Asian Style Venison Meatballs

The hoisin sauce on these meatballs adds moisture and a bit of sweetness - and just a great flavor in general.
The hoisin sauce on these meatballs adds moisture and a bit of sweetness – and just a great flavor in general.

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Make the meatballs a little larger (1.5") to serve as a main course, or make them smaller (1") for some tasty appetizers.
Make the meatballs a little larger (1.5″) to serve as a main course, or make them smaller (1″) for some tasty appetizers.

Ingredients:

  • 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

For Sauce:

  • 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

Process:

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!

 

 

Mongolian Beef Style Venison

This is a quick and easy venison meal with an asian flare and a bit of sweetness.
This is a quick and easy venison meal with an asian flare and a bit of sweetness.

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.

The Cut:

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.

The Ingredients:

  • 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

The Process:

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!

 

Venison Meatloaf Roll

Does your venison meatloaf suck? Meatloaf can be dry. And venison meatloaf especially dry. This "stuffed" version fixes that without overwhelming the loaf.
Does your venison meatloaf suck? Meatloaf can be dry. And venison meatloaf especially dry. This “stuffed” version fixes that without overwhelming the “loaf”.

“I make the most amazing meatloaf.” Nobody has ever said that. Not in the history of ground meat. I looked it up on Wikipedia, it must be true. It’s a loaf of meat. The potential for “amazing” is not allowed for anything using the phrase “loaf” in it’s name. Meatloaf is a good, solid dinner, meant to be had with some tasty sides. And for leftovers, well, you have magic when you combine a loaf of bread with a loaf of meat.

Ok, so you know where I stand on meatloaf. I like it! I do! But I’d prefer some fried backstraps. But when it comes down to it, if you killed a deer, you will have some ground meat. Even if you kept all the roasts whole when you processed your deer, your going to have at LEAST 10 to twenty pounds of ground. And some of that will get used for sausage, but in the end, there will come a time where you just have some plain ground venison to use. Well, here’s a venison meatloaf you’ll enjoy using it in.

One of the reasons venison is so good for you is its leanness. That same leanness is one of the reasons it can make a meatloaf taste like you made it with cardboard. The key to make it moist is to use some binders, like egg and breadcrumbs, but with venison, I like to take it to the next level and to stuff it a filling that also adds much needed moisture and fat content.

A little crispy cheese. Some nicely caramelized onions. A little wine reduction sauce. Oh yeah, it's good.
A little crispy cheese. Some nicely caramelized onions. A little wine reduction sauce. Oh yeah, it’s good.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of ground venison
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 ¾ cups of venison stock (or beef)
  • ¾ cup of red wine
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of bread crumbs (I like to use panko bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley and thyme
  • olive oil

Process:

We’ll start by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté them for about 15 minutes , stirring frequently, or until they are nice and caramelized. Sprinkle in some dried thyme, and add about a ¼ of the stock, and ¼ cup of the wine. Cook it for a few more minutes until there is little fluid left.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, combine the venison, the bread crumbs and the eggs, and some salt and pepper. Mix by hand until well blended, but don’t over do it.

Spread the meat mixture out on a piece of wax paper to form a 10″x12″ rectangle.

Set aside ½ cup each of the cheese and the onions. That will be used for topping the loaf later on. Spread the rest of the cheese and the onions over the meat mat. Use the waxed paper to lift and roll it up into a log, starting at the shorter side. This will be more like a filled hollow log than a swiss cake roll. You don’t have to crimp the ends. Some of the filling may ooze out as it cooks, but this will make sure even those end pieces get some filling.

Place the log seam side down in a lightly greased baking pan, and bake for about 40 minutes.

At about 25 to 30 minutes, combine the remaining stock and red wine in a small sauce pan. Whisk in the corn starch and the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste – it’s not the most amazing sauce on its own, but it does wonders for the meatloaf!

At 40 minutes, pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Spread the remaining onions over the top, and then top with the rest of the cheese, and a sprinkling of parsley. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the center hits about 150°. This is venison – if you let it get much hotter than that, it will dry up, even with all the filling and toppings. It will continue to cook in the next step and as you let it set at the end.

Place under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes – then slice and serve. That’s as close to “amazing” as a meatloaf can get!

