Dove Poppers!

“If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was.” ~ Ghanaian Proverb

Sometimes you just have to go with what you know.  Don’t get me wrong, I take delight in putting a twist on an familiar recipe or coming up with something completely new.  But sometimes there is just as much joy in reaching for something you already know and love.  Dove poppers are that for me.  Every time I make them, I am impressed with their simplicity and yet how down-right amazing they taste.

I have never really experimented much with dove meat.  I think I haven’t because every time I finish up a dove hunt, the only thing on my mind is a barbeque grill, jalapenos, and bacon.  I supposed I should try something new, “live a little” as they say, and create a dove meal that isn’t a popper.  I say that now, but I am certain that come this September, I will make nothing but dove poppers with my harvest.

The big game draw results were published this week, and my family has a lot of tags.  I realized that I needed to start making a little room in the freezer for what will hopefully be successful hunts this fall.  While digging around, making notes on what needed to be used first, I found a bag of dove breasts.  Somehow they had been missed.  That is quite a rare occurrence in this household.  And of course, all I could think of was how I needed to get the grill started so I could eat dove poppers for dinner.

So, even though I know there are lots of dove popper recipes out there, and that this isn’t exactly a new twist or even a creative use for dove breasts, I am going to share my favorite way of preparing dove poppers.  Enjoy!

Start with preheating the outdoor grill.  I create two sections on my grill when preparing poppers: a high heat or “hot” side, and then a medium heat area.  I start all the coals in a central pile on the grill, and then once they are grey and ashed over, I move the majority of my pile, about 2/3, to one side of the grill and place the remaining 1/3 on the opposite side.  This is a good technique when cooking any type of meat, such as steaks or burgers, on the grill.

Popper ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive.  Each popper needs one slice of bacon, a thin slice of jalapeno, and a thin slice of onion.  For a typical group gathering, I make two poppers per person.

 

The most difficult part, if you can even call it that, for making a great dove popper is cleaning the breast from the bird.  The easiest way is to remove the meat from the breast bone in one solid piece, so that it looks like a butterfly when opened up.  This allows you to wrap the meat around the peppers and onions, which makes wrapping the entire thing more convenient.

Lay the butterflied dove breast open, and in the crevasse place a thin slice of jalapeno and a thin slice of onion.  If you don’t like heat at all, you can substitute the jalapeno for a slice of bell pepper.  If you are someone that loves to cry and sweat while you eat, you can substitute the jalapeno for something a little spicier, such as a serrano or, if you are really crazy, a little piece of habanero.  Fold the breast meat around the pepper and onion, creating a small pouch.

I wrap an entire slice of bacon around each popper.  I only do this because the bacon helps to hold the pepper and onion inside while I am moving things around on the grill.  As far as flavor, you can do just half a slice and it will still taste amazing, it just might fall apart a bit.

Using two toothpicks, secure the bacon around the popper.  You are ready to grill!

I start the poppers on the medium heat area of the grill.  Bacon gets very….drippy…on the barbecue grill.  As it starts to grill, little drops of fat will fall and hit the coals.  This can result in flames, and if the heat is too high the bacon fat sets on fire and burns the dove poppers.  The result is a raw dove inside of a blackened bacon crust.  Not amazing my friends, not amazing.  So, to bar this from happening, I start on the lower heat area.  Cook the poppers, turning often, for about seven minutes on the lower heat side of the grill.  The bacon should be mostly cooked by that time.

After about seven minutes, move the poppers to the higher heat area of the grill and allow them to finish cooking.  I like to let my bacon just start to char and then I know things are ready, which takes about five more minutes.  The result is a crispy bacon crust with a soft, perfectly cooked inside.  The dove should be cooked to just below well-done, and the pepper and onion should be soft.

Dove poppers are the perfect appetizer to start your barbeque off with, or even better, a great meal option!

Happy Hunting!

 

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Farmhouse Turkey Burger

“Some men are mere hunters; others are turkey hunters.” ~ Archibald Rutledge

Nothing beats a good turkey hunt.  The spring turkey hunt kind of feels like a good stretch when you first get out of bed.  You have been tucked up under the covers, dreaming, maybe tossing and turning a little.  Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and check the clock to see if it’s time to get up yet, and it isn’t so you roll back into your cocoon of covers and sleep until, hopefully, morning.  And then when you finally do crawl out of bed after that long night’s sleep, you stretch from the tips of your toes to your finger’s end, and it feel amazing.  While the sleeping was great and much needed, that stretch awakens you and sets the tone for the rest of the day.  That is how the spring turkey hunt feels to me.  Like that great stretch after that long winter, and it is going to set the tone for the rest of the hunting seasons.

