I have to admit that I’ve sometimes imagined what it would be like to have my own cooking show. I doubt that it would be on the Food Network since I don’t have that kind of “presence”. But then, where? Food Network is just not my style nor am I theirs. My niche is pretty small. I just happen to be very happily married to a hunter, a deer hunter to be exact (and a duck, dove, pheasant, wild pig, elk, and nilgai hunter). Obviously, my show would be on a hunting or outdoor network. They seem to be a bit more forgiving if you don’t have a professional-grade kitchen and/or a dazzling smile. I have neither. I wear a grungy red denim “cooking shirt” that catches all the splashes and splatters!
I usually snap out of it when I remind myself that, while cooking in my own modest kitchen with a stove that doesn’t work worth a damn, I spend too much time scraping every last bit of batter out of a bowl so as not to waste any. Or cutting the tiniest scraps of meat away from the silverskin because, you guessed it, I don’t want any to go to waste. Never in my vast experience of watching countless hours of culinary shows have I seen the sparkling banter seize while the last teaspoon of gravy is carefully rescued from the pot. It’s in my blood to save what can be saved, use what can be used, and serve what can be served. I’m guessing that if you have embraced the “hunt to eat” lifestyle, then you, too, want to use every possible bit.
I feel like this is where I can help. This is my niche. I know that you don’t want to waste any of the valuable meat that you harvested yourself …. which seems all the more important these days!
There’s nothing more disappointing that finding a great wild game recipe that calls for an odd bit of meat that you disposed of or ground into hamburger. That’s why I’m here. Now. This is the time, before deer hunting season is in full swing, to know that you should save the shanks, heart, liver, and any tough or sinewy bits that many hunters leave behind.
The shanks and shoulders, can be used to prepare Hank Shaw’s amazing Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic that is so tender that it falls off the bone. Truly! I prepared the recipe and added photos and comments here. These same cuts of meat can also be used for Faux-so Buco, another dish that is nice enough to serve to company.
Hearts and livers are both wonderful when breaded, fried and served with onions and cream gravy. They can also be used in the cajun specialty, boudin (recipe to come soon). Or an elegant country terrine (also on the way).
Save all these bits! Toss them in Ziplock bags, remove all the air, label and date them, and stick them in the freezer. When you do find a great recipe that calls for one of the less mainstream deer parts, you will be ready!
My point is this. Before deer season is over, you’ll have all sorts of cool bits of venison in your freezer which will add diversity and excitement to your meal planning. So when you grab your morning cup of coffee and find some fabulous recipes from the likes of pros like Hank Shaw, Conor Bofin, and Steven Rinella or just a friend like the Deerslayer’s Wife you’ll have everything you need to try something new.