We’ve talked about roasting venison before – so you know it’s not my FAVORITE cooking method. The main reason why, is that I’ve never been a huge roast fan, whether it’s beef, pork, or venison. What I’ve come to realize over the years, is that a roast is less about the meat itself, and more about how you dress the finished product: au jus, gravy, horseradish, etc.
I hate cooking roast venison (or even beef for that matter). As a roast in the oven that is. I always overcook them. Or they end up as flavorless blobs of meat. I know, that’s why gravy was invented. It’s really a matter of more practice, but you know how it goes – if something doesn’t come easy, you resist it and fall back to what you KNOW will work (ie: can do easily and not have to actually LEARN). I’ve been hearing more and more about cooking using a method called “sous vide”. It seemed to be a promising way to consistently cook a steak or roast to the perfect temperature. Easily. SIGN. ME. UP.
I’ll admit, I get a little obsessive sometimes when it comes to fully utilizing my deer. I hate to see anything go to “waste”. I quote “waste” since technically my wild feathered and furred friends will get anything that I don’t personally use. But still, I get a little angst anytime some part doesn’t make it into my cooler for the trip home. When it comes to the bones, I at LEAST come home with all the leg bones and the ribs. The ribs we’ll cover another time, but the leg bones will be used to make make a hearty venison/vegetable stock that will then get used in many other recipes.
Deer fat. It doesn’t taste particularly good. To us humans anyway. Yet some deer will have a lot. I’ve pulled almost 20 pounds of almost pure fat off a large deer that seemed to be bulking up for a rough winter.
Let’s start with pronunciation. It’s “past” with the short a, not “paste” with the long a. If you got here on a search for the other “pasty”, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Pasties originated in the UK, Cornwall specifically, as a common meal for coal miners. Today, they seem to have a central home in the UP of Michigan, and seem to be spreading across the states from there. Similar to a pot pie, a pasty has a meat cooked with some basic vegetables like potato, carrot, and onions. The big difference is that in the pasty, the filling is folded in the crust, so it’s like a turnover. Pasties are great because you can make a whole batch of them and freeze them. Now you have instant personal meals. Need a quick lunch to take to work? Got it. Need to feed a bunch of guys (and or girls!) at deer camp? Handled.
A traditional pasty is filled with all raw ingredients, which are then cooked in the crust. Venison was also a traditional filling, and what we’re going to use is cubed up chuck – specifically, I like to use a neck roast. Now, if you’ve cooked enough venison, you know that a neck roast isn’t something something you cook for a short time. In this case, I think the tradition of cooking all raw ingredients in the crust was more about convenience. Convenient doesn’t always mean good. So, with this recipe, we’ll braise the meat for a while before we stuff it in the crust for a final cooking.
- 3 cups of flour
- 1½ teaspoons of salt
- ¾ teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 cup of lard or shortening (I used beef tallow because I happened to have it. And I recommend it if you can get it!)
- ¾ cup of ice water
- 2½-3 lbs of venison chuck – cubed to ½”
- 1 large onion – diced
- 3 medium carrots – diced
- 2 medium potatoes – diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1½ cups of red wine
- 1½ cups of stock (I used venison stock, but any will do)
- 1 tablespoon of rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of thyme
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
Salt and pepper your cubed venison to taste. Preheat the oven to 250°. Brown the venison in a dutch oven or similar vessel in oil on the stovetop. Add the red wine and stock. Transfer to the oven and let it braise for about 4 hours.
Chop your vegetables up. Place them in a bowl, and mix in the rosemary, thyme, and a little olive oil, and mix it all together. Toss it in the fridge.
Make your crust. If you want, just buy some pre-made. I won’t judge you. I do it. But it IS easy to make – and this recipe is heavier and more durable than a typical pastry crust, yet still light and flaky. In other words, perfect for a pasty.
Mix your dry ingredients together. Cut in the lard/shortening with a pastry blender. If you don’t have one, get one! They are cheap and make this job incredibly easier.
Once the mixture starts to resemble coarse crumbles, add ice water till it gets doughy. If it won’t hold together, add a little more water, but try to keep it to a minimum. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and toss it in the fridge too.
Cook the venison for about 4 hours, or till it’s nice and tender, then shred it with a fork. Cook the vegetables in a skillet till they are tender, and mix them with the venison. Pop it back in the oven for a bit while you get your dough rolled out.