I was lucky enough to draw a limited entry spring tag this year.  I have wanted that tag for quite some time because it allows you to hunt during the peak gobbling season.  There is nothing more fun than sitting behind some brush, listening to toms gobble, drag their wing tips, and just put on a great show.  The tail displays and chest puffing is at it’s prime, and nothing makes for a better hunt than just getting to sit in the midst of the show and soak it all in.  It is a great time.

I was also lucky enough to bag a nice tom.  So, my next few posts will be turkey recipes that I am creating from this spring’s bird.  The first meal I concocted was a farmhouse turkey burger.  Since turkey meat, especially wild, is quite lean, I mixed in some bacon to my ground turkey.  It added a great hint of bacon flavor to the burger, made things a little extra juicy, and helped the burger hold together.  I topped my farmhouse burger with chipotle mayo, spicy arugula, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and a fried egg.

The entire recipe can be found here: https://huntinglife.com/farmhouse-turkey-burger-lindsey-bartosh/

Happy Hunting!!!

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Elk Guinness Hand Pies

“You gotta try your luck at least once a day, because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it.” ~ Jimmy Dean

Every year for St. Patrick’s Day, I put a corned beef in the crock pot to slowly cook throughout the day, make a loaf of Irish soda bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, and mix up a couple of green beers.  It is a St. Patty’s Day tradition around our house, even though we are not of Irish heritage.

This year, I wanted to create a few twists on traditional St Patrick’s Day menu items and substitute the meat with wild game. I started doing some research on customary Irish foods, and learned a few things that kind of flipped my world momentarily upside down.  First, in Ireland they do not traditionally eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.  They usually serve lamb or bacon.  That really put a twist in my plans. Second, the green beer thing is not actually a thing in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland.  In fact, many of the traditions I have learned since I was a kid, like pinching anyone that did not don green, are customs and traditions that evolved in Irish-American cultures.

One of the biggest things I love about cooking is the connections created between the food and customs, traditions, or even just interesting facts that pop up.  While my research into traditional St. Patrick’s Day foods was not what I expected it to be, the mere task of looking up some ways to work differently with corned beef directed me into a full on discovery of how St. Patrick’s Day was founded, which traditions are from Ireland and which grew from Irish-American cultures, and even the different celebrations that occur around the world for St. Patrick’s Day.

For this recipe, I stuck with the Irish-American tradition of corned beef.  I love the flavor profile created in a corned beef.  It is a salty, sweet, and pickled taste.  I wanted to try that kind of seasoning on wild game.  So, with from a chunk of elk meat, some corned beef seasonings, and a dry stout beer brewed in Ireland, I made an elk hand pie.  This meal is a twist on two other meals: corned beef and cabbage, and Guinness pot pie.

To start, place a pound of potatoes in a large pot of water.  I used fingerling potatoes and kept the skins on.  You could also use red, Yukon, or russet potatoes.  I think a fun twist for next time will be to replace the potato with a sweet potato.  Also, you can peel the potatoes if you aren’t a fan of the skins.  Turn the heat to high and bring the potatoes to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, place a lid over the pot, turn the heat off, and allow the potatoes to cook for five minutes.  Set the timer for this part, because you only want to parboil, or partially cook, the potatoes.  For this dish, you want the potatoes to remain somewhat firm, not mushy, and also they will continue to cook more in the meat mixture and finally in the oven.  After five minutes, drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool down.

For the elk meat, I ran mine through a coarse grind one time.  For this recipe, I used the 3/8″ hole meat grinder plate.  It is also a good idea to have the meat at a relatively cold temperature, or even partially frozen, when grinding.  This will help to prevent the machine from pulverizing the meat, or as some people term it, “mashing” the meat through the plate.  I made a pound of ground elk for this recipe, and had enough mixture by the end to create about a dozen hand pies.  You could easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t want that many pies, but they freeze really well so I always make a big batch and eat the rest later.

Preheat a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add a medium size onion, chopped into bite size pieces, and allow to sauté for three minutes.  Add two cups of shredded cabbage, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook an additional five to seven minutes.  The cabbage should be soft by now, and the onions should be starting to turn translucent.  Remove the cabbage and onions from the pan and set aside.

To the already preheated skillet, drop in the pound of ground elk meat.  Season the meat with a teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground mustard seed, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, all spice, and dill weed.  Cook the elk until it is browned, about seven minutes.  While the meat is browning, dice up the now cooled potatoes into bite size pieces in preparation for adding to the skillet.

