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Backstrap Scraps with Mushroom and Onion Gravy

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Every hunter knows that the backstrap is one of the most prized cuts of meat from a deer hunting harvest.  Seared or fried up into steaks, it just doesn’t get any better.   However, up near the neck of the deer, there’s some meat that is technically still backstrap but doesn’t lend itself to the traditional applications.  The meat is just as tender and succulent as the delicious lower portion, it’s just ummm… scrappy and shouldn’t be wasted.

Recently, I grabbed some meat from the freezer that had been appropriately labeled “axis backstrap neck meat”. It was indeed pretty scrappy.dsc_0282

I cleaned it up, removing the fascia or silver skin from the meat.  Then I cut it into chunks.

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Notice the pile of tissue that I removed from the meat.  DON’T THROW IT AWAY!  Bag it up, put it in the freezer and save it to use for stock or toss it in with your cook-all-day meat.

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I liberally seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I sprinkled flour over the whole mess and tossed to coat.

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I browned it on all sides in a hot skillet with melted butter just for a couple of minutes so that meat stayed medium rare.

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Then I removed the meat to a plate and set it in warm oven.

I sauted an onion, thinly sliced, in the same skillet with a little more butter until browned and softened, almost caramelized.  I added mushrooms and stirred until the mushrooms were also browned.  I set those aside in a bowl so I could make the gravy.

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I melted a quarter cup of butter in the skillet. I added two tablespoons of flour and stirred until smooth scraping up all the tasty, browned bits to make a roux. I whisked in a cup of stock, a quarter cup of red wine, and about a quarter cup of Worcestershire (more or less to taste), stirring constantly. I heated it on low/medium heat just until slightly thickened. I added the mushrooms and onions back into the sauce and mixed until combined.  DSC_0289

I served the gravy over the backstrap scraps and some lovely garlic mashed potatoes.

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Ingredients:

  • about 2 lbs. of scrappy backstrap neck meat, chunked
  • liberal amount of salt and pepper mix
  • enough flour to coat meat chunks
  • 2-3 tbsp. butter, another 2-3 tbsp. butter, about a quarter cup of butter (Alright, about a stick of butter, divided)
  • a medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • about 2 tbsp. flour for the gravy
  • 1 cup dark stock (beef or venison)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • about ¼ cup  Worcestershire sauce

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Axis, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Corned Nilgai

DSC_0311I was so excited when I read Hank Shaw’s post on Corned Venison!  I’m a huge fan of corned beef and a big fan of Hank Shaw, as well.  There are few things better than a corned beef sandwich on rye bread (except perhaps corned venison or corned nilgai) served up like a reuben with saurkraut and beer mustard.

Hank did a very thorough (and beautifully photographed) job of describing the process of making corned venison so I didn’t bother putting my own spin on it except that, this most recent time, I used half of a nilgai roast instead of venison and I threw in a deer heart just to see  how it would turn out. (Really well!)  I’ve prepared the recipe three times now.  The first two times, I used venison football roasts. The recipe turned out great.  Flavorful and tender.

The Instacure I ordered from Amazon Prime.  I followed Hank’s directions to a “t” except that I used brown sugar rather than white for the brine.  I just like brown sugar better as a general rule.  My biggest challenge came when I was looking for a container to place my meat in while it brined.  I settled on a plastic cylindrical container that 4 lbs. of potato salad came in. It sealed nicely and was just the right size for a 1/2 nilgai roast plus a deer heart (just cuz) and could be slid into the back of the fridge.  The same container (after it was thoroughly cleaned) was perfect for storing the cooked meat which needs to be kept in the cooking liquid so it doesn’t dry out.

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Nilgai is pretty dense, sinewy meat so I punctured it pretty liberally so that the brine could penetrate all the way through.  For the heart, I just cut off about the top ½ inch, rinsed it out well and tossed it into the brine with the other meat.

Our favorite way to eat the corned meat is on a sandwich which has been toasted, panini-style, with my George Foreman Grill. I find the best rye bread that is available in the Rio Grande Valley, slather it with beer mustard, a slice of swiss cheese, and some saurkraut.  I spray the outside of the sandwich with olive oil cooking spray and grill it on the ol’ George Foreman.  The same effect could be accomplished with an actual panini press or in a cast iron skillet.  The result is crisply toasted bread, melty cheese, and fabulous corned meat that I prepared myself for my Deerslayer Clan!

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Promise me that you’ll try it!

 
 

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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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Goat Cheese-Filled Venison Meatballs

borsht and meatballs 075  One day, after a couple glasses of wine, I decided that I wanted to come up with a recipe that combined my favorite flavors into a single Deerslayer-worthy dish.  Pasta with a delicious sauce full of bright, fresh flavor, and venison meatballs.  Not just plain ol’ venison meatballs, though. Something spectacular, with a surprising burst of flavor!   Sounds almost scary, don’t it?  I was drinking, don’t forget!  In a sudden brainstorm, it occured to me that goat cheese would make a perfect filling.  Yup.  I pulled ingredients from all over the kitchen, raced to the freezer for ground venison, and snipped herbs from the garden.