Split the dough into about 6 equal portions. Roll them out into 8-9″ circles. You can make them up one at a time.
Bump the oven up to 400º.
Spoon the pasty filling into the middle – make sure to add in some of the liquid. Moisten the edge of the crust with water and fold it in half and crimp the edges. I like to then fold the edges over AGAIN and re-crimp – may be overkill, but it helps to keep them sealed while they cook.
Brush the tops with milk, then bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Your filling is cooked, so focus on the crust here.
If you have any juice left from the filling mix, serve it on the side – it makes an excellent dipping gravy. As does some sour cream. Freeze what you don’t eat, and reheat them in the microwave or oven for an easy meal any time.
One last thing: I always have some filling left over. The pasty filling from this recipe makes one of the best roast meat sandwiches I’ve ever had – you may want to set some aside just to try it…
Who doesn’t like tacos? The only reasonable excuse someone could give for not liking them is that they are messy. Well, that’s why napkins were invented. As to flavors, one of the great things about tacos is there are a million ways to make them, so it’s easy to tailor them to your preferences. And regardless of what meat you use, the key to all good tacos is a good mix of flavors and textures. I won’t dwell on what makes the best combination here, well, since no two people will likely ever agree on what that is. So let’s get into the meat, and how to cook great venison tacos.
Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any cut of venison for your tacos. For this recipe though, we’re cooking with a crockpot. What that means, is that the end result is likely to be some form of shredded or pulled meat. Since I butcher and process my own deer, I’m not going to go through the extra work of grinding some venison up just for a meal that will naturally fall apart on its own. Instead, I want to go with a cut that is on the tough side. Anything from the front end is ideal: neck and shoulder. Neck roasts are one of my favorites for crockpot cooking, they breakdown great and have great flavor. But for tacos, I like to go with some blade steaks.
The blade steaks are two little triangular steaks that come from either side of the ridge that runs along the shoulder blade. They are tough, but they are not gristly. The reason I like them for this taco recipe is that toughness: they can actually hold together for that long slow cook. Now granted, if you cook them too long or too hot, they will shred and fall apart just like anything else. But if you keep the heat low, and the time in the 6 to 7 hour range, they will come out tender, but stay in one piece. This gives you the option of cutting into little slices (cross grain). As always, I’m all about options. These little mini steak slices will give your tacos a little extra texture for something a little different from your normal shredded taco meat. And yes, the ones I cooked in the picture were cooked longer, so ended up shredded. When you wait too long, some options just become “choices”…
- venison roast (or blade steaks)
- one jar of salsa (pint)
- hot sauce to taste
I said this was an easy recipe, and I’m not kidding (try the liverwurst recipe if you want more of a challenge). Spray the crockpot with some no-stick spray of your choice. Put the venison in. Dump the jar of salsa in. Throw some hot sauce in. I used some wing sauce here, that’s why the oranges are especially vibrant…
Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until it hits the tenderness you are looking for. Serve with your favorite taco ingredients and enjoy! The only other thing I need to point out, is if you don’t put the cheese in the shell first (before the meat), you are doing it wrong.
If you hunt, I’m willing to bet you make chili too. And I know, I know, you already make the BEST chili. Wait, why are you searching online for “venison chili recipes” then?
One of the reasons I like making chili is that it’s like a science experiment that can’t go wrong. Well, assuming you don’t make it too spicy, or burn it. You throw a bunch of vegetables together with some meat and cook it low and slow till it’s thick and saucy. I sometimes find it difficult to think of cooking chili in terms of a “recipe”, because it’s almost always different when you cook it, depending on the spice or vegetable of the day, or what kind of meat you have available. Well, this is a “venison cooking” website, so let’s talk about the meat you are putting in your chili.
If you are making chili, and you are going to the store to pick up your ingredients, odds are you are going to go with some ground meat of some kind. It’s usually the cheapest route to go, and hey, it tastes great. Nothing wrong with that. But if you are a hunter, you have a freezer full of options. And if you process your own deer, you probably have minimal ground venison. I always recommend freezing your deer as full cuts/roasts to give you the most options down the road. I normally won’t even grind the trim pieces that I have left over after butchering – I’ll bag them in 2 lb portions. Then I can pull them out later and grind them or stew them, or whatever I need them for – keep the options open.