Deglaze the skillet with the bottle of Irish dry stout beer.  Also add in two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and return the cabbage and onions to the pan.  Add the diced potatoes as well.  Keep the heat high, and allow the beer to reduce down by half, which takes about five minutes. Turn off the skillet and let the mixture cool down.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While waiting, roll out the pre-made pie crusts.  I rolled the dough a bit thinner so I could get more pies from the crusts.  If you like a thicker crust on your pies, simply buy a couple of boxes of the premade dough.  Use a biscuit cutter to make circles for the hand pies.  I actually don’t own a biscuit cutter, so I used a bowl and a knife.  A cup also works well in this situation.  Place the dough circles on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I lined my sheet with aluminum foil to make the clean-up a bit easier.  Pile each circle with a couple of spoonfuls of the meat mixture and then top with a second circle.  Pinch around the edges using a fork, poke a small vent in the top, and brush each pie with an egg wash.

Bake the pies in the oven for 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Well, I hope you enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day recipe with a twist on corned beef and cabbage.  The pies, with their flaky crusts, give hints of corned beef seasonings paired with the sweetness of cabbage.  Each bite is like a full meal, with potatoes, onions, meat, and cabbage.  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

 

Elk Guinness Hand Pies

Elk Guinness Hand Pies

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground elk or deer meat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • 1 bottle Irish stout beer, such as Guinness
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound parboiled potatoes, diced bite size pieces
  • 1 package pastry dough

Instructions

  1. Ground elk or deer meat into coarse grind.
  2. Preheat large skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Add diced onions and sauté for three minutes.
  3. Add cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and cook for five to seven minutes. Cook until cabbage and onions are soft.
  4. Remove cabbage and onions from skillet.
  5. Add ground elk and cook until just brown, about five minutes.
  6. Season ground elk with cloves, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, all spice, dill, and mustard seed. Season with salt. Cook additional two to three minutes.
  7. Deglaze the pan with beer.
  8. Add potatoes and cabbage back to pan.
  9. Add Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Cook until liquid has reduced by half, about five minutes.
  11. Turn off meat mixture and allow to cool.
  12. Cut pastry dough into circles using extra large biscuit cutter.
  13. Preheat oven to 400.
  14. Place half of circles on an ungreased baking sheet. Pile each circle with a couple spoonsful of the meat and cabbage mixture. Top each circle with second pastry second and pinch edges with fork.
  15. Brush each pastry egg wash. Cut small vent holes in the top of each pastry circle.
  16. Bake in oven for ten to twelve minutes, until tops of pastries are golden brown.
  17. Enjoy!!!!
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Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

“The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.” ~ E.M. Forster

Growing up, I hated mushrooms with a passion.  My dad loved them.  He would always order pizza with everything on it, including white button mushrooms.  I could smell those white button mushrooms before the box was even open.  And then I would complain, and whine, and moan, and let him know that not only had he ruined the pizza but my life as well.  You know, a typically six year-old meltdown that somehow starts with mushrooms and evolves to a young life being destroyed by the mere presence of mushrooms in the home.

My mom would tell me to just pick them off.  I would grumpily, using only two fingers, pull them off and place them as far away from my pizza slice as possible.

“I can still taste them,” I would whine.  “And see where they were on my pizza!”

My parents would ignore me.

Eventually, I would start to reluctantly eat my slice because I was hungry, and well because I was six and it was pizza.  What six year old can turn down pizza?  Everything would be going fine until I realized that not only were there mushrooms on this pizza, but there were also onions.  And I had just eaten one.  Return to complain, whine, moan mode with probably a little crying because my dad had “tricked” me into eating onions and my life was once again ruined.

Nowadays, I love mushrooms and onions.  I actually think of ways I can add them to my meal.  Six year-old me would definitely be red-faced scolding me right now, hands in little tight fists, and a massive melt-down just around the corner.  Luckily, she isn’t here, and I get to share this amazing, savory whiskey rosemary cream sauce over deer steak and mushrooms dish with you!

To start, select the cut of deer steak you want to serve for this dish.  I used tenderloin, but this dish works well with any steak from the deer.  Other suggestions I have are the back strap, the infraspinatus found in the shoulder of the deer, or a sirloin, which is cut from the hind quarter.  To help get a better sear on my steaks, I usually pat them with a paper towel quickly to remove any moisture on the outside of the steak.  Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side over the outside of the steaks.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan, which is my favorite part of cooking steak.  I love that sizzling sound of the meat first hitting the pan.

Deer, like other wild game steaks, is best when cooked on the rare side of doneness.  Deer is a very lean meat, and without the extra fat on the steaks, like is found on beef, it tends to dry out quickly when cooked.  A well-done deer steak will be very tough and have an unpleasant texture, almost rubbery.  So, I suggest cooking deer steaks to medium-rare or less.  I like mine medium-rare and reach that cooking the steak about five minutes per side.

Once the steaks are finished cooking, plate them under a loosely constructed aluminum foil tent.  Allow the steaks to rest under the tent while you finish the cream sauce.  A proper meat resting, which is about ten minutes, allows the juices to reabsorb into the meat.  While cooking the meat, the moisture tends to move towards the surface of the steak, and if you immediately pull the meat from the heat source and cut into it, the juices will rush out of steak.  This resting time stops that from happening and results in a moist, juicy steak.

