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Category Archives: hunting in South Texas

Christmas Decor for the Discerning Deerslayer

I think it’s safe to say, readers, that being a Deerslayer household means that life is a little bit different from ordinary households.  It permeates every nook and cranny of your existence. This seems most glaring  during the Christmas season.

While other families are wearing matching sweaters and caroling, we’re loading the truck for a weekend of hunting.  Christmas parties give way to camping, sitting by a fire, sharing stories, looking at the stars, and listening to the coyotes.

I have to admit that I cannot blame Deerslayer for the timing. Granted, the coolers and camo and other paraphernalia strewn about the house during this time of year do add a certain  unique ambience that is unmistakable. Christmas DOES fall during hunting season in South Texas, after all.

This tray holds sheds that we’ve collected over the years as well as ornaments that were on my Christmas tree when I was a child and some fresh and festive clementines.

It can be pretty hard to prepare for Christmas while we’re in the midst of hunting season. This is when being a Deerslayer’s wife gets complicated.  There are gifts that need to be bought and wrapped, a tree that needs to be thoughtfully chosen and decorated, cards for teachers and helpers that need to be written out, tamales that need to be made. You get the idea.

Grab the wine.  Take a deep breath. Perhaps block a few phone numbers like the homeroom mom’s or committee member’s.  Do the stuff that you must, delegate out some of the other chores.  Focus on what makes your family happy.  Remember the reason for the season.

Over the years, I’ve not only come to terms with the fact that my house will never be  like one of those on the magazine covers, but I’ve actually begun to embrace the lifestyle of a hunter and his natural habitat. It may be cluttered and stacked to the ceiling with coolers, camo, guns,  and ammo but it’s part of who we are and I’ve grown to love it.

The basket with candles, sheds, and old ornaments is casual and easy to throw together (like our lifestyle).

The house smells like wonderful things to eat (thanks to Junior Deerslayer) during this holiday season and is full of things that remind us of memories that we cherish.   It doesn’t get any better than that.  Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

 

 

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Dove Ravioli in Browned Butter

dsc_0230Well, friends, I’ve really dropped the ball this time.  The opening of whitewing season has come and gone in South Texas and I didn’t post any acknowledgement whatsoever. Not a recipe, a “let’s get ready”, or a “good luck hunters”. Sometimes things get kinda hectic and life just gets ahead of you.  Sometimes it turns around and laughs while you try to catch up.

I can only hope that you checked out some of my previous posts; A Thing or Two About Game Birds, It’s Here! Whitewing Season!, Roasted Corn and Poblano Soup with Whitewing Dove Breast, and Chilaquiles with Whitewing Breast.

The funny thing is that  Deerslayer went on a dove-hunting trip in Argentina a while ago and brought back a recipe that he was served one evening after the hunt.  He liked it enough to ask the chef for the recipe so that I could prepare it for him at home.  Here it is.

Dove Ravioli

makes about 25 ravioli

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    • a big splash of olive oil
    • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves,coarsely chopped
    • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
    •  dove breasts (from 10 doves)
    • 1 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • ¼ to ½ cup dry white wine ( a glug)
    • ½ cup parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
    • a package wonton wrappers, usually found in the produce section
    • 1 egg, beaten
    •  some pine nuts
    • Italian parsley, chopped

In a hot skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until almost caramelized. Reduce heat.

poblano soup, tomato cream sauce, bruni 008

Add in garlic, red bell pepper (optional), dove breasts, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and a ¼ cup of white wine. You may need to add some more  wine during the food processing to get the correct consistency.

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20 breast filets from 10 doves

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Toss about until combined and dove breasts are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.

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The dove breasts are not quite done yet.

You can cut into the dove breast to test for doneness. Remove from heat.

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The breasts are done!

Allow the ingredients to cool before you add the parmesan or it will melt and create a large glob.  You don’t want that.

Transfer mixture to your food processor, in batches if you have a food processorette like I do, and process until everything is finely chopped and holds together. This is when you can add more white wine if the mixture is too dry to hold together.