This loaf makes some great sandwiches as well – take some ½” slices, and quickly fry them on each side on high heat to brown the outside and warm the middle – serve on your choice of toasted bread with mayo, and a slice of provolone.

 

 

Venison Pasty – The perfect camp meal

Originally a Cornish coal miner's meal, pasties are a hearty anytime meal, lunch or dinner, camp or home - freeze a bunch up and you are good to go.
Originally a Cornish coal miner’s meal, pasties are a hearty anytime meal, lunch or dinner, camp or home – freeze a bunch up and you are good to go.

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.

The Cut:

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.

The Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 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

Pasty:

  • 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
  • milk

The Process:

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…

The pasty filling is amazing. I had extra.. and you know what happens to leftovers...
The pasty filling is amazing. I had extra.. and you know what happens to leftovers…

 

 

Twelve Methods of Removing Gamy Flavor Put to the Test

You may have heard of many methods to remove the gamy flavor from venison. Well, we tested 12 of them to see what worked... and what didn't.
You may have heard of many methods to remove the gamy flavor from venison. Well, we tested 12 of them to see what worked… and what didn’t.

Gamy venison (or gamey, depending on your preferred spelling). Nobody likes it. There are some people who claim they do – but I say that they probably haven’t had a truly gamy piece of meat. Yes, venison tastes different than beef or pork. But different doesn’t mean “gamy”, and most deer you eat, if properly handled all the way from the shot through to the freezer –  won’t have a gamy flavor.

But if you eat enough venison, or are unfortunate to have some poorly handled/poorly processed venison – at some point you will encounter some truly gamy meat. What causes it? The two biggest causes of that venison “funk” are simple: spoilage and hormones. Spoilage happens a number of ways: bad shot, poor field dressing, and improper aging being the major contenders. All of these, you as the hunter, have a degree of control over. The hormonal gaminess you can control as well. If you see that buck of a lifetime, with the big rack, and the neck that’s as thick as a California Red Wood – if you decide to shoot him – expect some funk. That little 3×3 or that doe will taste MUCH better.

Now, I’m not here to chastise your hunting or processing techniques. Let’s just say you have a deer in the freezer that’s got some gaminess. As I said: it’s going to happen at some point. Let’s focus on what you can do with it.

As it so happens, I have a 5 point in the freezer right now that I would classify as a mildly gamy deer. He is perfectly in the “acceptable” flavor range to me: not the greatest, but not a deal breaker either. The wife on the other hand – yeah, his flavor is a deal breaker.

In prepping for our test, we tried to maintain consistency across all variables - from the thickness of the cuts, to the cooking and resting times.
In prepping for our test, we tried to maintain consistency across all variables – from the thickness of the cuts, to the cooking and resting times.

So, I decided to test out some techniques that I’ve heard (and some I’ve used) that people have claimed to remove that gamy flavor. I took a “scientific” approach to keep things fair. I cut all samples of meat to be tested from the buck’s loin, into equal thicknesses and sizes. I placed all chuncks of meat in separate plastic bags, each with it’s own “game removing solution”. I did two samples for each method I tested – one sample was aged for one day, the other for two days. At the end of each waiting period, each piece of meat was rinsed in water, and patted dry with a paper towel. I then cooked each piece of meat in an oven at 400° for 7 minutes. Next I removed from the oven, covered with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

All our test subjects after marinading for two days.
All our test subjects after marinading for two days.

I was a little surprised by some of the results. As it turns out, of all 12 methods tested, plain old milk was by FAR the best for giving a non-gamy steak with no flavors added. There are some methods I will likely never try again, like vinegar or lemon juice. Turns out they DO work, but the meat transformed into something you wouldn’t want to feed to anyone. For those of you interested, I’ll cover each method in detail below. And for everyone else who “just want to see the results already!”, without further ado:

You want to remove gaminess? Turns out the secret is probably sitting right in your fridge.
You want to remove gaminess? Turns out the secret is probably sitting right in your fridge.

Following is the breakdown on each method. It turns out that soaking for an additional day did not further reduce the gaminess in any of the samples, so I won’t go into detail on the day 2 results. Just keep in mind: these were thin slices – if you have a large roast you want to treat, you should consider soaking it longer, slicing it, or poking holes in it so the fluid can reach more surface area.

