Home Resources Articles Hunting Home on the Range - Wild Game Preparation and Recipes



I love to spend time in the great outdoors; especially hunting and exploring the wilderness. And as a chef, my favorite foods come from the wilderness that is so dear to me. In my opinion, there is nothing healthier, more nutritious or better tasting than the harvest of God's wild bounty. It never ceases to amaze me how many folks willingly spend twice as much as they need to in the grocery store on trendy organic, free range, hormone free, farm raised meat and produce but turn up their noses in indignation when they discover wild game on their plate. You cannot get any more organic or "free range" than elk, deer, wild turkey, hare, etc.

In this new section of Hunting Resource Articles, my focus is going to be on the preparation and serving of venison, particularly elk. And I might as well start right off by dispelling the popular myth that all venison is deer meat. The modern usage of the word venison has come to mean the meat of a deer in the vernacular; kind of like we called the American Bison "Buffalo" for so long that that is how they came to be commonly referred to, even though they are not truly buffalo. However, in these, my contributions to the new Hunting Resource recipe articles, I will always use the term "venison" in its true and historical archaic definition, meaning: "...the meat of any wild game animal."

Now, the number one complaint that I hear from people when it comes to eating venison is that it tastes "gamey" or that it has too strong a flavor. Baloney! (Now there's a meat-like substance that truly has a strong, gamey flavor but sells by the train load!) There are two main things that are guaranteed to ruin the flavor of any wild game dish: improper handling of the harvested animal in the field, and improper handling and preparation in the kitchen. For now we will concentrate on how to properly prepare and cook a delicious venison meal that would be the crowning glory of any table.

The biggest mistake that many people make with venison, including many professional chefs, is to try to hide any alleged gamey taste by absolutely drowning the meat in a strong, overpowering sauce. It's not unusual to order an elk dish in a restaurant and when it shows up at the table, you can't even see the meat for all the goo its swimming in. In the first place, pretty much all commercially available venison is farm raised and actually a little on the bland side; rather like a lot of the cheaper cuts of beef. Second of all, a properly prepared sauce should enhance and compliment whatever you're serving. Like a good wine, a good sauce will bring out the various flavors of a main dish without actually changing or burying them. Wild game that has been properly handled in the field has a wonderful flavor that any cook should try to capture and enhance, not hide!


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That being said, let's get on to this issue's featured Elk Dinner. One of my goals with this column is to present you with venison dishes that are easy to prepare at home but taste like your own private chef has spent the day in your kitchen. While cooking at home, instead of using a Demi-Glace to make your sauce, you can use bouillon cubes dissolved into the liquid as you reduce it. Melted butter will work in place of clarified butter. Commercially available "seasoned salt" in place of the fresh herbs and spices I normally use, and so on. I also want you to know that each and every menu that I prepare and submit for publication has been thoroughly tested, tasted and consumed by more than a few of the moderators and members of the Hunting Resource Forums and have been given the official "okee-dokee". Or as the mystery recipe taster likes to say, "It's a hard and nasty job…but if we truly care about our readers and desire only the best for them, then somebody's got to do it! (pass the potatoes, please)"


Menu

Grilled Elk Medallions
Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Seasoned Green Beans
Chocolate Cups w/ Cinnamon Ice Cream

Serves 6 hungry hunters


Grilled Elk:
  • 6 - 6oz venison steaks (any venison tenderloin or steak cut can be used)
  • ½ teaspoon Chipotle Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry's® Seasoned Salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

I start off by seasoning the venison with one of my favorite dry rubs. Mix the dry ingredients together. Place venison in a shallow pan or dish and pour olive oil over them evenly. Sprinkle liberally with dry rub mixture on both sides and rub it in well with your hands. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill. Overnight is best but a few hours is better than nothing.

Place steaks on hot grill and cook to medium or medium rare. Do NOT overcook venison!!! It is a lean meat and will become tough, dry and chewy if cooked past medium. Use an internal temperature meat thermometer to check the temperature of the steaks and pull them off the grill when they reach 135 degrees for rare and 145 for medium. I recommend medium rare but to each his own. A one inch thick venison steak (or any steak for that matter) should only take 3 to 4 minutes per side for med to medium rare. When cooked, place on a warm platter to "rest". Do NOT cut into the steaks to test for doneness or poke with a fork. The heat of the cooking process forces the juices to the outside of the meat. Cutting into the hot meat or poking it will cause you to lose those juices resulting in a drier, tougher steak. Allowing the cooked meat to "rest" a few minutes on a platter lets the juices reabsorb back into the meat for maximum juiciness and tenderness.