The results were pleasing, worth sharing.  Worth preparing again… and again.  Just typing it up makes my mouth water. I hope you like it, too.

Easy-Peasy Sauce

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a splash of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

28 oz. of crushed tomatoes

some fresh or dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

a few sprigs of fresh basil

Because the meatballs are the star of this show, I wanted the sauce to be simple with a clean taste.

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In a cast iron skillet, saute garlic in some olive oil. Add tomatoes and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add basil at the end as a garnish.

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Simmer while you work on the meatballs.

Meatballs

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1 lb. ground venison (or venison and pork, or nilgai,…you get it.)

1 cup of bread crumbs, divided

1 egg

½ onion, super-finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely diced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. black pepper

about 8 oz. plain or herbed goat cheese (not crumbly)

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In a large bowl, thoroughly mix venison, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, and remaining ingredients except goat cheese.

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Use a teaspoon or cute scoopy thing to make small spherical shapes from the goat cheese. Or balls, if you must.

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A small amount of olive oil rubbed on your hands will allow you to rather easily roll the goat cheese into cute little balls.

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Go ahead and make up several so that you don’t have to mess with it later.

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Now you’re ready to begin making the meatballs.

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Take a small amount of the meatball mixture, about the size of a lemon, and flatten it into the palm of your hand. Place a ball of goat cheese into the center so that the meat can be brought around to completely cover the cheese.

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Continue until all the meat mixture has been used up. Pour remaining 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs into a small dish.

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Roll each meatball around in the breadcrumb mixture to cover.

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Place enough olive oil into a deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven to cover the bottom of the skillet. Heat to medium high heat. Add meatballs, a few at a time, to the skillet and brown on all sides. Remove to another plate until all meatballs have been browned.

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Very carefully, so as not to break them open, roll the meatballs around until all sides are browned.

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To the original deep-sided skillet or dutch oven full of sauce, add as many meatballs as will fit. Leftover meatballs can be frozen for later use. Using a spoon, cover meatballs with sauce. Water, tomato sauce or broth can be added to produce extra volume.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

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Serve over the pasta of your choice with some fresh basil. Hope you love it. Let me know.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Venison Pierogi

pierogi 034Delicious little pasta pillows filled with spiced meaty goodness.  It’s the best description I can think of for the Polish dish called pierogi.  Little Polish ravioli!  There are several traditional recipes that include fillings like saurkraut or potato/garlic.  Both are out of this world.  However, the magic comes from the pasta that is made perfect with the addition of sour cream, rolled incredibly thin, enveloping a flavorful filling.  For the sake of my readers, I’ve used some traditional Polish spices with some ground venison to create my own version of this traditional favorite.

Venison Filling

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I neglected to include the ground venison in the photo. You’ll have to use your imagination.

  • 2 tsp. toasted caraway seeds
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 lb. ground venison/nilgai
  • 1-2 tbsp. flour

Toast caraway seeds in a cast iron skillet.

Melt butter in the skillet.  Saute onion. Add caraway seeds and remaining seasonings and spices, except venison and flour.

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Stir until onions are transluscent. Add meat and cook until meat is browned and flavors are incorporated. Because venison (or nilgai) is being used, there will be no rendered fat to pour off, just lots of water.

Turn down heat and allow most of the liquid to evaporate.  (Pouring off the extra liquid will waste a lot of the flavor.)

Sprinkle flour over the meat and mix in.

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Dough

  • 3 egg
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 3 cups flour (plus more to add if too sticky)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder

Combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer.

Mix until dough forms.

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Flatten dough into a large disk. Cut into strips that can be rolled by hand or run through the pasta maker. To roll the dough out thin enough, I used my pasta maker.  It produced a uniform thickness that worked really well with the round cutter.

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The sour cream makes the dough very sticky. Keep it well floured as you work.

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There are lovely, expensive cutters available on the market. This canning lid works really well, though.

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Use a scant tbsp. of filling in each circle.

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Brush water around the edges of the circle so that the pasta will adhere to itself. You may notice that the filling in this photo is potato rather than meat. Ooops.

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Fold the edges over and press together.

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Use a fork to seal the edges (and make the pierogi pretty)!

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Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Be sure to add at least 2 tbsp. of salt.

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Add pierogi, a few at a time, to the boiling water with a spider or slotted spoon. Once they begin to float for a couple of minutes, they are ready to take out and enjoy.

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9 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Nilgai, Recipes, Side Dishes, Venison

 

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Cheese Enchiladas with Nilgai (or Venison) Chili Con Carne

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Let it be known, here and now, that the Deerslayer’s wife loves Tex-Mex food.  I always have and I always will. The evolution of the mix of traditional Mexican cuisine with what was available in Texas in the early days of our great state resulted in nothing short of heaven. The many variations of this particular style of cooking are as limitless as the families who have passed the recipes down and the regions from which they came.  I’ve adapted many of my favorites to work with the wild game that fills my freezer.  Thus far, I’ve shared wild game recipes for faux barbacoapicadillo, carne guisada, venison and wild pork enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce, beans with wild pork shank, and others.

cheese enchiladas 003My all-time favorite Tex-Mex recipe has to be cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, though.  The melted cheese, and, ohhhh, the chili con carne.  The rich flavor of comino (cumin) in a spicy gravy combined with carne (meat, in this case, ground) poured over sharp cheddar cheese wrapped in corn tortillas has to be what St. Peter will have waiting for me in heaven!