Buttermilk:

I was sadly disappointed. I had not previously tried this method, but it just SOUNDS like it would be good. Butter. Milk. Come on! But no. It had next to no impact on the gaminess, but it did impart an acidy taste to the steak that wasn’t all that pleasant. It DID have a mild tenderizing affect, though I likely wouldn’t use it again.

Milk:

The champion of the test. I’ve heard from many people who use milk to marinade their wild game: from venison to fish. And it truly works – the best of all 12 ways we tried. We used whole milk – I may need to do further testing to compare the various fat contents of milk, but the result was great. There was no gaminess left in the cooked steak, and it did not alter the taste of the steak. The only downside was the result was slightly less tender than other methods. If you use milk, you will want to additionally use a chemical or physical method of tenderizing the meat before you cook it.

Yogurt:

We used vanilla yogurt –  which may not have been the best choice. It was fairly effective at removing the gamy flavor, but it did impart a vanilla flavor to the meat that was not that enjoyable. Vanilla flavor is good for ice cream. Not steak. It did have a better tenderizing effect than plain milk though. In future tests I’ll try a plain yogurt.

Vinegar:

I like pickled heart. The result here was about the same. But I won’t ever pickle a steak again. Though it WAS effective at removing gaminess. The vinegar changed the structure of the meat. It became jello-like when raw, but still cooked firmly. The acid in the vinegar actually “cooked” the meat – if you look at the cross section of it above, you’ll see there is no red in the cooked center. Never again.

Wine:

We used a red wine. It was very effective at removing the gaminess, though it imparted an acidy, overpowering wine taste to the meat. I use red wine all the time in slow cooking venison – I will probably stick to using it for those recipes. It also made the steak tough – so it’s probably not worth it to try again even for a shorter soak time.

Salt Water:

Salt water was very effective at removing gaminess, and also made a very tender steak. On the downside, the result was VERY salty. If we soaked it again for another night in plain water, it may have helped – but then you have a two step process to go through.

Plain Water:

I constantly hear hunters say that they will continually soak their whole deer in ice water for several days after quartering it or butchering it (changing the water several times). I have personally never done this. And after this test, I never would. The theory is that it gets the blood out, and therefore the gamy flavor. What we found in our test (and we all agreed), was that the sample soaked in plain water tasted MORE gamy than the sample that we didn’t do anything to. On top of that, it was TOUGHER. Now, this was one test, so I’m not claiming it’s the be all, end all on the subject – but it’s a practice I have no plans for trying out again.

Italian Dressing:

This was a middle of the roader. The dressing didn’t do a lot to change the gaminess, but it added a masking flavor to the meat that was pleasant. Though the gaminess still was apparent.It also had little to no impact on tenderness.

Steak Marinade:

We used KC Masterpiece’s Original Steakhouse marinade – which we like for general steak cooking of any kind. It was good at removing the gaminess, and it had a nice tender result that had a nice BBQ/smoky flavor. This one was a tough call, but we’d say it was just slightly less effective than the milk method at removing the gaminess. One other note – the marinade seemed to have a similar “cooking” process to the vinegar and lemon juice. The day 1 result wasn’t noticeable, but the “rare” line in the day 2 sample was noticeably thin and uniform, and not from the oven cooking.

Control:

Our unadulterated sample – nothing applied but time. Which interestingly is a method some people claim will impact the gaminess: aging. This is another activity that I don’t do. Sometimes I butcher my deer the same day I kill it, and it hits the freezer usually within 24 hours of that. At most, it’s done in 1 to 2 days – and that’s based on circumstance – when do I have time, was it an evening hunt, etc. A number of respected resources on the matter will say you typically shouldn’t age your deer for more than 4 days. Now, with this test, we didn’t go that long. But I did test 3 cooked versions of this one: the day we started the test, after day 1, and then the day 2 round. We did not notice any impact on gaminess by aging the samples. There seemed to be a tenderness advantage to aging – but that was subjectively debated. For our test, the aged samples were only really effective at being comparative objects we could sample the other methods against. No advantage otherwise.