For chili though, I prefer chunks of meat over ground meat. And my favorite cut for chili is a neck roast. If you have been relegating the neck portion of your deer to the grinder, you have been missing out. Yes, the neck is tough, and it’s full of connective tissue. But when it gets slow cooked, that connective tissue will break down and add flavor to whatever you’re cooking, as well as adding some texture to the meat. This is one of those things that is hard for me to sell in words here, but trust me, give it a try and you’ll see what I mean – and may just have a new favorite cut of venison! For slow cooking anyways…
- 1½ to 2 lbs of venison neck roast cut in ¾ inch cubes (or your preference)
- 1 to 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 head of garlic, diced
- 2 cups of diced peppers – I like to mix whatever I have available, usually some sweet and some hot varieties
- 28 oz of diced tomatoes – fresh, frozen, or canned (hey, this is a science experiment, remember?)
- 8 oz of tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
Add a little olive oil to your cubed venison, and generously season with salt and pepper, and mix it around a little.
In an enameled dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom over medium high heat on the stove top. Preheat the oven to 275°.
Add the venison to the dutch oven and sear, stirring occasionally to brown all sides. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and cook until for a few minutes till they get fragrant.
Stir in the sauce, the chili powder, and kidney beans.
Stir in the diced tomatoes. You want to make sure all of the ingredients a fully covered – if the fluids from the tomatoes don’t cover them, add a little water. If there was too much in the tomatoes, hold back a little on them.
Bring everything to a simmer on the stove, and then transfer to the oven. Cook in the oven for about 4 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Serve it with some cheddar and sour cream. And make sure you have some corn bread so you have something to wipe the bowl clean with…
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge pastry fan. For my apple pie, PLEASE give me a crumb top – or better yet, just give me apple crisp! But when it comes to a more savory dish like braised venison and vegetables in gravy – there is something about a crispy crust on a venison pot pie that makes it totally enjoyable. Great, another addition to the book of “The Dichotomies of Don Oldfield”. As I sit here pondering this “crust acceptance” by a life long anti-cruster, I finally realize why my brain can accept this. Duh, it’s just a sandwich in disguise! Whew, costly shrink session avoided…
When making a pot pie, you have a ton of flexibility when it comes to your cut of meat selection. It comes down to personal preference and amount of time you want to spend cooking. Or sometimes it determined for you by “what do we still have in the freezer?”.
If you wanted to make a “quick” dinner after work (about an hour start to finish), you could cube up some loin or even tenderloin. It’s tender enough to braise for 10 minutes and be pie ready.
More typically, you would use your tougher cuts that will benefit with some slow braising time to soften them up. And here’s where personal preference comes in – how do you want the presentation to look and/or how much flavor are you looking for?
Shoulder and neck roasts are excellent choices here. They have more connective tissue which really needs a slow cook to break them down and tenderize them. This same connective tissue will give the dish more flavor. Don’t equate this to gamy-ness.. Yes, sometimes you’ll get a gamy animal, but most of the time the flavor you get from the shoulder and neck cuts is a richness (try some osso buco for the ultimate experience of this flavor) that I feel enhances the dish. Presentation wise, this same connective tissue, as it breaks down will cause your cubed meat to possibly break down. There is no downside here, unless you wanted to maintain that perfect cube look for the meat – purely visual preference.
You can also use any cut from the rear quarter. The cuts from the rump are great for slow cooking, and get to the appropriate tenderness faster than the neck and shoulder cuts. And because they have less connective tissue, they can better maintain that perfect cube look – I mean, if you want it to look just like those frozen pot pies you had as a kid… So yes, that’s what I did for today’s presentation: I used a section of top round off the rear quarter.
- 1 lb venison – cubed to preference (¾” is a decent size)
- 1 quart (32 oz) venison stock or beef stock or broth
- 3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables (or use fresh of your choice – but hey it’s wintertime, EVERYTHING is coming from the freezer!)
- pie crust (I used pre-made here)
- olive oil
- vegetable oil
- salt & pepper
- garlic powder
- 3-4 tablespoons of cornstarch
Add your venison to a bowl. Splash with some olive oil and salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Mix by had to evenly coat the cubes.
Preheat oven to 250°.