While the steaks are resting, add four tablespoons of butter to the skillet.  Once the butter is melted, drop in the diced onion and sauté for three minutes, allowing the onions to become soft.  Add the minced garlic and cook an additional two minutes.  Watch the garlic closely.  If it starts to brown, drop the temperature on the skillet, as browned garlic adds a bitter taste to the dish.

Time to add the mushrooms! Roughly chop your favorite mushroom and add it to the onions and garlic. I used shiitakes this time, but I have also prepared this meal with baby portabellas or cremini mushrooms.  Be sure to clean the mushrooms before using by taking a damp paper towel and gently rubbing the surface of the mushroom to remove any dirt.  Also, with the portabellas or cremini, pull the stems from the mushrooms before chopping.  Season the skillet with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Cook the mushrooms with the garlic and onions for five minutes.

Once the mushrooms have cooked down a bit, remove the pan from the heat source and deglaze with a half cup of whiskey.  This is also one of those moments I love.  When the whiskey hits the pan, it sizzles! Such a great sound!  And I should mention that the kitchen will be smelling amazing at this point!  The aromas created from the whiskey, onions and mushrooms together is intoxicating, and if you weren’t hungry when you started cooking this meal, you will be after those smells start mingling around the kitchen.

Return the skillet to the heat source, and allow the whiskey to cook down for about two minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar  and continue reducing the liquids for an additional two minutes.

Finally, add in 3/4 cup of cream, the minced fresh rosemary, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.  Give everything a quick stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the sauce to simmer for five minutes.  The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of spoon.  It should be creamy and glossy.

To serve, slice the steaks against the grain into thick slabs, cover generously in the whiskey cream sauce, making sure to get a heaping serving of the mushrooms on each plate, and add a suitable side.  I like to add a side of asparagus because it pairs wonderfully with the cream sauce.  A side of mashed potatoes would also be delicious for absorbing some of the sauce.

I love this meal because it has simple flavors that highlight the tender, juicy deer steak.  The earthy hints of rosemary and mushrooms pair great with the flavor from the deer, and the onions and cream add a savory but almost slightly sweet hit to the dish.

Happy Hunting!

Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

4 servings

Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 4 deer steaks (your choice of cut: filet, tenderloin, flat iron, etc)
  • 3 cloves garlic (mince two and leave the other whole)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms chopped (your choice of mushroom: shiitake, portablella, etc)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Instructions

  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Prepare the steaks by taking the whole clove of garlic, cutting it in half, and rubbing the cut edge over the deer steaks. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the steaks in the preheated pan and cook to medium-rare (or your preference). These steaks were somewhat thinner cuts, about 3/4 to a full inch thick, and I cooked them for two minutes per side.
  4. After steaks have cooked, tent them loosely under aluminum foil and allow to rest while you start the sauce.
  5. To the same pan the steaks were cooked in, add four tablespoon of butter and melt.
  6. Once the butter is bubbly and melted, add the diced onion. Allow to cook for three to four minutes.
  7. Add the minced garlic and cook an additional two minutes. Watch the garlic, if it starts to brown, drop the heat on the pan.
  8. Add the roughly chopped mushrooms and cook for five minutes. By this point, the mushrooms and onions should both be soft.
  9. Season the mixture with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  10. Turn the heat off from the pan and pour in the half cup of whiskey. Allow to boil for two minutes and then add the balsamic vinegar. Boil gently an additional two minutes.
  11. Pour in the 3/4 cup of cream and the Dijon mustard. Stir and bring to a simmer. Add the rosemary.
  12. Allow the cream to reduce slight by simmering the mixture for five minutes.
  13. Slice the deer steak into thick chunks, cutting against the grain of the meat.
  14. To plate, arrange deer on serving platter and generously cover in whiskey cream sauce.
  15. Enjoy!
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Deer Eggs Benedict with a Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce

 

“It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.” ~ Elon Musk

Those are truly great meals that you eat slow, share stories, and possibly go back for seconds, or thirds depending on how long you decide to wait before you make the effort to actually put on pants.

Breakfasts like those long Saturday morning ones seem like the perfect opportunity to share a wild game meal; however, I find that breakfast is the area I struggle the most with when using wild game.  If I do add deer or elk to the table, I tend to follow the same pattern each time: deer breakfast sausage.  I might get inventive and make a burrito from the sausage or some type of scramble, and don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic meals and I gobble up every satisfying bite, but sometimes I want to share something that is a little different, a little unexpected.

This past weekend, I awoke for my late Saturday morning breakfast, still in my pajamas, and decided it was time to try out a new wild game breakfast item.   I thought about how to best add wild game to the meal without getting too strange, and decided on taking one of my favorite classics and putting a wild game spin to it: the deer eggs benedict.

