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Why Sous Vide is Perfect for the Hunting Camp

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Wanna be the favorite person at the hunting camp? Grab these few items and you’re all set to whip up some amazing meals with little effort!

Imagine….. autumn has arrived and it’s time to head out to the hunting camp. There’s so much to do! There are feeders to fill, game cameras to check, brush to cut. With all the work to be done, often supper gets “put on the back burner”. Get it? The guys will likely just heat a can of Ranch Style Beans. Ick.

This is where The Deer Slayer’s Wife can step up with something amazing and wow everyone at camp. If your hunting camp has a power hook up, you can use a sous vide cooker. It’s truly effortless. It also frees you up to help out with other chores associated with getting ready for deer season.

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Throw these things together:  any stock or soup pot at least 6 inches deep, some vacuum seal bags and a hand pump (you can actually use plain zipper bags in a pinch),  some cooking twine (in case you want to prepare a football roast).  It’s not in the picture but I ALWAYS bring my Salt-Pepper-Garlic Powder mix.  I put it on everything.

You’ll need a pot at least 6 inches deep for this particular sous vide cooker.  When it’s just going to be Deerslayer and me, I take the small 6″ pot.  If I’m going to be preparing a larger cut of meat for more people, I use a larger pot.  Ah, the freedom to choose!20180717_153943-265839914.jpg Then grab some frozen venison from the reserves you have in your freezer, a little olive oil, and maybe some fresh or dried herbs, and head for the hunting camp. You can use backstrap, tenderloin, football roast or other individual muscles from the hind quarter previously thought to be too tough to serve medium rare as a steak.

On the day you want to have the venison, take a break from the hunting chores and get things rolling mid-afternoon. See if the meat’s still frozen.  If it is, no worries!  Fill the pot with clean drinking water or distilled water within about 2-3 inches from the top of the pot.  On my sous vide cooker, there is a water level indicator that lets me know how much water I need. Next, attach the cooker to the side of the pot and plug it in.  Set the temperature at 131 degrees and let the water start heating up.

While the water’s heating, remove the frozen or semi-frozen meat from its bag, very liberally season it with salt, pepper, and garlic mix.  Place the meat in a fresh vacuum seal bag.  Add some fresh or dried herbs (maybe rosemary, thyme, oregano), some fresh garlic if you want, and a drizzle of olive oil.  You may have figured out by this point that there’s no real right or wrong way to do this part.  Then seal the bag and remove as much of the air as possible so the meat stays completely submerged in the water.  I usually attach the plastic bag to the side of the pot with a wooden clothespin.

Now, you’re ready to place the meat in the water bath.  I clip mine to the side of the pot with a clothespin.  You can set the timer for about 3 hours if the meat is frozen or 1 1/2 hours if it is thawed.  Once the water has reached 131 degrees, the timer will begin ticking away.

This is where the magic starts! Because the water is not boiling, you can go about your business until the meat is ready. If you aren’t back from your chores when the meat is done, no problem.  The water will keep it at the perfect temperature for up to a couple of hours.  After that, the texture of the meat will be affected somewhat.

Once the your venison is ready, remove it from the bag and place it on a cutting board. Pat it dry while you heat a skillet pretty hot with some butter or olive oil so you can sear your meat.  20180908_194040-1512771251.jpg

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I served this roast with horseradish sauce, some wilted spinach, onion, and bacon and also some garlic mashed potatoes.  Pretty amazing for the hunting camp.

Do some research about how to use the cooker and the wealth of wild game recipes!  There’s so much information about the Sous Vide method on the internet.  I got my first recipe from my nephew (venison football roast) and then found other recipes for wild game online.  Anova (the brand of my cooker) has LOTS of information.  Conor Bofin’s One Man’s Meat has become my go-to for sous vide information, outstanding game recipes, and witty stories.  His photography is a feast for the eyes, as well.

Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook is another great resource.  Hank is an inspiration with his wealth of recipes, foraging tidbits, and hunting stories.  He also uses the sous vide method for many of his recipes.

Hunting season is upon us!  Grab your pot full of cooking magic, do a little research, and put on your hunting camp tiara because you are gonna be the camp queen!  Oh, don’t forget a bottle of wine for your highness!

 

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Hunters, This is a Game-Changer! Sous Vide Cooking for Wild Game

I’ve never thought of myself as a trend setter. Nor have I ever been one of those people who stands in line to be the first to own the newest gadget. More of a traditionalist, I’d say. I keep my phone until is seizes up and takes its last breath. I don’t need Alexa or Siri interfering in my personal affairs. But I came across a contraption recently that has changed the way I look at wild game cookery. I think I’d stand in line for one of these.