Lemon Juice:

Lemon juice is a strong acid like vinegar. It was effective at removing the gaminess. But it added flavor that was far worse! And similar to vinegar, you can see in the cross-section image above, the lemon effectively cooked the meat through by acidity alone. I’ve heard of cooking trout this way. I won’t do it to venison again…

Coffee:

Coffee was surprisingly effective at removing gaminess. Though it added an overpowering, unpleasant coffee taste. I like coffee. But this was more like “coffee breath” flavor. Yeah, not good. This might be interesting in a slow cooker recipe, but it was not good on the steak. It was also the TOUGHEST sample we tried.

Honorable Mention – Corned Venison:

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up corning venison as a method to remove gamey flavor. It is more effective than ANY of the tests we did here, but I excluded it from the test because of the time needed for the process, and it’s really best for tough roasts.

So there you have it. If you have some gamy venison, and you have some milk in the fridge, soak it for a day or two and you’ll be good to go. Who knew, that whole “keep it simple” philosophy really DOES work…

Venison Parmesan – Fried Italian Awesomeness

Venison parmesan is surprisingly easy to make, and if you are looking to introduce someone to venison, this is a first impression they are sure to love.
Venison parmesan is surprisingly easy to make, and if you are looking to introduce someone to venison, this is a first impression they are sure to love.

While I come from a family of hunters, I didn’t start hunting till I was in my mid 20’s. My father passed away when I was young, and we had moved around the state as I was growing up, so I wasn’t geographically near my family that did hunt. I can recall stories of us eating venison from when I was a kid, but I don’t truly remember eating any venison meals.

So when I started hunting and got my first deer, learning how to process it and cook it was a bit of a trial by fire experience. I had this impression in my head that a venison meal was a VENISON meal: cook a hunk of deer up and eat it. Throw it on the grill, or throw it in the oven, nothing fancy, just some good ol’ cooked meat.

Now, I do truly like venison. But it turns out, just plain old cooked venison, well… isn’t that great. If you think about it though, what meat is? Can you throw a slab of pork or beef on the grill and just expect it to taste good? Odds are, you are going to treat your pork or beef as an ingredient in your meal. You’ll marinade it, tenderize it, process it, glaze it, bread it, etc, etc. And for good venison meals, you need to do the same thing – treat it as an ingredient in the bigger picture of the meal.

This may seem like common sense, but as I talk to people (especially non-hunters) about deer hunting and eating venison, they seem to have that same mis-conception I had when I started hunting. And that’s typically not a positive impression in their minds. So in the effort of furthering the cause of letting people know how good venison can be, here is a venison meal where the deer is the star of the show, but plays with a whole cast of characters that stop it from being a VENISON meal and make it a GREAT meal.

The Cut:

For our venison parm, we are going to go with a cut of loin. This is a quickly cooked meal, so you need something that is going to be tender without a lot processing or slow cooking. Use the tenderizing process I covered here, on a section of loin that is about 6 to 8 inches long and you will have enough meat for two big eaters, or four normal sized portions. When you pound them flat, make them a little thinner than normal because they will contract and thicken back up a little when they hit the hot oil. A half inch is good – but this is a fine line as the loin can start to shred as it get’s to that thickness – so this is a judgement call.

Learn how to pan fry venison loin and you may never want to grill it again.
Learn how to pan fry venison loin and you may never want to grill it again.

The Ingredients:

  • about a pound of venison loin
  • salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder to season
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 2 eggs
  • panko bread crumbs (other bread crumbs will do, but panko is particularly crunchy)
  • some kind of cheese to “parm” it with – mozzarella or provolone work well.
  • spaghetti sauce
  • pasta of your choice

The Process:

Take your tenderized slices of loin, pat them with olive oil, and generously season them on both sides with the salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Get water going for your pasta, and get your sauce on the stove. The loins will take about 15 minutes to cook from start to finish.

Put about a quarter inch of vegetable oil in a pan and heat it over medium high heat. You will be quick frying the venison, then popping it in the oven, so you can do multiple batches if you need to – the venison will be heated again in the oven.