First popularized in New York, eggs benedict is a savory breakfast dish composed of a toasted English muffin topped with Canadian ham or bacon, a poached egg, and creamy Hollandaise sauce.  Many variations of the dish exist, including substituting the Hollandaise sauce for a Béarnaise sauce, and switching the ham for salmon, steak or chorizo, adding spinach, tomatoes, or avocado.  The meal base eggs benedict creates is a wonderful starting part for experimenting, especially when it comes to adding in some wild game.

Eggs benedict is the perfect lazy Saturday meal.  It is not a particularly difficult meal to pull together, but it does require a bit of time.  And honestly, it also makes quite the kitchen mess with the necessity for so many pots, pans, and utensils.  But that is what makes it the perfect Saturday breakfast, as there will be plenty of time to clean-up after this meal is shared, bellies are full, and maybe an early afternoon nap happens.

To start, pre-heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Season your deer steaks liberally with salt and pepper.  Compared to beef, deer is a very lean meat, and when steaks are cooked to medium or well-done the texture tends to become very rubbery and chewy, for this reason,  I recommend eating deer rare or medium-rare.   For this benedict breakfast, I used deer tenderloin steaks that were about an inch and half thick., so I cooked each side for about four minutes and then tented the steaks under aluminum foil.  When you are ready to slice the meat, work across the grain and make about quarter to half inch slices.

While the steaks are resting, prepare the béarnaise sauce.  Traditionally, eggs benedict is served drizzled in Hollandaise sauce.  I switched the Hollandaise for Béarnaise in the this recipe.  Hollandaise and Béarnaise are both quite similar, as both are lusciously rich and creamy sauces with a cheerful yellow color.  The preparation base is the same for both sauces: eggs yolks emulsified in warm, melted butter and a hit of acid.  Where the sauces differ is the type of acid used and the addition of flavors.  Hollandaise gets it acid from lemon juice, and a slight heat is typically enhanced in the sauce with the addition of white pepper or cayenne.  Béarnaise sauce gets is acid from white wine vinegar, and it’s flavor profile is further developed with the addition of fresh herbs and shallots.  I love the combination of the lightly licorice flavored tarragon herb with deer, so I decided to make a tarragon béarnaise for this eggs benedict.

To create the Béarnaise sauce, melt two sticks of unsalted butter, or 1 cup.  Let the butter cool just slightly.  You want it to be warm enough to emulsify the egg yolks, but you don’t want it so hot that it actually cooks the egg yolks, which will result in a lumpy sauce.  Add egg yolks and the white wine vinegar to a blender and turn the blender on a medium speed.  Once the yolks are broken up and mixed a bit, slowly start drizzling in the warm butter.  As the butter and eggs start working together, the sauce should thicken.  Once all the butter is added, drop in the shallots, minced tarragon, and season with salt and pepper.  Let everything blend for a few more seconds.  I leave the sauce in the blender after I have prepared it, this way it will stay warm.

 

After the steaks are cooked and the Béarnaise sauce is ready, it is time to poach the eggs.  There are several egg poaching techniques out there.  Some people add vinegar to the water, other people poach in a shallow pan of water, and some even use a giant pot of boiling water.  The technique I am sharing is the easiest for me.  In a large pot, bring about five to six cups of water to a gentle boil.  Have your eggs broken into separate bowls or ramekins in preparation for addition to the boiling pot.  Using a large wooden spoon, create a whirlpool in the pot.  Drop the eggs one at time into the swirling water, and watch as the eggs fall apart and then, almost magically, start to pull together into perfectly poached eggs.  Allow the eggs to cook in the water for two and half minutes before removing with a slotted spoon.

 

Okay, after all that mess making, it is time to assemble the benedicts!  Toast a slice of sourdough bread and brush on a little butter.  To the buttered bread, add a thick, juicy slice of beefsteak tomato.  Top that with two or three thin slices of the deer steak.  Carefully balance the poached egg on top of the stack, and finally drizzle on a healthy pour of the Béarnaise sauce.

I love a beautifully cooked deer steak served with a side of potatoes or asparagus, but this deer eggs benedict really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of working with wild game.  Breakfast can be more than steak and eggs or breakfast burritos.  This meal is creamy and savory, with a hint of tartness, and even a little sweet from the tomato.  It makes for a great lazy Saturday breakfast that is sure to impress all your diners.  And it is pretty great for the chef as well!

Happy Hunting!

