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.

 

 

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.

Crockpot Venison Beef and Broccoli

Crockpot venison beef and broccoli is an easy slow cooker meal with an asian flare.
Crockpot venison beef and broccoli is an easy slow cooker meal with an asian flare.

Ok, there is no beef in this venison beef and broccoli. But “venison and broccoli” just doesn’t conjure up the same pretty picture in our minds that we always see in the menus of the local chinese restaurants.

This recipe pulls off those same flavors, with minimal prep – and because it’s cooked in the crockpot, the hardest part of this meal is making the rice. Unless you are one of those people who buy the pre-cooked rice packets from the store…

This is a half day slow cooker recipe. Going longer will only hurt the dish from a presentation perspective – those nice slices of venison WILL eventually break down. You want to keep the cook time down to a point where the meat is tender yet it still holds together. Otherwise you will have more of a “venison gravy and broccoli”.

The Cut:

Because this is a slow cooker recipe, you can use slices from any roast of venison that you like. Keep in mind that if you use anything from the front half (shoulder or neck), it will have more gristle and be tougher –  it won’t be as pretty, and will take a little longer to cook – but just as tasty. I like to use slices from rear quarter roasts: top round, bottom round, or eye of round. These three muscles make up the hamstring of the deer, the rear of the rear quarter so to speak. I normally freeze them all separately. I used a bottom round in today’s meal, which was close to three pounds. I only needed half for this recipe, so I had enough left over to grind for some burgers for later in the week. Bonus!

Your venison will get better (prettier) slices if it's partially frozen when you go to cut it.
Your venison will get better (prettier) slices if it’s partially frozen when you go to cut it.

The Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs venison, in quarter inch slices
  • 1 cup of beef stock or broth
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • crushed red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 4 cups of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons of water

The Process:

Spray the inside of the crockpot with a no-stick spray or vegetable oil. Add everything BUT the broccoli, cornstarch and water. For the pepper flakes, I like a few good shakes to give it a little heat.

Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. When the venison is tender but not falling apart, mix the cornstarch and water, and stir into the pot. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Get your rice, or noodles going!

Separately cook the broccoli (microwave or stovetop) so it’s tender. Stir the cooked, drained broccoli into the crockpot and serve!

Simple Slow Cooker Venison Meals

Keep things simple, especially if you are new to cooking venison.
Keep things simple, especially if you are new to cooking venison.

Venison can be a temper-mental meat to cook. An over cooked roast will give your jaws a work out. An over grilled back strap could be sliced up for hockey pucks.

If you have never cooked venison before, start with something easy and foolproof. You can’t go wrong with a crockpot. Low and slow, with almost any kind of sauce will give you a tasty meal that everyone will enjoy.

The key with crockpot cooking is definitely time. You want the low heat to break down the connective tissues. This accomplishes two things: the meat will be tender, and the meat will be tasty. This may run contrary to what many people will tell you, but the connective tissue does not taste gamy. If you get a gamy bite, odds are there was some other material in there that wasn’t properly removed during the butchering process.

Now granted, there are no guarantees in life – especially with venison – there are some small odds that you got a deer that just has a bit of funk to it. But the odds are much better that your deer is not gamy –  a quick test is to just smell it. Most venison will have a nice clean “meat” smell, and will smell very similar to a raw beef steak or roast.

Back to my point – don’t try to cut all the connective tissue out of a roast. Do try to cut anything visible off the surface – this will just help speed up the cooking/breakdown process, but any “seams” you see going into the roast – just leave them be. Over the slow cook, they will melt down, allowing the meat to naturally fall apart.

The Cut:

You can cook ANY cut of meat in a crockpot – BUT, you should stick with the tougher cuts. Save the loin for a pan fry or the grill. These are the cuts in order of my preference for slow cooking:

  1. Neck
  2. Shoulder
  3. Trim Meat (those left over morsels you found when butchering the deer to get every scrap of meat you could).
  4. Any hindquarter roast – Top/bottom round, eye of round, sirloin tip – though I usually reserve the sirloin tip for corning.
SlowCook2
Easy Apple Bourbon Pulled Venison on Polenta

Easiest Recipe Ever

Ok, you could probably do this with any bottle of BBQ sauce, but, I have become a huge fan of the Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces. They make a variety – the pot roast is especially tasty. In this example, I used the Apple Bourbon Pulled Pork.

