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Not Always the Cat’s Meow (Venison Marsala)

Not Always the Cat’s Meow (Venison Marsala)

Like every other deerslayer’s wife on the planet, as hunting season winds down, I come to the realization that, as much as I embrace my vocation, being the wife of a deer slayer isn’t always all that great.  Don’t get me wrong!   There’s no title I’d rather hold, except perhaps “Empress of Deerslaying”.  However, when the time comes to clean out the camper, wash the camo for the last time, and clean the coolers, I find myself starting to dwell on the negative.

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  I generally start feeling sorry for myself as I begin the cleaning and packing ritual that signifies the end of the season. I may even become, dare I say, cranky.  My sense of humor is lacking.

“How many times have I told you to get the pig tusks off the kitchen counter?  What are they doing in the dishwasher?”

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“Can I have my roasting pan back now?”

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It’s important to keep in mind that Deerslayers’ wives encounter situations unique to the title.  For example, I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I returned home to discover a box from UPS on my front door step.  I always get pretty excited about deliveries.

This time, however, much to my horror, I discovered that the package had been ordered by my Deerslayer.  It seems that we had become the proud new owners of a “buck boiler”, a contraption used to aid in the creation of a DIY variety of European mount.  For the novice deerslayer’s wife, a European mount is not a Kama Sutra position, but a trophy that hangs from the wall and includes only the bleached skull and antlers of a trophy buck, usually mounted on a polished medallion of wood.  With that background information, it’s no wonder that I reeled at the sight of the “buck boiler”.   I understood the implications immediately.  Boiling a buck’s head until no meat remains brings up the immediate questions, “Where is this going to be done?” and “How bad will it smell?” and “Should I throw in some carrots, onions, and celery?”

Now, this is where a deerslayer’s wife differs from the norm:  I was grateful, at this point, that one of the deer heads currently wrapped in a garbage bag and duct tape and occupying my extra refrigerator would find a new home.  Just as a side note, we DID ask an unsuspecting guest to go get a beverage out of the above mentioned fridge during a recent visit just to see his reaction.

Outside.  The boiling would take place outside.  Good.  Out of sight, out of mind.  My deerslayer promised me that the process would not upset my normal routine of homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and the like… except that the junior deerslayers and I needed to keep constant watch to ensure that the water level of the electrically charged and vibrating bucket did not drop below the antler line of the deceased.  It vibrated away all day, and all night.  The neighborhood cats came to watch the proceedings.   The entire process wasn’t as thorough as I had hoped, however.  I envisioned pulling a beautifully bleached trophy from the foamy mire ready to display proudly.  Not!  Without going into too much grizzly detail, suffice it to say that there was more “internal cleaning” that had to be done.  This required the use of my roasting pan and lots and lots of hydrogen peroxide… in my kitchen… on my counter! Continued soaking, bubbling, and bleaching in the sun resulted in a trophy that even a deerslayer’s wife would be proud to display.

Such is the life of the deerslayer and his family!  On the upside, we have three freezers full of fabulous meat that will provide us with wonderful, healthy recipes such as the following:

Venison Marsala

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1 lb. pounded venison steaks

Tommy’s Salt & Pepper mix*

A couple scoops of flour on a paper plate for dredging steaks

4 tbsp. butter

¼ cup olive oil

10 oz. baby Portobello mushrooms (crimini)

½ cup Marsala

½ cup beef stock

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 package fettuccini or linguini

Finely chopped chives or garlic chives

Pound out venison steaks and season with salt & pepper mix*.  I always place my steaks in a zip bag and pound them out on a cutting board placed on a kitchen towel.  They seem to keep their shape better and the process is less messy. The kitchen towel provides a buffer between the cutting board and counter top.   Dredge with flour and set aside.

Begin boiling water for pasta. Follow package directions for pasta.  It should be ready about the same time as the sauce.

Preheat large cast iron skillet with olive oil on the stovetop.  On medium high heat, brown steaks.  Set aside in an ovenproof pan.  Place in warm oven, about 200 degrees.

In same cast iron skillet, sauté mushrooms in butter, scraping up crusty bits.  Combine Marsala and stock in a measuring cup.  Add to mushrooms in hot skillet, reserving about ½ cup.  Combine reserved mixture with cornstarch.  I usually pour my cool liquid and cornstarch into a jar, secure the lid, and shake until combined.  Add to mushrooms and liquid, turn heat to medium and stir constantly until thickened.  Return steaks to sauce mixture.

Pour pasta onto large platter.  Place steaks on pasta.  Pour sauce over.  Sprinkle with chives or garlic chives.  Serve.

*Find recipe in “Game Birds Interrupted”

 

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