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.
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 teaspoon of sesame oil
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!
When you think of a venison meal, what normally comes to mind? I know, probably not wontons, or any kind of soup for that matter. I think most people think of two things:
The good experience they had – usually jerky.
The bad experience they had – some tough roast that they (or someone else) cooked too long and needed a chainsaw to cut.
Well, one of my goals is to breakdown venison stereotypes. When it comes down to it, venison can be substituted in any recipe that calls for a four legged animal. Beef, lamb, and pork recipes plague cookbooks and internet recipe sites. And I can (almost) guarantee you, that if you have a good recipe, you can swap venison in and you can have a great venison meal. Learn your cuts of meat, and understand how they compare across animals, and not only will you become a better cook, but you’ll help to break other people’s venison stereotypes. If you are a hunter, that means listening to less whining about “eww, venison”, leading to more venison meals, leading to needing to hunt more next year to keep everyone happy. Which of course means you need a new bow. And maybe a new gun.
It’s all to keep the family happy after all. You deserve it…
The Cut: We’re using ground venison to make the wontons. While there is nothing fancy about ground meat, it’s still important to consider what you are grinding up. If you think about beef, you’ve probably seen things in the grocery store like ground chuck, ground round, ground sirloin, or just plain old ground beef. Chuck and round you may be familiar with if you’ve read other recipes here. Chuck means neck or shoulder, round means it’s coming from the rear quarter. Sirloin is some prime stuff, comparable to the end of a backstrap on a deer. And plain old “ground beef”? Well, in deer comparison, that’s just whatever scraps you had left over from anywhere as you were butchering.
So, what does all this mean? In beef, it primarily means fat content, from highest to lowest: ground beef, ground chuck, ground round, ground sirloin. That pretty much is the reverse of the price, your ground sirloin will cost a lot more than ground trim pieces.
But what about for deer? The difference in fat content is still there, but to a lesser degree. Deer are so lean, that it would be hard to argue the fat content difference between the loin and a well trimmed round roast. Where it DOES come into play is in those trim pieces you saved especially for grinding. Odds are, there will be some fat in there. And venison fat has a chalkiness to it, that most people don’t enjoy. That’s why you will read so much about trimming out the fat. However, when it comes to the trim meat there is a fine line between well trimmed and wasted.
So my point here: if you are cooking something where the venison will stand out, you may want to grind a roast up instead of using your trim meat. You will have much better control of any fat, and you’ll end up with dish that will get NONE of those “eww, venison” complaints.
The Ingredients: Wonton:
¾ lb ground venison
1 tablespoon sake/rice wine (white cooking wine works too)
¼ cup dried milk
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of minced ginger (I’ll double or triple this depending on my mood)
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of Sriracha sauce (to your preference)
The Process: Thoroughly whisk the cornstarch into the sake in a large bowl. Add the rest of the wonton ingredients and thoroughly mix. Refrigerate for an hour or so.
To stuff the wontons, take a wrapper, add a tablespoon of the venison mixture to the center, and brush around the outside of the square with water. Fold in half diagonally, sealing the edges. You can use a fork to squeeze the edges and to add a little texture as well.
You can fold them in half again to get a more traditional wonton look. If I’m making a large batch, I’ll do a mix of single fold and double fold. The single folds are good for frying, the double folds look better in soup. It’s all cosmetic though…
These suckers will stick to each other if left in contact for too long. If you are not going to use them right away place them on a lightly greased baking pan with space between them so they don’t touch. You can make these up ahead of time, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook your soup vegetables: add the bok choy, peas, carrots, and green onion a steamer, and steam for a few minutes until tender. The bok choy cooks similar to spinach, so it will really compact down as it cooks.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Add enough wontons to not overcrowd the pan, and poach them till the venison is no longer pink, between 5 to 10 minutes. You can do multiple batches if need be, depending on how many you want in the soup.
To serve, add some of the vegetables to a bowl, and add the wontons and broth on top.
Save at least a few of the wontons (don’t poach them) and fry them. They crisp up nicely and make great appetizers.