, cut into 2-2½ cross slices) one per person

cooking twine, to tie shanks

salt and pepper

flour for dredging

olive oil, cooking oil, or butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

around 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced (or others that you like)

1 cup of white wine

1 cup stock (beef, chicken, game—– I used nilgai stock)

1 tsp. thyme, fresh or dried

1tsp. oregano, fresh or dried

2 bay leaves

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

chopped parsley for garnish

Cooking time is about 3 hours depending on the size of the shanks and amount of sinew.  The nilgai took every bit of the 3 hours.

Tie up the shanks so the meat doesn’t fall off the bone during cooking.  It provides a nicer presentation.

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Preheat the oven for 300°.

Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dredge in flour..

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Add oil to a cast iron dutch oven and heat.  Brown meat on all sides and remove from heat.

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After I took this picture, I gave the meat some more time so there would be a nicer brown on it.

 

Add carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until beginning to brown.

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Add wine, stock, tomatoes, spices, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Stir up browned bits from the bottom.

Add meat back into dutch oven.  Cover with sauce.  Reduce to a simmer.

Place a lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven for about 3 hours.

Check after a couple of hours to see if meat is getting tender.

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Serve over risotto, polenta, orzo or other worthy bed.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Tell your Deerslayer-Nilgaislayer-Elkslayer, “Osso buco, darling!”

This would be perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

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The Perfect Gift

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The serrated blade and leather sheath make this a pretty great skinning tool.

Many years ago, Deerslayer received a Cutco hunting knife from his dad as a gift. Of course, it was a favorite because it was from the patriarch of the Deerslayer clan.  It was also a great knife that carries a lifetime guarantee that, for the cost of shipping, Cutco will sharpen FOREVER.   The serrated blade is superb for skinning even the toughest, oldest wild pig or nilgai. It  makes an easy task of processing any meat  but is impossible to sharpen oneself.

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Deerslayer and I had this conversation  before our recent 30th wedding anniversary.  Sooooo, I knew what would make a perfect gift.  Camo lingerie for me? No.  A cruise? No. A nice musky cologne for either of us.  Nope.   Additional Cutco hunting knives that could be used while his favorite knife was being sharpened!  Bingo!   I purchased two additional knives.  To make it a personalized and more sentimental gift, I had them engraved.  Cutco does that!  Not too mushy, not a gift that would be awkwardly accepted and placed in a drawer. The perfect gift for my perfect Deerslayer!  Priceless!

 

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Classic Wild Game Meat Pie

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 021There are certain times when a savory meat pie hits the spot like nothing else. I have no doubt that Sherlock Holmes would eat a delicious meat pie.   Make it with wild game (venison, elk, nilgai, wild pork) and it can’t be beat.  The ease with which this dish is prepared makes it perfect for leftover turkey, chicken, goose, or pheasant as well.  It has become my go-to recipe when I’m looking for something rich, delicious, and healthy that can be made with any leftover meat (or cooked-all-day game), veggies and a yummy crust.

This picture does not include potatoes or pie crust. Oops! The bowl of small, red orbs is actually pearl onions. Use ‘em or don’t as you like.

1 1/2 lbs. Cooked-all-day wild game (venison, elk, nilgai, wild pork or leftover turkey, goose, pheasant, or chicken) cubed

4 tbsp. butter
Splash of olive oil

8 oz. crimini mushrooms (or more…. or none) sliced

Tommy’s salt & pepper mix

2 carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 small red potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup canned or frozen peas

32 oz. box of beef, chicken. or veggie stock or homemade stock

6 oz. Guinness beer (Drink the rest!)

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper

1-2 tbs. worcestershire sauce

2 cups any awesome cheddar, grated

one prepared pie crust (or one  homemade crust)

In heavy cast iron skillet, saute mushrooms in butter & olive oil. Season with Tommy’s salt & pepper mix.

In another sauce pan, bring stock to a boil. Add carrots, celery, and fresh, peeled pearl onions (or frozen). Cook until tender. Add potatoes.  Cook for another ten minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer veggies to skillet with mushrooms.

                                                                                    Toss in peas and shredded or cubed meat. Return  stock to heat, reserving 1/2 cup. Add the 1/2 cup and cornstarch to a jar, seal and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE.

Add Guinness and stock-cornstarch mixture to remaining beef stock. Boil on medium heat until thickened. Pour all into cast iron skillet and heat through. Season with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.

 

 

Stir in grated, awesome cheese.

 

For days when I don’t feel like making crust from scratch, I lay a ready-made crust over the top of the ingredients.  Cut slits to let steam escape, roll the edges for a popular rustic appeal, and paint top with an egg wash.

 

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 018Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees until crust is golden.  Easy Peasy!  Once again, you have maintained your title of  “Hunting Queen/King of the Universe”.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Game Birds, Nilgai, Recipes, Venison

 

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A Word about my Christmas Goose

Oh, by the way,…… I almost forgot to share my goose hunting experience.  The junior deerslayers and I decided that we wanted to “go Victorian” for Christmas this year.  Christmas goose was going to be the star of the show.  Figgy pudding would provide the grand finale.  Since we had just had a typical South Texas thanksgiving with turkey, cornbread dressing, and such, we were in the mood to shake things up a bit.

goose, nilgai, 2015 001So I began the hunt….. to the local grocers.  Clearly, goose is not only NOT a tradition in these parts, I had to spell it out to several local butchers. When I say “spell it out”, I’m talkin’ G-O-O-S-E spelling it out. Don’t forget, goose is not traditional fare for this area.