In a cast iron dutch oven or similar, on medium high, heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Sear the venison, stirring it to brown all sides. Once browned, pour in enough stock to just barely cover the venison cubes. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven.
The amount of time you spend braising it here will depend on what cut you chose. If you picked loin, 10 minutes on the stovetop on a low simmer will probably suffice. Neck or shoulder? Probably 3 plus hours in the oven. My top round that I used here was perfectly done at 2½ hours – nice and tender, but not falling apart. The key here is to just keep an eye on it, and when it gets to your preferred tenderness, pull it out.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the venison to a bowl. Back on the stovetop, with your dutch oven with the braising liquid still in it, add your vegetables. Add the rest of the stock/broth, and simmer till the vegetables are cooked – about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the same bowl as the venison.
Get your pie crust out of the fridge.
Now, we make the gravy. To the liquid in the dutch oven, add cornstarch to reach your thickening preference. I added 4 tablespoons for a nice thick consistency. You could go with 3 if you like it more brothy. Simmer for about 10 minutes uncovered, or until it reaches a nice consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. If you used broth instead of stock – you may not need any more salt.
Kick the oven up to 350°.
Add the venison and vegetables back to the gravy, and let them simmer while you get your bottom crust ready in a 9″ pie plate. Spoon the filling into the crust, cover with another crust. Pinch the edges, and cut slots in the top. Cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Tip: cover the edges of the crust in aluminum foil while baking, and remove the foil once the center has reached a golden brown. This will keep those edges from burning.
This is another recipe that seems like a lot of work – but most of it is just sitting around waiting. If you double or triple the recipe, you can make multiple meals at once: freeze the extra filling, and on days when you want a quicker meal, all you have to do is heat the filling, stuff in a crust and bake. Still not a 10 minute meal I know – but well worth the time.
Let’s start out with what the shanks are. The shanks are the forelegs. There’s a lot of bone, a lot of tendons, and not a lot of meat.
If you process your own deer, as you break down the quarters, you get to the shank and think: “ugh, there is NO WAY I can get any clean meat off of that”. All gristle and bone – not worth the effort. Many hunters don’t even try to separate the meat out – just cut off what you can, and throw it in the grinder pile to let it do the hard work. I guess that is a fine way to go, but I don’t want all that gristle in my burgers OR jerky.
Well, fortunately, there is a MUCH easier way to harvest the meat from the shanks. Plus you can save time butchering – simply free the shank bone with all the meat on, and package it up for the freezer.
As I’ve discussed before, I like options. The choices you make when you butcher your deer will impact your options when you want to cook your meals. By saving the shanks whole, with the bone in, you have an array of choices, from osso buco, to whole braised shanks, to, if you really wanted, sure, scrape the meat off and grind it. Because of the nature of the shanks, they are a tough cut. Even if you choose to debone them, you will need to plan on some slow cooking method – and personally, I’ll take any form of braised shank over a ground venison meal – any day.
Ok, so we already know what the shanks are. You can leave them whole – there are some great braised shank recipes out there, but my preference is to cut them up and make osso buco. Osso buco is Italian – literally “bone hole”, a reference in the dish to the marrow in the bone as it cooks.
But how do we get them into those nice little disks? The best way? Have a friend with a meat bandsaw that can cut them for you. You can even use your own bandsaw if you want, but it will NOT be fun to clean. You can use a reciprocating saw too, like we did for our stew. A lot of times, I just use a good old fashioned hand saw and a plastic miter box. Perfect cuts in wood works for perfect cuts in deer too!
Regardless of the saw you use (outside of a bandsaw), the hard part is holding the shank steady as you cut. That is what I use the miter box for. Without something to hold it steady, you will go back to dedicating your shanks to the grinder again in a hurry. On top of that, always cut it straight out of the freezer. You want the shanks frozen solid as you cut them – and the saw will cut it as easy as wood. I usually freeze two shanks together, and as they are frozen together, I cut them as one – two disks from one cut!
I mount my miter box to a board, and then I clamp that board to my counter. This keeps everything set up rock solid, yet easy to break down for cleaning.
After you cut your shanks, they will likely have some “bone dust” on them. This scrapes right off with a butter knife. I’ll scrape them down then rinse them off and they will look like they do in the pictures here.
