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Faux-so Buco

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This picture was staged as a single serving.  Far from it! It served two with extra for leftovers.  The single glass of wine, not so much.

I’m always looking for new wild game recipes and methods for cooking the meat that fills my freezers, particularly at this time of year when I’m trying to finish up last year’s harvest. Sometimes I stumble upon a fabulous recipe that’s just exactly what I’m looking for, just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.  More often than not, though, I have to adapt a promising recipe to fit my needs, skill set, grocery list, and/or level of motivation and/or stamina.  I’m guessing that most of you do the same thing.  That’s why you’re reading this post. 

Most recently, I’ve been enamored of the sous vide cooking method because of the way it can be used for preparing all cuts of venison, elk, and nilgai from tender pieces that require a precise 131 degrees fahrenheit for a perfectly medium rare presentation to tougher cuts that must be cooked for a long time to allow the tough sinew to break down into  tender, gelatinous, USABLE meat.

I came across a number of recipes for tougher cuts that required 24-48 hour cooking times using the immersion method (sous vide) but I was reluctant to try them.  I have to admit that I was skeptical.  Would the longer cooking time actually be a time saver if I had to check in on it periodically?  Would it produce the “fall off the bone” result that I was looking for?

I relied on David Draper’s  Venison Osso Buco for guidance regarding the 24 hour sous vide cook time, adapted it to suit my level of expertise (none) and difficulty.  The recipe called for shanks, cross-cut into one-inch sections (the picture looked like 2-3 inch chunks, but never mind that).  I had lots of shanks in the freezer.  However, I wanted a recipe that allowed me to use whole shanks without having to cut them into rounds. So, technically, what I intended to make wasn’t osso buco since “osso buco” translates to “bone with a hole” or marrow bone which is acquired by the cross-cut shank.  In an attempt to make the recipe a bit easier to put together, I wanted to see if it would work with whole shanks.  A single shank with sauce on a bed of pasta would serve at least two people.  While an authentic osso buco with cross-cut shanks creates a stunning presentation, ease of preparation certainly has its place in the wild game culinary realm.

I followed Mr. Draper’s recipe for the sauce, adding a bit of oregano, thyme, and salt to taste.  I prepared the recipe twice, the first time with two smaller shanks and the second with one larger one, tweaking my method along the way. The smaller shanks and sauce were divided and fit easily into 1 gallon zip bags which I attached to the side of the pot with clothespins after the water had reached 176 degrees fahrenheit.   My second attempt used a larger shank was too long for a one gallon zip bag.  I had to use a vacuum bag custom-cut to the length I needed for my shank plus the sauce.  Rather than heat-sealing the vacuum bag, I pushed most of the air out of it, folded over the end, and taped it closed using packing tape.  I attached the bag to the side of the pot with plastic clips, once again after the water had reached 176 degrees fahrenheit.

Using the immersion method for such a long period of time presented a problem with evaporation. During my first attempt, the water level dropped several times, causing the machine to turn off.  Luckily I caught it before the water temperature had dropped so much that cooking stopped.  I tried to balance the lid atop the pot, using a potholder to tip the lid so that collected water was redirected back into the pot.  I still needed to check the water level and add water two times.  For my second try, foil was placed over the pot with the center of the foil slightly punched down to redirect condensation back into the pot.  I still had to add water a couple of times.

A great thing about using the sous vide method is that it’s incredibly forgiving.  I knew that the meat wouldn’t be overcooked, dry, or tasteless.  The long cook times for tougher cuts to fall off the bone are approximate, even within a few hours.  I began the shanks the evening before I was to serve them.  Because I was new to the long  overnight cook time, I was apprehensive so the “ease of preparation” aspect didn’t pan out. I think I will become more comfortable with practice. The result was wonderful, though.  The meat fell off the bone!

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Also tried it with a shoulder!  Gorgeous!

Honestly, I felt the the whole shank, bone-in, made an impressive presentation in and of itself. 20191014_1147031024931814.jpg

Over all, I would recommend the sous vide for shank and other cook-all-day cuts of venison, elk, nilgai, etc.  There are specially made sous vide containers on the market that have lids that fit around the device preventing evaporation. They are available online and at restaurant supply stores. I will probably be picking one up.  This method enabled me to prepare a recipe that I would otherwise have overlooked until much cooler weather had I required a long cook time in the oven.

Go for it.  Save those shanks this season.  Let me know how it goes.

 

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It’s That Time of Year

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Those of you who have followed me for a while have been subjected through the years to my annual Valentine’s Day rants. I’ve shared my thoughts about the price gouging, the blatant commercialization of an originally sweet idea, and general lurid skankiness that has come to be associated with February 14th.

Everyone in the Deerslayer household loathes the idea of trying to go out to eat in any restaurant on that day. Seriously, if you are a true follower of the Deerslayer’s Wife, you KNOW that you can have an exquisite meal at home for a fraction of the price. An issue that we have experienced is that we’re hard-pressed to find a restaurant that serves game meats cooked to a medium rare perfection like those that we can prepare at home. On the plus side, we really look forward to buying chocolate for half price the next day!

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Deerslayers’ wives, you have the tools to prepare the most amazing meal your husband has ever had. How about a seared tenderloin with a balsamic glaze or venison Parmesan with angel hair pasta or venison and Guinness stew or marinated semi-boneless quail? How about your deerslayer’s favorite dessert? It won’t cost over $100 bucks and he will love it. Done! BTW, I’d love it if you’d share your deerslayer’s favorite dessert recipe or favorite wild game recipe with me and the group. Ladies, we’ve got to stick together here!

Deerslayers, DO THE DISHES! POUR THE WINE! PLAY SOME NICE MUSIC THAT SHE WILL LIKE! DONE! Don’t buy jewelry, stupidly expensive flowers or candy! But if your sweetie has a favorite outfit, dress up, damn it! You can thank me on the 15th…after you snatched up some discounted chocolate!

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in 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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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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