(and preparing Pan-Fried Venison Heart)
As I read a post recently, from Andy at Tremendous Whatnot, I was reminded of the Deerslayer tradition of preparing a celebratory dinner for the lucky hunter who triumphantly brought his/her bounty back to camp. Photos are taken during all steps of the cleaning process. Yuck! With a certain amount of “tongue-in-cheek” pomp and circumstance, the deer’s heart is delivered to the cook (me) to be pan fried, served with cream gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, and some sort of veggie.
Well, usually, I’m pretty much on top of things when it comes to hunting camp prep. This time, however, I completely dropped the ball. My younger junior deerslayer produced the goods, as it were. She brought to camp the most beautiful ten-point buck ever to grace the books. Calls were made, photos were taken, and texts and e-mails were sent. For the first time ever, I didn’t have the necessary ingredients to fulfill the tradition. I was missing potatoes, garlic and cream, eggs for breading, and enough milk for gravy. I was afraid I’d be fired. So, with tail between my legs, I asked that we do the do, at home, with all the trimmings and appropriate hoopla the next day. When presented with the choice of a marginal meal, at best, or one done to a fair-thee-well at home, my junior deerslayer chose wisely. Do it up big. Do it up right. Do it up at home.
Lesson learned. I don’t know that I will ever leave the house again without potatoes, garlic, cream, milk, flour, Tommy’s Salt & Pepper mix, eggs, and cooking oil in my purse or on my person ….. just in case.
Pan-Fried Venison heart
One or Two venison hearts
Enough flour to dredge (about a cup and a half)
2 eggs, whisked in a pie plate
Cooking oil and 1/2 stick of butter, enough to make about ¼ inch in cast iron skillet
Rinse heart thoroughly. Be sure to clean out any blood clots which can sometimes be in ventricles. Trim white membrane from muscle.
Slice heart into 1/2 inch slices.
Set up a work station of eggs, whisked together in a pie plate, and flour on a paper plate.
Coat heart slices in flour, then egg, and additional flour to create a good coating. I usually use disposable plates to ease the clean-up. Even the deerslayer’s wife needs a little bit of a break! These coated slices of heart can be set aside on a cutting board, foil, or other surface. Heat cooking oil and butter in a cast iron skillet, just enough to cover the bottom. The slices of heart can then be fried in the hot oil until each side is nicely browned, about 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on how hot the oil is. Set aside on warm plate.
Oil and crispy bits from frying heart
Salt and pepper to taste
Once the steaks are ready, you can prepare the gravy by pouring out most of the oil from the skillet, leaving a couple of tbsp. and the crusty bits in the skillet. Whisk about a quarter cup of the flour that was left over from the meat preparation into the oil mixture until it is the consistency of thick paste.
Return to low heat and add enough milk and continue whisking until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add salt and pepper (or Tommy’s secret salt & pepper mix) to taste. We like lots of coarse ground pepper in our gravy!
We always accompany our chicken-fried game with garlic mashed potatoes and the aforementioned cream gravy. See below.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Medium red potatoes, skins on, one per person, plus one extra
2 cloves of garlic per potato
1/2 stick butter
half and half, about 1/2 cup
salt & pepper
Scrub potatoes. Cube and place in a pot of boiling water. Peel garlic cloves, place in water. Boil until potatoes are fork tender. Pour off water, add butter and mash.
Add half & half until your preference for glorious garlic mashed potato consistency is achieved. Season to taste. Enjoy.
*Tommy was Deerslayer’s dad, head of the clan, if you will. He was an amazing man. Any number of blog posts could be dedicated to examples of his generosity, kindness, daring exploits, child-rearing philosophy (he raised eight), strong faith, and brutal frankness. Deerslayer is the man that he is because of Tommy. For that I am very grateful…. most of the time. He also was an extraordinary cook and grill-master. Here is a simple recipe that we got from Tommy. I use it on just about everything I cook except cake and ice cream.
Tommy’s Salt & Pepper Mix
2 parts kosher salt
2 parts garlic powder
1 part black pepper
Pour ingredients into a jar. Shake until well blended. Pour into a shaker. Use freely on EVERYTHING!