Deer Tenderloin Eggs Benedict with a Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 18 minutes

4

Deer Tenderloin Eggs Benedict with a Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 deer steaks (your choice of cut, but I used tenderloin!)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 beefsteak tomato
    For Tarragon Béarnaise Sauce
  • 2 sticks (or 1 cup) butter, melted and still warm
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

    For the deer steaks
  1. Preheat a large skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. Season the deer steak with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the steak in the preheated pan. Cook the steak to medium-rare. The time will depend on the thickness of the steak. For these steaks, which were between an inch and two inches thick, I cooked each side for four minutes.
  4. Remove the steak from the heat and light tent in tin foil, allowing the steak to properly rest.
    For the Tarragon Béarnaise
  1. Melt the two sticks of butter and let cool slightly. You don't want the butter bubbling hot, but you want it to still be warm.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a blender and pulse a few times to break them up.
  3. With the blender running, add the white wine vinegar and mix for a few seconds.
  4. With the blender running, slowly stream in the warm butter. Once all the butter is added, continue to blend for a minute.
  5. Add the fresh tarragon, and salt and pepper. Blend for another minute. Keep the sauce warm with the lid on the blender.
    For poached eggs
  1. In a large pot, bring to a light boil about three cups of water.
  2. Once the pot is gently boiling, use a large spoon to create a whirlpool in the water. With the water spinning, drop the cracked eggs, one at a time, into the pot.
  3. Allow the eggs to cook for two to two and half minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon
    For the Benedict
  1. Brush the sour dough bread slices lightly with olive oil and toast on a griddle until golden brown.
  2. Place a tomato slice on the toasted bread.
  3. Pile on a few slices of deer steak.
  4. Gently rest the poached egg to the stack.
  5. Cover generously with tarragon béarnaise sauce.
  6. Enjoy!
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Coconut Pheasant Soup

 

”All really wild scenery is attractive. The true hunter, the true lover of wilderness, loves all parts of the wilderness, just as the true lover of nature loves all seasons. There is no season of the year when the country is not more attractive than the city; and there is no portion of the wilderness, where game is found, in which it is not a keen pleasure to hunt.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Cooking is a continuous learning process, and working with wild game is no exception.  For me, I tend to focus on building harmonious flavor profiles, and concentrating on that one area takes up more time than I have in a day.  However, there are hundreds of aspects in the cooking process that can all be developed, modified, re-evaluated, and maybe even re-invented.  I try to break myself of solely focusing on flavor medleys and try to improve and learn in different areas.  This recipe, coconut pheasant soup, allowed me to not only work on creating a great flavor profile, but also forced me to look at how textures work together, which is equally important in a dish’s presentation.

I find pheasant meat to have a unique texture.  Many people compare pheasant to chicken.  I don’t think the comparison is accurate when describing pheasant.  Pheasant, like chicken, is a mild flavored meat.  Some meats have very strong and distinct flavors, and working with them can be challenging because they fight with other flavors.  Pheasant is not like that and can be incorporated into a large number of dishes acting as a base for building flavor.

Where I think pheasant differs from chicken is the texture of the meat.  Pheasant is a bit more tough than chicken, which I am sure comes from the differences in how pheasant and chickens live and also how they eat.  Pheasant meat is a bit darker and much leaner than chicken also.  This difference can best be captured by simply pan frying a chicken breast and pheasant breast and comparing the two.  The chicken breast will be moist and light, because of the extra fat in the meat.  The pheasant will be tougher and much drier.  Because pheasant meat can dry out so quickly when cooked, it is commonly marinated, cooked low and slow, or even wrapped in a fat source, such as bacon, to create moisture and tenderness.

I find myself making a lot of meatball recipes because I think the slight toughness that develops when quickly cooking pheasant works well in meatball form.  However, after making a few meatball recipes, I decided that I wanted to try something else with the breast meat.  I am a big fan of Thai food, and especially a hot cup of tom kha gai.  A coconut based soup, tom kha gai is a spicy soup found in Thai and Lao cuisines.  Traditionally, it is prepared using galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, thai chili peppers, mushrooms, and fish sauce.  While chicken is the main protein source for the soup, many restaurants also offer shrimp or tofu options.  Besides having a deliciously sweet and spicy broth, one of my favorite attributes of tom kha gai is how it uses textures to enhance the soup.  The mushrooms are soft and tender, while the chicken, since it is boiled, has a meatier, tougher texture.  A little crunch can also be added with a sprinkling of green onions.  The broth is very thin and silky.

The last time I had tom kha gai, I made a mental note to try and create a version at home using pheasant, since pheasant has that meatier texture that I love in the soup.  So, here the recipe is! And I found it to be a great use of my pheasant.