My college-aged nephew introduced me to SOUS VIDE cooking. During a recent visit to his place, I had noticed something peculiar on the counter in his kitchen. He told me that, about 3 hours earlier, he had plopped a frozen, vacuum-sealed venison football roast into a regular pot of water with a sous-vide contraption clamped to the side of the pot. He showed me how he set the temperature and time by pressing some buttons.

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This is a football roast that I prepared.  It was not frozen when it went into the water so I set the time for 2 hours rather than 3.

(I believe incantations surely must have been chanted.) When the three hours were up, I watched, mesmerized, as he removed the meat from its hot water bath, freed it from the plastic bag, seared that puppy up for color in a smoking hot skillet and served me some of the best venison roast I have ever had (and I’ve had a lot!)

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The meat was juicy, flavorful and as tender as backstrap or tenderloin. It was wonderfully medium rare from edge to edge. I reeled!

“This Changes everything!”, I stammered.

Deerslayer agreed as he sampled the roast. The ability to season raw meat, place it in a vacuum-sealed or zip-lock bag, drop it in a pot of hottish water (not boiling) and walk away blew my mind. No stove, no crock pot. This cooking method is perfect for the 107 degree summer days in south Texas. It brings the meat just to the perfect temperature for your desired doneness (obviously medium rare) and then keeps it there until you are ready for it… without overcooking it or heating up the kitchen! The only conventional stove usage is at the very end for a beautiful sear. Done.

I’m so excited about this new method of preparing venison that I want to share my experiences. I plan to experiment with other varieties of wild game as well.  However, I will not be providing a review of my Anova  because, as I discovered, there’s plenty of information on the internet for you to check out on your own and videos available.  I’ll let you know when I find some great sous vide tips and where I find them. I hope you will follow me as I delve into these new uncharted waters.  I’ll keep you posted!

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2018 in Cooking, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Leftover Venison Shanks! Yay!

Of course it was a wonderful Christmas holiday!  The family was together and there was no shortage of food.  As a special treat for our older daughter, I prepared Hank Shaw’s Venison Shanks in Garlic Wine sauce using meat from the deer that she harvested over Thanksgiving. Since she’s moved out on her own while she works on a doctorate, it was also a training session.  It’s always beneficial to cook for yourself when you have healthy lean meat at your disposal.  But when you can get a second meal, all the better.

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I had already shared with her that she could kill two birds with one stone by doubling up on the sauce. Rather than preparing Hank’s recipe as written, it’s better to double the amount of sauce so there will be some left.  If there’s also meat left over, all the better.

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Chopped Venison Shank with Mushrooms in Garlic and White Wine over Noodles

  • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms
  • a bit of butter
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • leftover sauce
  • chopped, leftover shank meat (or cook-all-day meat, or whatever cooked meat bits you happen to have)
  • a package of egg noodles (prepared as directed)

In a cast iron skillet, melt a bit of butter and sauté mushrooms. Add a touch salt and pepper.

Add leftover sauce (it may be a bit gelatinous) to the skillet and stir in, lowering heat to a simmer until sauce is heated through.

Add any leftover meat and heat through.

Serve over egg noodles with a side of nice veggies.

 

 
 

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Hunters, Read This Before It’s Too Late!

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Okay, this isn’t actually an emergency.  But it IS one of those things that needs to be said early in the hunting season.  Read on.

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Hank Shaw, celebrated author of several outstanding wild game cookbooks and my go-to source for anything related to cooking wild game, foraging or fishing.  About a year ago, as I was leafing through my copy of Hank’s cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose (available at Amazon, walmart.com, and Barnes & Noble) I stumbled upon several recipes that really piqued my interest.  Unfortunately, the recipes required venison shanks.  It never really dawned on me that I wouldn’t have the correct cut of meat needed to prepare the feast.  I’ve always been a huge proponent of using every inch of any animal that my Deerslayer harvests.  And yet I stood in front of an open freezer looking for a key ingredient that I didn’t have.

Thus the warning!  Don’t toss those shanks away.  If you know that a delicious meal can be had, why would you?

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These are the fore and hind shanks from one animal.  They provided 2 meals.

The recipe that I decided to try was Hank’s Braised Venison Shanks with Garlic.

You can find his recipe and directions here.