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Next, separate and lay out the wonton wrappers.

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Wonton wrappers are pre-rolled, pre-cut sheets of pasta used for, you guessed it, wontons.  All the work has been done for you.  They make this recipe so much more feasible for the busy hunter and family. Wonton wrappers are readily available in most grocers in the produce section.

Place about 2 tsp. of the dove mixture into the center of each pasta square.

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Paint a scant amount of the beaten egg around each ravioli to “glue” the two pasta squares together.  Carefully press the squares together, being careful to press as much air as possible out of the center.

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Bring about a gallon of water to a rapid boil in a large pot.  Add some salt and a glug of olive oil.

Add the ravioli, a few at a time to the pot.  They will sink at first, then will rise to the top. This will only take a minute or two.

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You may remove them to a plate with a slotted spoon or a spider, like the one pictured.

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In a separate pan over medium heat place the butter until it just starts to brown.

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Toss in a few ravioli until coated and slightly browned around the edges. Remove to a plate. Drizzle browned butter over the plate of ravioli.  Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley, remaining parmesan, and pine nuts.

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Cheaters’ Wild Pork Ribs

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There are days when just getting out of bed seems like a major achievement.  As I stagger to the kitchen whimpering for a cup of coffee,  a pile of bills waits for me on the table.  I wade through waist-deep laundry to get to the the freezer room (yes, we have a freezer room! My husband is the Deerslayer, remember.) to decide what to fix for dinner.  I stare, bleary-eyed, at the contents,  waiting for something to jump out at me, something so easy to prepare that I can whip it up in no time and still come out looking like a Homemaker Extraordinaire.   Do you have days like that, too?

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon something that fills the bill, if you will.  A couple of years ago, Deerslayer had a great year hunting wild pigs.  There was plenty of very welcome wild pork to fill our freezers.  We ground a whole bunch of it, and had several roasts and tenderloins.  I was a happy camper.  Deerslayer asked if he should keep the ribs.  Keep in mind that wild pork ribs aren’t the same size as the ones you get at the market, much smaller.  But, what the hell, said I!  So we packaged up quite a mess of ribs, as well.

I’d been wondering for a while if I could cook the ribs in the oven like I did in my post from March 22, 2013, freeze them, label them, and toss them on the pit just long enough to impart the smoky goodness at the last minute. I decided to give it a shot.

I seasoned the pork ribs very liberally with Tommy’s Salt & Pepper mix, tossed them in my covered roasting pan with a can of Dr. Pepper poured over, and braised them for approximately a couple of hours at 350 degrees, turning occasionally, until the meat just about fell off the bone.

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I was able to pull the bones right out of the ribs.  The slabs stayed intact, however. Sorry for the bad lighting.  The meat wasn’t quite that grey.

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Then I packaged up the fully-cooked meat, labeled it, and tossed it in the freezer.

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When I was ready for a speedy, great dinner, I thawed out the meat, started some charcoal in the BBQ pit and worked on my side dishes (red bell peppers to grill, some garlic to roast, and some cole slaw).

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I put the ribs on the grill just long enough to heat them through, and slathered them with my favorite BBQ sauce.  I tossed some red bell peppers on as well after I removed the seeds, opened up the peppers to lie flat, rubbed them with olive oil, and added some Salt & Pepper mix .

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Meanwhile, back in the kitchen,  I took a slew of garlic cloves (pre-peeled from Sam’s Club), tossed ’em in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil, and allowed them to roast until lightly browned and soft. Pretty damned tasty!  Most of them were eaten right out of the skillet before I could even get a picture!

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New Year, New Outlook!

It’s New Year’s Day, rainy, and cold.  Deerslayer has to work so I’m able to snuggle up, reflect, and plan for the future.  It’s the time of year when everyone resolves to be a better, healthier, more exercise-conscious, Zen-like person.  I’m old enough to realize that it’s a waste of time and energy.  It’s a recipe for disappointment.