To a large stock pot, add a tablespoon of cooking oil and heat over medium heat.   I used coconut oil for my cooking oil, but you could use vegetable, canola, olive, or whatever oil you prefer.  Add in the minced garlic, lemon grass, and grated ginger root.  Heat for two minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.  There are three different options for the lemon grass with this soup.  I used two tablespoons of lemon grass paste, which is found by the fresh herbs in a tube.  You could also use a stalk of fresh lemon grass.  The stalk can either be added whole to the soup and removed at the end, or you could mince it up and leave it in the soup.  The paste or minced stalk both add a bit of crunch to the soup, which some people may not like.  If you do not want the bits of crunchy lemon grass, I would suggest just adding the stalk.  I like the crunch, so I went with the paste.  It is really a personal preference on textures, so go with whatever method you find most appealing.

To the garlic and ginger, add one tablespoons of red curry paste.  Stir and coat everything with the paste.  Once incorporated, add a cup of the pheasant stock and dissolve any leftover chunks of the paste.  You also want to break up any thing sticking to the bottom of the pot, as this will add even more flavor to the soup base.  For the stock of this soup, I used homemade pheasant stock.  The recipe for it can be found here: Homemade Pheasant Stock.  You could also use chicken or vegetable stock.

Once the red curry is fully dissolved, add the rest of the pheasant stock, three tablespoons of fish sauce, and a tablespoon of honey.  If you don’t have honey on hand, any sweetener of your choice will do, such as brown or white sugar.  Stir everything and bring to a light boil.  Once the soup base reaches a slow, rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for twenty minutes.  This will reduce the soup base down and concentrate the flavors of the lemon grass, ginger, and red curry.  The lemon grass, which is a culinary herb commonly found in Asian style cuisines, adds a subtle citrus flavor to the soup while the ginger gives a spicy, fresh crisp flavor, and the red curry adds a hint of heat.

After the twenty minutes, bring the heat back to medium and add the three cans of coconut milk.  The milk will create the smooth and silky texture found in the soup, and you can adjust how creamy you want the soup to be based on which coconut milk combination you use.  I used two cans of full fat coconut milk and one can of lite.  You could do three full fat, all three lite, or a combination of the two.  The more full fat cans you use, the thicker and creamy the soup base will be.  Bring the soup base back up to a gentle, rolling boil and add the pheasant meat chunks.  In order for the meat to cook correctly, make sure they are cut into bite size pieces all roughly the same size.  Allow to cook for five minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot and allow the cook an additional five minutes.  With the mushrooms, I used white button mushrooms, but you can substitute in other types.  A lot of recipes use shitakes, which add a nutty element to the soup.  Baby portabellas or crimini would also be great in this soup, as both have an earthy flavor and a slightly meaty texture.

Turn the heat off from the pot and add the final ingredients to the soup: the fresh squeezed lime and orange juices, and the torn Thai basil.  I sometimes struggle with finding Thai basil at my grocery store.  They don’t always carry it.  I tried to substitute in Italian basil, and I didn’t like the way it worked with the curry flavor.  Thai basil has more of a spicy bite to it, while Italian basil can almost be described as sweet.  They are two very different flavors.  If you can’t find Thai basil at your store, I would actually suggest substituting cilantro or green onions instead of Italian basil.

Well, that is it for this coconut pheasant soup recipe!  This soup is easy to put together and has a unique flavor profile of spicy and sweet with a hint of citrus, but it also has great textures and is beautiful to look at!  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Coconut Pheasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pheasant breasts (or about four breasts), chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 4inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 4 cups pheasant stock (use chicken or vegetable if you don't have pheasant)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sweetener of choice: brown sugar, white sugar, etc)
  • 3 can coconut milk (13.5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 bundle fresh Thai basil, torn into bite size pieces

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat a tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger root, and lemongrass paste to the pot. Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes.
  2. Add the tablespoon of red curry paste to the pot and stir. Allow to cook for one minute.
  3. To the pot, pour in one cup of the stock, stirring to dissolve any remaining chunks of curry paste and to break up anything on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the rest of the stock, the fish sauce, and a tablespoon of sweetener, such as honey. Stir and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow soup base to reduce for twenty minutes.
  5. Add the three cans of coconut milk and bring soup to a gentle boil.
  6. Add bite size pieces of pheasant meat and cook for five minutes.
  7. Add mushrooms and cook an additional five minutes, until mushrooms are soft.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the juice of one lime, orange juice, and torn basil leaves.
  9. Enjoy!
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Homemade Pheasant Stock

“Be worthy of your game.” ~ George Bird Evans

Learning to process game meat has been an eye opening experience.  It is a challenging and ever-evolving labor.  Cleaning a harvest is different, not only for different groups of animals, but even for different species within a specific subgroup of animals.  For example, it is obvious that a fish is cleaned differently than a duck, but it isn’t always obvious that a duck may be cleaned differently than a goose, or even another species of duck. Cleaning also varies on how you plan to prepare or use the animal.  I feel I have only touched on the surface of cleaning animals.