The recipe calls for the shanks to be browned on all sides (except the shin side) in a container large enough to hold them.  That was tricky.  The only thing I could find large enough to accommodate the shanks was my turkey roaster.  I have to admit that it didn’t work great because it doesn’t conduct heat like cast iron but it got the job done.

Because of the width of my turkey roaster, I doubled the ingredients needed for the braising liquid.  It turned out for the best because the braising liquid is then used to make a sauce that is superb!  There was sauce left over.  You’ll want to use it on leftovers, pasta, anything.

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Everything fits and it’s ready for the lid.

 


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The meat is on a cookie sheet ready to be basted with the sauce I prepared and glazed in the oven for some more time to optimize the roasted garlic flavor.

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The masterful photographs that accompany Mr. Shaw’s recipes are beyond compare.  When I tried to serve my shanks “on the bone”, they rolled off the plate and made a mess.  I cut the meat from the bones, which didn’t make as beautiful a presentation, but saved my tablecloth… and rug and clothing.

An outstanding dish…. loved by all.

Save the leftovers.  I have another recipe for them!

 

 

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Grocery List for Three Meals at the Hunting Camp

For me, one of the most difficult things to plan for when heading out for a weekend at the hunting camp is what groceries to take.  I don’t want to take so much food that it will end up back in the cooler and brought home again.  Also, we don’t always want to grill for every meal so I figured out a way to get three meals out of one evening at the BBQ grill.

With the list of groceries that I’m going to share, you can prepare grilled chicken and vegetables, huevos rancheros, and grilled chicken tacos; one evening at the grill, three meals.  Of course some of the veggies can vary according to preference.  The veggies needed for the tacos and huevos rancheros will be indicated.

Grocery list:

  • chicken thighs (about 2 for each person plus one extra per person for the tacos)
  • one red bell pepper per person (bell pepper will also be used in the tacos)
  • 1 small onion per person, thinly sliced (can be served with the chicken, will be used in huevos rancheros and tacos)
  • 1 jalapenño per person, stem end, seeds removed (will be used in the huevos rancheros and tacos)
  • other veggie of choice to grill for dinner the first night, suggestions include, asparagus, yellow or zucchini squash (or calabaza if you can get it),  or whatever you prefer
  • olive oil or olive oil cooking spray
  • seasoned salt
  • 2 eggs per person
  • 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • Flour tortillas, the cook-yourself kind if you can find them in the refrigerated biscuit section of your grocer
  • grated cheddar cheese for tacos

Along with the items on the grocery list, pick up a stack of small aluminum pans.  They make clean up so much easier.

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Cut ends off peppers, remove seeds and inner membrane, remove stem from squash and quarter length-wise, quarter onion, coat with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with seasoned salt

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Set hot charcoal on one side.  Place aluminum pan with seasoned chicken on opposite side.

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After chicken has cooked for a while, add veggies and cook until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.

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Meal one.

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Meal two:  Take leftover onions, jalapeno pepper, and half can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Heat through. Push off to one side.  Add eggs and cook as desired.  We prefer our eggs over easy.

 

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My favorite canned tomatoes!

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Meal Three:  Chicken Tacos.   Heat up some flour tortillas.

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Chop up leftover chicken.

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Combine and heat chicken, other half of the canned tomatoes, any leftover grilled onion and jalapeno.

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Great chicken tacos

 

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TexMex Venison and/or Wild Pork Enchiladas

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It’s really hot outside.  And, yet, it’s time to start preparing for deer season.  It’s time to fill feeders and fix feeder pens.  And check on the game cameras.  It’s time to clean out coolers.

For the Deerslayer’s Wife, it’s also time to start thinking about meals that can be packaged up ahead and prepared in a jiffy but still be worthy of the hunter that made them possible.

Enchiladas are great because they can be prepared ahead, frozen, packaged, and served a few at a time depending on how many you need.

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The cookie sheet can be placed directly into the freezer for a few hours until the enchiladas are frozen through.

The trick to having fresh (not soggy) tasting enchiladas is to package up the sauce separately, heat it, and pour over the enchiladas before they are heated in the oven or on a bbq pit and served.

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Sauce can be made and poured up into smaller jars that can be taken, in a cooler, to the hunting camp.  I’ve used canning jars and larger plastic containers with screw-on lids.

I’ve taken several varieties on hunting/camping trips, Venison/Wild Pork Enchiladas with Creamy Poblano Sauce, Cheese Enchiladas with Venison Chili con Carne, and Pheasant (or Duck or Chicken) Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce.

