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.
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.
I know, I had you at “chicken fried”.
Chicken fry anything, and what’s not to like? Chicken fry some venison loins, and you can convert anyone into a wild game eater.
This is a pretty easy recipe. And there are a few ways you can do it. You could fry these up in a pan, no problem (I like cast iron). I like the ease and consistency you get with a little countertop fryer. NOTE: don’t EVER use the fryer on the countertop, in the kitchen. Unless you really like the smell of fryer oil lingering in your house for a few weeks that is. A lesson I learned the hard way..
When field dressing a deer, you are going to need to make some important decisions: what parts to take, and what to leave behind. Hunters can debate for hours over what they think is worthwhile, but I think many will agree, you MUST take the heart and the liver. Here, we’ll focus on the heart.
Fat. Venison doesn’t have much. That causes one of the main challenges to cooking it. Go too far and it will just be dry and tough.
Many times, cooks (or processors) will add fat to venison. Has anyone ever told you about their amazing backstrap recipe, where they wrapped everything in bacon? Well, I would argue that is more of an amazing bacon recipe, and the steak was probably overcooked. Same thing for sausages and hot dogs. I’ve heard people tell me time and again how great venison hot dogs are. What I don’t think they know is that their “venison” dog is probably at least 50% ground pork. Same goes for any venison sausage.
Some people may think I’m crazy. Heck, some people KNOW I’m crazy. But venison shanks are one of my favorite cuts of meat from my deer. There are basically three ways to process them:
- Get as much meat off of them as you can and put it in the grinder.
- Slow cook them whole.
- Slow cook them cut up into little disks.
Grinding them is a waste of time, unless you also grind all the tendons too. But who wants that in their burger or sausage? By the time you separate the meat out from everything else, you’ve lost a lot of time for a little meat.
It’s springtime! We’re at the halfway point to when deer season opens up for another year. How’s your freezer looking? No more backstraps? Getting low on roasts? Have you even touched any of your ground venison yet? Don’t wait! You don’t want to get to the point where you are stuck with just one kind of meat. Sure there are lots of ground meat recipes, but here are some reasons I like to use my ground meat sooner rather than later:
- I don’t actually grind my venison before I freeze it – but what I usually dedicate to the grinder are the small scraps. The bits I was able to glean off the bone, or the parts that maybe I over trimmed a bit from the roasts… The point is that they are small bits of meat. Smaller pieces expose more surface area to air. This increases the potential for spoilage over time. Before it was froze, that area was all exposed to air and the cutting board – and potential microscopic nasties. In the freezer, the same extra surface area increases the possibility of freezer burn. Of course, properly handled and wrapped meat can last years in the freezer – but by it’s nature, ground meat has the highest risk of going bad the quickest – so use it up!
- I like variety in my cooking. While the loins might be my favorite cut, I’d rather have them less often so I can enjoy them throughout the year and not just the first month after deer season. So, break out the ground meat early on, so you can enjoy those choice cuts later on.
- You never truly run out of ground meat. If you have a grinder, and you have any cut of meat, you have ground meat. So use that trim meat as early as possible. That gives it the least time to spoil and since it’s the lowest quality meat, enjoy it at it’s best. Once it’s gone, you can always grind a higher quality roast – and you will be rewarded with a higher quality meal!
Here’s a meatball recipe to help you use that trim meat up. Don’t ever let your venison meals be boring and lacking flavor. This recipe is easy, it’s quick, and it’s TASTY.
- 1 lb of ground venison
- ½ cup of panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup of thinly diced green onions
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, or ¼ teaspoon of ground dried ginger
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
- ½ cup of hoisin sauce (found in the asian section of grocery store)
- 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, or ½ teaspoon of ground dried ginger
Heat the oven to 400°.
Set aside some of the green onions to garnish the meatballs after they are cooked. Combine the rest of the onions and all of the meatball ingredients except the sesame seeds (also for garnish) in a large bowl and mix well. Roll into roughly 1″ meatballs and place on a greased baking sheet, and pop them in the oven.
Cook for about 10-12 minutes – or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
While the meatballs cook, combine all the sauce ingredients and thoroughly mix.
When the meatballs are done, remove from the oven, and dollop the sauce on each meatball. Sprinkle the rest of the green onions and some sesame seeds over the top, and serve. Make up some wonton soup to go with them – you’ll use even more of your ground meat and it’s a great pairing!
Sometimes you just want a quick meal. With most cuts of venison being on the tough side, a lot of recipes are either complicated, or sssssslllllllloooooowwwwww. And that’s all well and good – unless you have a real life, with a busy day, where you get home late, and just need to get some food on the table. We all know about those tender cuts from the loin and the tenderloin – awesome quick cookers. But those go quick. So let’s talk about how to make use of some of the other cuts of venison and still get a good meal when we don’t have a lot of time.
When I think about fast food involving beef (restaurants can’t serve venison unless it’s farm raised – keep that in mind when you see it on the menu, and then do some reading on CWD), I tend to think of asian style restaurants. I’m talking non-burger fast food here. And the trend with asian style beef? Thin slices, cut across the grain. So, we’re going to stay away from the front of the deer, where you have a lot of smaller muscles and more connective tissue, and use the rump roasts.
From the rump, there’s three major muscle groups that typically make it into larger roasts, giving us the top round, bottom round, and sirloin tip. Any of these will work perfectly for stir-fry, although the sirloin tip tends to be bigger around. The top and bottom rounds are a bit flatter, giving us better “strips” of meat. The sirloin tip is actually made up of several smaller muscles, so a cross section will have more potential for separation than either of the rounds – the rounds are my preference for stir-fry here.
If you enjoy stir-fries, you may want to dedicate a roast or two to stir-fry cuts when you butcher your deer. For a lot of stir-fries, you’ll only need a pound or two of meat, so if you make the slices ahead of time, it will save you defrosting and slicing a larger roast later. I don’t typically do this, as I’ll usually use the rest of the roast in something else later in the week, but it is a nice convenience option.
- 1 lb of venison, in ¼” slices cut across the grain
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ water
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 green onions/scallions, diced
- vegetable oil
Heat a little oil in a small sauce pan on medium-low. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for several minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and water. Add the brown sugar and increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil for about 3 minutes, then remove from heat and set to the side.
In a bowl, dredge the venison slices in the cornstarch, shake off any extra, and place them on a plate. Let them set for about 10 minutes.
Heat some oil in a wok on medium high. Add the venison slices, and cook for just a few minutes till they are seared on both sides. Remove the venison to a paper towel lined plate, and remove any excess oil from the wok.
Put the wok back on the stove on medium high heat, and add the sauce – it should boil right away. Add the venison, and cook at a boil for about 2 minutes. Stir in the green onions, and you’re done.
Serve over a bed of rice. This recipe is a bit on the sweeter side – which I like – but cut back on the brown sugar a bit if you prefer things a little less sweet. I’ll sometimes add some pre-cooked broccoli or sugar snap peas at the end to beef up the vegetables in the meal as well, or pair it with some wonton soup!
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…