Whip the eggs into an egg bath in one bowl, and put about a cup of panko bread crumbs in another. When the oil is hot, dip the venison in the egg bath (thoroughly cover), then hit it in the panko, then toss it in the pan. Fry it just a couple minutes on each side – the oil should be hot enough that it gets nice and brown and crispy in about two minutes per side. Your pasta should be cooking by now.

Once you’ve fried the venison, place it on a baking sheet. If you are doing multiple batches, keep adding them to the baking sheet, but don’t put them in the oven yet. Once all the venison is fried, cover it with the cheese and put the baking sheet in the oven till the cheese get’s nice and bubbly – about 5 minutes.

Once the cheese is good, take the venison out of the oven and let is set for just a couple of minutes while you finish up with your pasta and sauce.

Serve the venison on a bed of pasta, and cover everything with sauce. Don’t forget to add a bit of grated parmesan on top.

Or for a twist, make some garlic bread instead of pasta, and make a venison garlic bread parm sandwich. Did you really think I wouldn’t mention a sandwich somewhere in here?

 

Easy Venison Crockpot Tacos

Venison tacos are an easy meal anyone can make, and everyone will enjoy!
Venison tacos are an easy meal anyone can make, and everyone will enjoy!

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.

Cut from either side of the ridge that runs down the shoulder blade, the blade steaks have great texture and holds together well through many slow cooking methods.
Cut from either side of the ridge that runs down the shoulder blade, the blade steaks have great texture and holds together well through many slow cooking methods.

The Cut:

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”…

A three ingredient crockpot meal: meat, salsa, and hot sauce.
A three ingredient crockpot meal: meat, salsa, and hot sauce.

The Recipe:

  • 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.

Venison Wonton Soup

Wontons are fun and easy to make, and can be used in a variety of ways, from soup to some tasty fried appetizers.
Wontons are fun and easy to make, and can be used in a variety of ways, from soup to some tasty fried appetizers.

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:

  1. The good experience they had – usually jerky.
  2. 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…

Make some wontons for soup, and make some for frying. Cast iron, like bacon, and butter, makes everything better.
Make some wontons for soup, and make some for frying. Cast iron, like bacon, and butter, makes everything better.

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)
  • 25 wonton wrappers
  • water, to seal the wontons

Soup:

  • 1 lb bok choy, sliced (cabbage works great too!)
  • 1½ cups of sugar snap peas
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • ½ chopped green onions
  • 1 quart of beef or venison stock

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…

You can single fold or double fold your wontons. They taste the same either way!
You can single fold or double fold your wontons. They taste the same either way!

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.

Add a little teriyaki sauce to your fried wontons and you have a perfect appetizer.
Add a little teriyaki sauce to your fried wontons and you have a perfect appetizer.

Venison Chili – and don’t forget the Cornbread!

Chili is an easy meal to make with venison, and you won't need a grinder for this recipe.
Chili is an easy meal to make with venison, and you won’t need a grinder for this recipe.

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.

A venison neck roast contains a lot of meat. But it also contains a lot of connective tissue. Comparing it to beef, it would be called chuck, where it often ends up as stew meat or ground. This is typically how it should be handled with deer as well.
A venison neck roast contains a lot of meat. But it also contains a lot of connective tissue. Comparing it to beef, it would be called chuck, where it often ends up as stew meat or ground. This is typically how it should be handled with deer as well.

The Cut:

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…

The Ingredients:

  • 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
Sides and toppings make any chili - some cheddar and sour cream, and don't forget the cornbread muffins!
Sides and toppings make any chili – some cheddar and sour cream, and don’t forget the cornbread muffins!

The Process:

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…

Venison Pot Pie – Braised Venison in a Crispy Crust

Venison Pot Pie - When it's 0 degrees out, warm up with some braised venison in a crispy crust!
Venison Pot Pie – When it’s 0 degrees out, warm up with some braised venison in a crispy crust!

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…

Venison pot pie loaded with filling and ready to be top crusted.
Venison pot pie loaded with filling and ready to be top crusted.

The Cut:

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.

Venison pot pie fresh out of the oven.
Fresh out of the oven.

The Ingredients:

  • 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
Two people can destroy a good pot pie - make two if you are having company..
Two people can destroy a good pot pie – make two if you are having company..

The Process:

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.