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Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce:
  • 1 small Shallot minced
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 20 oz wild mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 2 sprigs of Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 8 whole black pepper corns
  • 4 fluid oz. Burgundy
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes
  • ½ pint heavy cream

Sauté shallots in butter until they are translucent. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until the moisture is released (the liquid in them begins to visibly "cook out"). Add the thyme, bay leaf, pepper and Burgundy and reduce by half. Reduction is accomplished by simmering the mixture over a low heat to thicken it (or "reduce" the liquid content). Add bouillon cubes and continue to reduce, stirring constantly. Be very careful not to let the sauce burn. Reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still run. Pour the sauce through a strainer and return to pan. Add heavy cream and keep warm until ready to pour sparingly over venison.


Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
  • 8-10 med sized Idaho potatoes
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • ¼ pound of butter
  • 1 bunch of fresh green scallions (optional topping)
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese, chef's choice (optional)

Place garlic cloves in a bowl-shaped piece of aluminum foil and pour olive oil over them. Wrap tightly in the foil and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and soft. Remove from oven, chop finely and set aside.

While the garlic is roasting, wash the potatoes and peel them. I like to leave a little of the skin on for a nice rustic texture. Cut the potatoes into quarters and boil them until tender in a 4 quart pot; about 30 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, dice some fresh green scallions to use as a topping. When the potatoes are done, drain them into a colander. In the same pot, heat the butter, heavy cream and chopped garlic over a low flame, then add the cooked potatoes and hand mash or whip with a mixer until light and fluffy. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Some folks like their potatoes with some lumps, while others won't rest until they are as smooth as silk, it's your choice.


Seasoned Green Beans:
  • 1 ½ lbs of Haricots Verts or baby green beans
  • 3 strips of bacon (Apple wood smoked is my favorite)
  • ½ medium onion, diced

In a twelve inch sauce pan, brown the bacon and diced onion slowly over a medium heat being careful not to burn them. Add the beans and just enough water to cover the beans. Cook for 20 minutes and season to taste with salt & pepper. Drain just before serving. The idea is to cook the beans just enough so that they retain their deep color and wonderful crunchiness without getting pale, limp and soggy.


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Chocolate Cups:

  • 24oz of semi-sweet or milk chocolate baking morsels
  • ½ gallon of premium quality vanilla bean ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • Fresh fruit of choice and whipped topping (optional)
  • 6-8 oz Styrofoam bowls or molds

In a double boiler, bring water to just a slow simmer. Add chocolate to double boiler top bowl (DO NOT let chocolate come in contact with water – it will "seize"). Melt the chocolate until thin and shiny. While holding a foam bowl in one hand, remove the melted chocolate from the burner and gently pour it onto the insides and bottom of the bowl; turning it to ensure an even coating of chocolate on all sides (no thin areas). Be careful NOT to let any of the hot chocolate get on your skin as it will burn you. It's best to wear an oven mitt while doing this. Allow excess chocolate to run back into the pan and then place the upside down chocolate covered bowl on a wire rack over a wax paper lined cookie sheet (to drain) and repeat with remaining Styrofoam bowls. Place the cookie sheet with the chocolate covered bowls on it in a cool place and allow to drain and harden; about 30 minutes in cool, dry climates. Repeat the process with all bowls when the first layer of chocolate is completely cool and hardened.

Meanwhile, take the ice cream out of the carton and place in a large bowl. Allow to soften at room temperature, then add cinnamon and mix very well. When thoroughly mixed, return the ice cream mixture to the freezer.

When the chocolate cups have completely hardened, remove the Styrofoam from the inside by gently cutting a small section (being careful not to cut the chocolate) away from the chocolate and then peeling the rest away, leaving you with a chocolate bowl. Keep in a cool place until ready to serve desert.

When ready to serve, scoop the cinnamon ice cream mixture into the cups, top with fruit and whipped topping. Serve immediately and encourage your guests to eat the bowl!
 
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