This recipe is kind of a variation of a couple of the others.  It has all the flavor and cheesy appeal of cheese enchiladas with the extra heartiness of a meat filled enchiladas.  Everyone really enjoyed these so I thought I’d share.  I always prepare enough to serve as dinner the night I fix it and freeze the rest for an upcoming hunting/camping trip.

Enchilada Filling 

1 lb. cooked, shredded venison and/or wild pork (see all day cooking method in “Come and Take It”)

1 tsp.chili powder, comino (cumin) and salt  or to taste

enough beef stock and/or drippings from all-day-cooked meat to moisten the mixture

about 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, divided (the more the better, I always say)

a package of corn tortillas (NOT FLOUR)

Enchilada Sauce

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. flour
½ green or red bell pepper, diced, seeds removed
½ onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 10 oz. can tomatoes (with or w/o chilies to taste)
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup water

to make enchiladas

In a cast iron skillet, season shredded venison and/or wild pork with chili powder, comino, and salt to taste.  Add enough stock or drippings to moisten the meat a little.

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In a separate small skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of cooking oil. When oil is just starting to shimmer, coat one corn tortilla, one side at a time, until tortilla is soft, just a couple of seconds.

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I discovered these great rubber-tipped tongs that do not tear the corn tortillas! Priceless!

Lay corn tortilla on a flat surface.  Spread with a line of seasoned meat and cheddar cheese.

Roll enchilada and place, seam side down, in a 9×13 baking dish or on a cookie sheet,

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Continue this process until you have rolled as many enchiladas as you have meat.

If you want, set aside the number of enchiladas you want to cook for a meal right away.

Then place the rest of the enchiladas in the freezer for several hours until frozen through.

For the sauce

Melt the bacon grease in a cast iron skillet,  saute all veggies until translucent.cheese enchiladas 001

 

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until tender and cooked down to thick gravy.

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Stir periodically to prevent sticking to the pan.  Using an emersion blender or regular blender,  blend sauce until smooth.

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At this point, you can pour what you need over your enchiladas in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Pour extra sauce into jars to take on your hunting trip.

Note:

For a hunting/camping trip, preparing a meal that has as little cleanup as possible is almost always my goal.  Multi-packs of small foil pans are readily available at most grocers these days.   I have discovered that enough frozen enchiladas  (thawed) for a meal can be placed in one of these aluminum baking containers, heated sauce poured over the top, and cheese sprinkled on.  Cover and seal the pan with additional foil  and place on a bbq pit off to the side of some medium hot coals for about 20 minutes or so depending on how hot the coals are.  The pan should be turned a couple of times for even heating. Check the progress.  The enchiladas are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

 

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Axis Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Roast

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Get a bunch of hunters sittin’ around a fire and ask ’em what they think of axis deer meat.  I’m guessing  that the consensus, after a couple of contemplative sips of beer and a good deal of head-nodding, is that axis meat is top notch.  The flavor and texture are superlative. For several years, I’ve heard hunters say that they’d just as soon eat axis as any other variety of wild game, with the possible exception of elk.  I have to agree.

This is the beginning of my comparison between Axis and whitetail meat.   After a sip of beer, I’ll share my experience.

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This is a football roast from a small axis.  It is from the hindquarter. It’s larger than that of a whitetail.  Also, notice the thick layer of silverskin.  I discovered that it isn’t as tough or chewy as whitetail.  The roast has been placed on a roasting rack and placed over a small oven-proof pan to catch drippings.  I have to admit that this set-up is a little precarious and requires some coordination when it comes to placing the roast in the oven.  What can I say? I ride the ragged edge of disaster.  Use a roasting pan that is larger than the rack if you wish.  Problem solved.

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Notice the rich, mahogany color of the meat.  I cut the roast most of the way through, then filled the cavity with minced garlic and salt and pepper.

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I tied up the roast on the roasting rack.

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I covered the entire top of the roast with more minced garlic.   Yeah, it’s a lot.  A lot of fabulous!

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Take thick-sliced, maple bacon, cut each slice in half and lay across the top of the roast.  Place in a 350 degree oven.  Roast for about one hour.  

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I always throw a pan of root veggies in the oven at the same time as the roast.  I add sliced onions, carrots, potatoes, cubed sweet potatoes,  a drizzle of olive oil, plenty of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, all tossed together with my hands in a 9×13 baking dish.  Add about a cup of water or stock to the pan. This can go into the oven with the roast and will be ready at the same time!

 

 

 

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