Cleaning is just the beginning step of processing game meat too.  Storing and preserving meat is an entirely different story.  And not to mention learning how to use different parts of the animal! We often hear stories of how Native Americans used every part of an animal. Meat was obviously processed and eaten, but hides or feathers were used for shelter creation or clothing, bones could be constructed into tools or weapons, and tendons or sinew could be used to create thread or string.  Of course, those few examples only brush on the surface of how many parts of an animal are useful.

Utilizing the entire animal was definitely a survival tactic for Native Americans, and as a modern day hunter, that drive for survival isn’t quite the same.  However, many hunters strive to use as much of an animal as possible.  Whether this desire comes from a simple curiosity as to what you can come up with to use what you have at hand, or is from a deeper desire to use every part of the animal as a form of respect, there are limitless possibilities on what to create or how to utilize an animal in its entirety, and it is definitely a learning process.

So, while this might be a small step in terms of all the possible things I could use a pheasant for, it is a first step and I enjoyed trying something new with a different part of the bird.  After cleaning all the meat from the pheasant, I saved the carcass and made a simple pheasant stock.  While I was excited to find a use for the leftover bones of my pheasant harvest, my primary drive for creating a pheasant stock developed from a nagging feeling I got when using chicken stock in my pheasant recipes.  For some reason, it bothered me when I would create a soup or sauce recipe for my pheasant meal, but had to use chicken stock as the base.  It seemed silly. So, I made a small batch of pheasant stock from the carcass and can now use that as the base for whatever pheasant recipe I work on next.

For the stock, a few simple ingredients are necessary to help develop a deeper flavor profile.  Aside from the pheasant carcass, you will need carrots, celery, and onion.  I used around four medium sized carrots, three stalks of celery, and two medium sized onions.  You could also add a few cloves of garlic.  To create a little uniqueness in my stock, I also added in a four inch piece of whole ginger root.

Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit and roast the pheasant carcass, celery, carrots, onion, and ginger root for 20 minutes.  There is no need to cut anything up or do any type of prep work before roasting.  The only step I took was the cut the onions in half.  I did not peel the carrots or even remove the onion skin.  If I had added garlic to this stock, I would have roasted the cloves whole as well.

Once the vegetables and pheasant are done roasting, transfer everything to a large pot.  I did remove some of the skin from the ginger root before adding it to the pot, but that was about it.  I left the onions whole and broke the celery in half so it would fit in the pot, but other than that not much work to be done!  At this point, toss in a couple of bay leaves and add enough water to the pot to cover everything by about two inches.  The amount of water needed will vary based on the size of your pot, but it should be somewhere between eight and twelve cups.  I used ten for my pot.  Heat the pot over a medium heat and watch until the water starts to boil.  Once it boils, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let the stock simmer for a few hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot and that the pot is still just simmering and not boiling.  I let my stock simmer for about four hours.  The liquid reduced from ten cups to eight by the end of the cooking time.

If you are interested in creating a little bit of a different flavor profile for your pheasant stock, instead of using onions you could substitute leeks.  You could also add fennel for a hint of licorice.  Herbs can also be infused into the stock, such as thyme, sage, or basil.  Strain the entire pot through a fine mesh colander, and discard all the vegetables and carcass.  Allow the liquid to cool.  In the end, the stock should be a beautiful auburn color and have a mild savory flavor.

I plan on using my stock within the next couple of days, so I poured it into mason jars and stuck it in the fridge.  It should last in the fridge for about five days.  Canning the stock is another option; however the process for cooking is a bit different.  I prefer to freeze homemade stock that I am not going to use.  I put it in a large Tupperware container and just pop it in the freezer.  It will last indefinitely in the freezer.

This stock has a hint of the richness from the pheasant bones and also a clean, fresh taste from the vegetables.  It is not salty, which took me a minute to get used to.  When using store bought chicken stock, the stock is salted and, for me, that is the main flavor that stands out.  This pheasant stock is a base starting point for any sauces, broths, or soups you might create with it.  Think of the stock as a building block that will enhance and develop flavor in your dish.  This recipe allows you to extract the umami (one of the five basic tastes) to use as an ingredient from a bird carcass or other bones.  It also gives a little more reward to yourself and the animal that provided for you.

Happy Hunting!

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes

2

Serving Size: 4 cups

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Ingredients

  • 1 pheasant carcass, cleaned
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 1 four inch piece of ginger root
  • 3 bay leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the pheasant carcass, onions, celery, carrots, and ginger root on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large stock pot, place roasted pheasant, onions, celery, carrots, ginger roots, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and pheasant by two inches, about eight to twelve cups.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce to a simmer.
  6. Simmer the pot for four hours, checking occasionally to see if more water needs added.
  7. Pour the entire pot through a fine mesh strainer and allow liquid to cool. Liquid should be a rich auburn color.
  8. Store in fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
  9. Enjoy!
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