To make: put your roast/meat in the crockpot (2-3 lbs or really anything UP to that). Dump the sauce in. Put it on low. Walk away for 6-8 hours. Get a fork. Enjoy!

It really is that easy. When it’s done, it will shred just like a pulled pork. Use it the same way: sandwiches, tacos, or in my case, I like to serve it over polenta. The sky is the limit! Sometimes, if it seems a bit saucy, I’ll run it through a strainer – but that is mostly for presentation purposes.

So, get your crockpot, get a few bags of sauce, and try them out for an easy meal that everyone will enjoy!

Pan Fried Venison Liver and Onions

liver3
Venison Liver and Onions: 3 ingredients + 1 pan = 10 minute meal

If you know about the origins of Venison Thursday, this particular meal is not one you want to start with. UNLESS.. (there’s always a caveat to most things in life now, isn’t there?) Unless your meal guests like liver.

I believe in harvesting as much from my deer as humanly possible. While there are a few parts I haven’t quite worked up to (kidneys, testicles – hey, people eat them in other animals..), liver and heart are some mainstays that you are really missing out on if you haven’t tried them.

I like venison liver over beef liver. So, as I mentioned, if your dinner guest likes beef liver, this meal should be a slam dunk. I think part of it for me is the size. Because it’s naturally much smaller than beef liver, while you still get a nice livery flavor, I think it has better texture. Or it could be all in my head. Either way, here’s how to prepare it.

In the field:

When harvesting the liver from the gut pile, clean it up as best you can. Cut off any arteries and such connected to it, wipe it down if you have something to wipe it down with, and get it in a plastic bag to keep it clean. ALWAYS keep a few gallon size zip lock bags in your field dressing kit for just such an occasion. The end result should look like a nice purplely slab, with two main lobes, and usually a little smaller flap where the lobes join.

Back at camp/home:

I don’t usually have the liver as a “camp meal”, because I like to do a little prep on it. First, rinse it off with clean cold water. Then pop it back in its (rinsed out) zip lock, and fill it with clean cold water. Let it sit in there a while (hour is good), then change the water. What we are doing is getting the blood out of it. The more blood you get out, the less metallic it will taste. Once you’ve done a few short soaks like that, mix a salt water solution in the same zip lock, or a bowl. There is no magic recipe that I’ve found, just make sure there is a good salt concentration, and that all the salt is dissolved in the water. Soak it in the solution overnight. This will really draw the blood out.

liver1
Cooking venison liver and onions in a cast iron pan.

The next day, rinse it in some clean cold water again. NOW we are ready to cook it, or prepare it for the freezer.

Cooking:

Slice the liver into strips, somewhere between a quarter inch to a half inch. You’ll get an idea of your own preference once you’ve cooked some up. At this point, I’ll package up strips into serving sized portions and freeze them, keeping out only what I need for my current meal.

Get your cast iron skillet out, and slice up an onion. In the pictures here, I used a half of an onion and four strips – perfect lunch size portion for me.

Heat the skillet up, throw some butter in, and cook the onion till it turns translucent. Make a little room, and pop the liver slices in. They don’t need much time, a few minutes per side.

liver2This is the hard part. I like to pull them off the heat while they are still just a little pink when you cut one – they will continue to cook once you take them off the heat. If you wait too long, they will get leathery.

They should have a nice brown sear on them otherwise. Plate everything up, and I like to let them set for just a few minutes, where they continue to cook. After a few minutes, if done right, the redness goes away, and you have perfectly cooked liver and onions.

This takes some practice (or maybe it just took ME some practice). But once you get the hang of it, you have a simple 3 ingredient meal that takes about 10 minutes to make.