- 2 whole venison shanks, cut into 1½ to 2 inch disks
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 head of garlic, diced
- 1 cup of carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 cup of peppers, diced
- 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 to 2 cups of venison stock or beef broth
- vegetable oil
- rosemary, thyme, parsley, and oregano
- salt and pepper
After you cut your shanks into discs, salt and pepper both sides and let them defrost. Once defrosted, preheat your oven to 325°. In a dutch oven, add enough oil to cover the bottom, and heat it on the stove over medium high heat.
Dust the shank disks in flour, and brown on all sides. Don’t overcrowd the dutch oven – only brown a few pieces at a time, or what will reasonably fit. Set the venison to the side once browned.
In the same dutch oven, add a little butter, and sauté the onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, and celery, until the onions turn translucent. Add the spices to taste, about a half tablespoon each if using dried. Stir.
Layer in the venison, so you can see the flats of the disks. This can be a bit like playing Tetris – I can usually fit all pieces from two shanks in if I cut them closer to 2 inches.
Add the crushed tomatoes (try to fill the gaps). Add enough beef broth to just cover the shanks – usually about a cup. Add more broth as it cooks if needed to maintain this level. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the dutch oven and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 4 hours, or until the meat easily separates, checking the fluid level every hour.
Serve over rice, noodles, or polenta!
Swiss steak is one of my wife’s favorite wintertime meals. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is one of her favorite venison recipes as well. Between the deer and the vegetables, I typically make this mostly with ingredients we’ve grown or collected ourselves – with the exception of the spices and noodles. Fine, and the celery. We haven’t tried growing celery yet. Anyways, knowing where (most of) your ingredients come from seem to make a meal better.
Swiss steak is typically made from a tougher cut of meat, and goes through a double tenderization process: you bludgeon it into a flat steak, then you braise it low and slow.
I was curious why the Swiss were credited with this method of cooking. Perhaps some dark history of how they treated witches in the middle ages? Alas, it turns out the phrase has nothing to do with the Swiss as a people, but a textile preparation involving pounding and/or rolling it to make it easier to work with. Sigh. Not quite as interesting.
So, we know we need a tougher cut of meat. If you use a more tender cut, it will disintegrate as it cooks. Which is fine if you want it to be more of a meat sauce, but then you might need to change the name of the dish…
My personal choice is to use either blade steaks from the shoulder, or eye of round from the rump.
The way I process the front quarters, I’ll get two triangular steaks per shoulder: one from either side of the blade. I’ll package these together for a meal such as this.
For the rump, I break the rear quarter down to its main roasts: sirloin tip, top round, bottom round, and eye of round. The eye of round sits on the back of the leg between the top and bottom rounds. It looks kind of like a tenderloin, but it’s about 50 times tougher. I take the eye from both rear quarters and freeze them together – they aren’t that big on their own – a nice sized doe will net you about 1.5 lbs for both eyes combined. Again – perfect for this recipe.
- 1.5 lbs of venison
- 20 oz of diced, peeled tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 head of garlic, diced (I know, I always say 1 HEAD of garlic. Who doesn’t like garlic?)
- 1 cup of green peppers, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 1/2 cups of beef broth or stock
- 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- salt, pepper, garlic powder to season
- vegetable oil
Start out by tenderizing the venison like I cover here. If the roast is particularly big, slice it ALONG the grain in half. It will take more work than the loins do, but I was able to flatten the eye of rounds you see in the pic to a nice even 3/4ths of an inch steaks without needing to slice it.
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder both sides of the steaks. Put enough vegetable oil in the bottom of your dutch oven to cover it, and heat it on the stove on medium. Dust both sides of the steaks in flour, and sear both sides in the dutch oven. Don’t crowd them – if the steaks are large, do one at a time. Once both sides are nicely browned (few minutes per side), put them on a plate to the side.
If you got a lot of burned residue in the bottom of the dutch oven, wipe it out (I have a habit of doing this – cooking it a little too high!) and add more oil. If not, continue to use the oil and drippings that are in there. Sauté the onions, garlic, and celery, till the onions turn translucent.
Preheat the oven to 300°.
Add the peppers and sauté for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes, the broth, the worcestershire sauce, and the paprika, and stir. Bring to a boil. Submerge the venison, cover and transfer the dutch oven to the oven.
Cook for 3 hours, or until the venison is tender. Serve on your choice of noodles, potatoes, or polenta!