My resolutions are leaning more toward doing more things that I love.  I will drink more hot chocolate and wine (not together necessarily), never pass up a worthy dessert, be a little bolder in my cooking, delve into the art of charcuterie (curing meats), blog more often, and enjoy my family more.

It’s going to be a great year!  Enjoy it with me.

 

 

 

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers

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The other day, a wine-induced conversation ensued in the Deerslayer household regarding the best of all culinary goodness . Is pasta better than pizza?  Is seared venison tenderloin superior to chicken-fried venison steak? In our family, I have to admit that pasta, cheese, bread, and garlic topped the list since junior deerslayers were voting as well (only one is old enough to partake in the wine, however). Of course, because we are a deerslayer household, wild game made it into the top 10.

One of the daughters makes a killer spicy marinara that is a favorite addition to pasta and wild game alike. With that in mind, a little brainstorming resulted in the following recipe. Beautifully seasoned venison, sliced mozzarella, fabulously flavorful marinara, crusty ciabatta, and peppery arugula came together to create the perfect combination of flavors, the consummate burger.

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers

(1 lb. of ground meat makes about 3 burgers)

The Sauce

Balsamic glaze is a good way to add intense flavor without adding too much liquid. Balsamic vinegar can be used but you might need to simmer for a few extra minutes.

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1  28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

¼ red wine

a blop of balsamic glaze (about a tbsp) (I used balsamic glaze because that’s what I had.  Balsamic vinegar will be fine, too)

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a high-sided cast iron skillet, saute′ finely chopped onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Add cayenne, white pepper, and oregano.  Stir around to let the olive oil work its magic on the spices.  Add garlic and continue to stir for about a minute.  Don’t let the garlic brown.

Add tomatoes, wine, balsamic glaze or vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer while you assemble the burgers.

The Burger

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1 lb. ground venison (or elk, nilgai, or wild pork)

2 tbsp. chopped garlic

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 egg

1 tsp.dried oregano, crushed in your palms

fresh mozzarella, sliced, brought to room temperature

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Combine all ingredients expect mozzarella in a bowl.

Each burger will require two very thin patties of the same size. Place mozzarella on one patty. Leave room around the edge to seal shut.

Making the meat patties on plastic wrap allows me to shape and move them around easily.

Place one meat patty atop the other.

Press around the edges to seal the mozzarella inside.

The cooking method you use to prepare the meat is up to you. The burgers can be grilled or cooked in a hot skillet or griddle.  Because the meat is so lean, be sure to use a little oil to prevent the patties from sticking to the cooking surface.  I used a hot cast iron skillet, being sure to allow meat to sear, then lowering the heat enough to make sure that they heat through and melt the cheese.

Assembling the Burgers

Ciabatta Rolls

Olive oil

Cooked Meat Patties

Spicy Marinara

Arugula

Thinly sliced red onion (optional)

Drizzle olive oil on split ciabatta rolls. Toast under the broiler or on the grill for a few minutes.

Assemble burgers on a bed of arugula placed atop the toasted ciabatta. Liberally spread spicy marinara over the meat. top with thinly sliced onion, if desired.

 

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Whitewing Season and Chocolate Cake

DSC_0134You may be wondering what whitewing season has to do with chocolate cake.  If you bear with me for a few minutes, not only will the connection become clear, but you’ll end up with a fabulous chocolate cake recipe as well.

Preparations had begun for the first big whitewing dove hunt of the season. Members of the Deerslayer (hopefully whitewing slayer) Clan would soon be converging on the southernmost part of Texas where the hunt would take place. All the accouterments necessary for the big weekend began to pile up in the front hallway; Yeti coolers, folding chairs, shotguns, gun cases, boxes of shells, shooting vests, all varieties of khaki and camo attire, boots and muck boots, plenty of thirst-quenching beverages, shears.  The pile grew and grew.  I could no longer get to the laundry room.