While I appreciate a shortcut as much as the next person, I draw the line at canned enchilada sauce.  I can always tell when it’s used at a restaurant and I promptly scratch the offending restaurant from my list of haunts.  For several years, I’d thought about adapting my carne guisada recipe to use over cheese enchiladas.  Last week I tried it and it was a huge hit, a new addition to the Deerslayer clan list of favorites.

Cheese Enchiladas with Venison or Nilgai Chili Con Carne

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

2-3 Tbsp. bacon grease (Most venison recipes require the addition of some extra grease or fat since the meat is so lean and, let’s face it, everything tastes better with bacon!)

1/2 large bell pepper, diced

1/2  onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. flour

2 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (with or w/o chilies, like Rotel,  to taste)

2 tsp. garlic salt

½ to 1 cup water

 In a cast iron skillet, brown ground meat.  There won’t be any fat to drain off if you use venison or nilgai.  Remove browned meat from skillet.

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 Heat bacon grease in same skillet.  Saute’ onion and bell pepper in bacon drippings.  Add garlic and stir around for a minute or two.

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  Sprinkle flour over sauteed veggies and incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes, covered.

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  With an immersion blender, create a relatively smooth sauce.

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 Add ground meat back into the skillet and simmer for an additional few minutes.

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To make the cheese enchiladas:

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I like to keep it simple!

In a skillet, heat enough corn or vegetable oil to cover the bottom about ¼ inch.  You can tell the oil is hot enough when you see small ripples on the surface.  Using tongs, lightly dip a corn tortilla in the oil until soft enough to roll.  Dipping the tortillas in oil keeps them soft through the baking.

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I found these rubber-tipped tongs that don’t tear up the tortillas.

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Sprinkle a nice thick line of sharp cheddar cheese of your choice down the center of the softened tortilla.

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Roll enchiladas and arrange in a 9×13 oven-safe pan.

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Arrange, seam-side-down, to fill the pan. The great thing about this recipe is that you can prepare as many or as few enchiladas as you need. At this stage, you place additional enchiladas in the freezer, in zip bags.  Pour chili con carne over enchiladas to cover and sprinkle with extra cheese.

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until cheese melts and chili bubbles. Add to your favorite recipes!

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Nilgai, Recipes, Uncategorized, Venison

 

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Venison and Barley Soup

vail, rabbit, venison and barley soup, 9-13-13 098Okay, it isn’t officially autumn yet.  It sure as hell doesn’t feel like it here in the Rio Grande Valley,  But Fall is my favorite time of year, dammit, and I will be attaching a wreath to the door that signifies my love of the season.  I will be purchasing pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and colors to adorn my home and I will be drawing from my collection of pumpkin recipes that will fill my home with the heady aromas that ARE autumn.

I’ve already begun my regular autumn soup regimen.  I began by scouring the freezers for “Cook-all-Day” venison and pork.  These are the scraps of neck meat and sinewy forequarter bits that we didn’t grind.  When cooked all day, these “cuts” of meat are perfect for soups, stews, enchiladas, etc.  I always cook up about 10+ pounds at a time.  This cooked meat becomes so tender, it will shred easily and can be packaged up in one-pound amounts and frozen to be used in countless recipes. The broth and meat juices are a delicious addition to any soup.

I recently experimented with an old favorite, venison soup.  I wanted to make it just a little heartier.  I’d never cooked with barley before and was eager to try it.  It was a huge success.  Deerslayer loved it and asked for seconds and thirds.  Junior Deerslayer loved it, too.  So, here it is!   Prepare to be loved and appreciated!

Venison and Barley Soup

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1 chopped onion

olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried thyme

64 oz. beef stock

1 cup dried barley

1 pound cook-all-day venison and/or pork*

plenty of the gelatinous goodness (at least a cup taken from the roasting pan)

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1 cup frozen peas

corn cut from one ear (or about 2/3 cup canned)

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In a large soup pot, saute’ chopped onion in olive  oil.  When onion is transparent, add carrots, celery, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add stock.  Bring  to a boil.  Add barley and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add meat, peas, and corn.  Simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.  Serve with herbed mozzarella toast.

* See “Come and Take It

Herbed Mozzarella Toast

one baguette

several small mozzarella balls in herbed olive oil

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Cut baguette into several ovals.  Drain mozzarella balls and cut in half.  Arrange several on each baguette slice, about 3 depending on the size of the baguette.  Place baguette slices with cheese on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until toasted and bubbly.  Serve with Venison Barley Soup.

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1 Comment

Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Hunting, Recipes, Side Dishes, Venison, Wild Pork

 

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