Finally, after several days of hunting, I spotted my prey.  Stealthily, I crept up to the unsuspecting flock, in the frozen food aisle.  No hurry, though. Remember that no one else in this neck of the woods was in the market for a goose.  I had my pick.  The grocer seemed strangely proud of these birds that aren’t part of the local customs.  Perhaps, since they are exotic, they fetch a premium price.

goose, nilgai, 2015 024 By Texas standards, the price was high, but the experience, in my mind, would be priceless.

I followed the instructions, piercing the skin all over to allow the fat to render out of the bird while it cooked.  I cut away the extra fat around the opening to the cavity.  Domestic goose, while very juicy and pretty much all dark meat, needs to have the fat drained away from the meat.  Our ten-pound bird rendered out over a quart of fat.  I have to say, though, that a little goose fat, some rich drippings, giblets, and neck meat produced an amazing gravy that we served with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli-rice casserole, and peas. The meal was finished off with a delicious figgy pudding, the likes of which have never been experienced in South Texas.  I don’t know how authentically Victorian the meal was but it was tasty and we enjoyed it.  All was right with the world.  Next year, turkey.  Or nilgai!

 

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Perhaps domestic goose is a little “highfalutin'” for a Texas gal and her family.

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Game Birds, Recipes, Uncategorized

 

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A New Year, A New Nilgai

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Last year’s bull was pretty big. This year we were glad to get a younger animal to compare the amount of connective tissue and fascia.

The Deerslayer household has been blessed to start 2015 with our second nilgai in the freezer. It was a pretty big deal… comparable to when our daughters were born. It was a goal that Deerslayer had set for himself during this hunting season.  Mission accomplished.

Working with our first nilgai was quite a learning experience.  It was a relatively large bull that was harvested.  We assumed that the meat would be just like venison, but bigger!  We discovered that there are some real differences in the make-up of the meat and in the initial dressing of the animal as I posted here.

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Three big Yeti coolers full of meat!

Unlike venison, nilgai muscle is sometimes layered with fascia within the larger muscles themselves which is tough to chew if prepared rare to medium-rare as in grilling and searing. For this reason, fewer of the muscles are good for these applications.  A real lover of wild game won’t mind cutting around and discarding the chewy bits, though.  Luckily, the tenderloins and backstraps are HUGE and the one small, special hindquarter muscle that’s great for searing or grilling still works just fine for that.

Since this was our second nilgai, I had the presence of mind to document a few steps of the dressing process.  For hunters who haven’t skinned a nilgai, I think think they will find interesting the difference in the amount of connective tissue between nilgai and deer.

goose, nilgai, 2015 035 While this part of the process isn’t  exactly my cup of tea, I’m hoping that some of you may find it informative. It really helps having access to a pulley system like this to hoist an animal of this size to get it ready for the coolers.  Deerslayer made short order of skinning this guy using a pair of hunting knives that I got him for our anniversary.  More on that in an upcoming post.

Is was right about here in the proceedings that I remembered that something in the camper needed my immediate attention… a glass of restorative wine!  Don’t judge me.

goose, nilgai, 2015 038We spent much of New Year’s Day processing and packaging up the three coolers full of meat that would fill our freezer.  We started with backstraps and tenderloins.

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We deliberately chose to leave the fascia on the backstrap to provide added protection against freezer burn. It can easily be cleaned prior to cooking.

 

Deerslayer decided that he’d like to leave a backstrap intact and grill it for a family get-together.  We agreed that a perfectly seared backstrap with some delectable mesquite smoky flavor would impress the entire clan. I’ll get back to you on how this turns out.

In years past, while we own a vacuum-packaging system, we chose to use the Zip-Lock bags with the little sucky thing.  The process was less complicated. We’ve discovered, however, that we were getting a little freezer burn on the meat where air was getting in.  We think it was due, in part, to small dings in the bags that occurred by moving them around (and dropping them).

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This year, we dusted off the Rival vacuum system and let ‘er rip. The continuous length of bags enabled us to slide an entire backstrap in and seal it up.

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I can’t decide if I’m more like Wilma or Betty.

The hind quarter was the next “big thing” to tackle.  The muscles were huge!  This year, for the first time, I set aside the bones for making stock.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  The femurs reminded me of the Flintstones!  Deerslayer used his meat saw to cut through the bones so they’d fit into my stock pot.  We also set aside some scrap meat to add some additional flavor.

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As Deerslayer began to separate out the muscles, we carefully set aside the muscles that we know will function like a tenderloin in searing and grilling applications.

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Notice the lighter color and finer texture of the muscle on the right. It is found on the hind quarter and is extremely tender. The piece on the left can be cut into steaks and pounded out for Nilgai Parmesan, Chicken Fried Steaks, etc.

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Here’s another picture of the very tender cut of hind quarter.

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It’s good to know not only what meat you’re taking out of the freezer but exactly what you need to do to it.y

Last year, we didn’t save the shanks. In an effort to use as much of the animal as possible we’re going to try to cut through those bones and make osso buco.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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A Blessed and Merry Christmas From The Deerslayer Clan

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Smiley has been part of our family for many years.

 

Hunting is in our blood.  Wild game certainly is!  Since Christmas is during the deer season, evidence of our favorite pastime permeates our seasonal festivities.

May all the blessings and peace of the season be yours this Christmas.

 

 

 

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Christmas ornaments from my childhood mix with sheds from years past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even our Advent wreath is adorned with antlers.

 

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No Christmas would be complete without venison and wild pork tamales.

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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