As the pile began to encroach on the surrounding environs, the Deerslayer’s wife developed an ever-so-slight twitch. The twitch was accompanied by a bout of crankiness. Don’t get me wrong, my mantra is “Go with the flow, embrace the moment.”  However, I also like a tidy house.  I’m guessing that the extensive paraphernalia that is part and parcel with the hunting way of life might be one aspect that makes a deerslayer’s wife wince. However, it’s important to remember that the planning and preparation are part of the thrill of it all. It was time for me to step back, take a deep breath, regroup…. and bake a nice chocolate cake for the hunters to take with them. A small, thoughtful gesture like that can bring a tear of gratitude to any hunter’s eye.  And it provided me with a creative outlet on which to refocus my energies.

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I discovered a great recipe on the King Arthur Flour website a few weeks ago when I was scouring the internet for a chocolate birthday cake for one of the Junior Deerslayers. Cake Pan Cake was just what I was looking for.  While I love to cook all sorts of wild game, baking has never been my forte.  This recipe is just what I needed; rich, moist, chocolaty, and EASY!  This fabulous cake was well received  It even has a backstory; hearkening back to WWII and the days of rationing.  The original recipe has no dairy or eggs and is supposed to be mixed together in the baking pan. Check out the website for the original recipe and its history.

I adapted the original recipe a bit and the results were delicious.

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My dry ingredients. Black cocoa powder and espresso powder were ordered from King Arthur website.

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My liquid ingredients. I used half & half in place of water. The bottle on the far right is vanilla and not beer!

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar, cider or white
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold half & half
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Everything is better with a layer of raspberry jam. The prepared frosting worked perfectly well. And almonds (or pecans or whatever)…..

  • 1 jar of raspberry jam (between the layers)
  • dark chocolate prepared frosting
  • sliced toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used two 9″ round pans and sprayed them with baking spray with flour.

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Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir around with a fork until mixed.

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In a two cup measure, combine all liquid ingredients. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

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Divide mixture equally into two round pans. It will barely cover the bottom of the pans.

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Bake for approximately 20 minutes (less than the time listed on the original recipe since I divided the batter into two pans).

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Check for doneness around 20 minutes.  All ovens differ.  Remove pans from oven and cool on a rack.When cool, smear as much raspberry jam as your heart desires atop one of the layers. Place the top layer where it goes (on top). Frost the cake, lick the spatula. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Eat some. Sneak some more frosting. Enjoy.

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This post is dedicated to my favorite chocoholic fiends: Junior Deerslayer and Kelly!

 

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What Makes a Mother Proud (A Hunting Mindset)

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My baby made these shots from 100 yards with her Browning Micro Medallion .308.

There are so many things that make moms proud of their little ones.  It starts with ultrasound pictures before the little guys are even born.  Then come all the “firsts”; first solid food, first steps, first words, first successful potty visit.  As time goes by, first scrawled pictures, first book read, first awards in school take the place of previous achievements.

The household of a deerslayer family takes this a step further.  First rifle, first buck, first pig, first field dressing are held in high esteem among members of the family and extended family.  Even I, as a former educator, have to admit that I was very pleased when my two junior deerslayers each harvested a doe this year. We’ve had plenty of trophies over the years but the tender, delicious meat from a whitetail doe can’t be beat in my book  The elder junior deerslayer skinned and gutted hers with minimal assistance and the younger watched carefully and learned as Dad proceeded to field dress hers.

trashcan turkey, pheasant phantazmagoria 039In the Deerslayer clan, being a National Merit Scholarship winner and valedictorian paled in comparison to getting one’s first buck. Early on, I was stymied by the mindset. As I’ve adopted the hunting ways, and grown in years and wisdom, I think I finally understand. Academic knowledge is wonderful and opens many doors in life. In the grand scheme of things, though, being able to sit around a campfire with family and friends, building and nurturing those relationships that will truly be lifelong, while providing healthy, lean, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat for one’s family is truly something to be proud of.

 

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