Elk Meatloaf Recipe: Onions, Mushrooms, and Italian Cheese

Yay! It’s September! And September means fall, and fall means comfort food. Comfort food means meatloaf time! And a little more specifically, it means elk meatloaf recipe time!

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Cheese
“I have a marvelous meatloaf recipe. All I have to do is mention it to my husband and he says, “Let’s eat out!” ~ Anonymous

 
Growing up, I hated meatloaf.  To me, meatloaf was literally a lump of meat that tasted like it had been boiled and topped with ketchup.  I was not a fan, and carried my disdain for meatloaf well into my adult life.  Then something happened.  I made my own meatloaf, and realized I not only like meatloaf, I love it.  It was a meal that I actually looked forward to.

I think this shift in meatloaf mentality occurred because I realized that meatloaf is simply taking a ground burger base and creating any flavor profile your little heart desires.  It is like the ultimate blank canvas, just waiting for you to pay it a little attention and create something amazing.

For this elk meatloaf recipe, I wanted to take some of my favorite earthy flavors, as I like to call them, and pair them with a great flavored meatloaf.  So, what do I mean by earthy flavors?  Well, I consider earthy flavors to be herbs and ingredients that remind me of sitting outside on a warm afternoon and taking in all the aromas of my yard and surrounding environment.  They are flavors that draw one into the basic sense of where food comes from, that remind of farms and fruit trees, conjure up images of harvest time and working with your hands to provide.  Those are what earthy flavors are to me, which might differ completely from someone’s idea, but at least it gives you an idea of how this recipe was conceived.

So, a few of my basic earthy flavors are herbs like sage, thyme, oregano, and rosemary.  And a few of my earthy ingredients are mushrooms and onions.  I took all those basic ideas and created a meatloaf from elk centering around this particular flavor profile.  This is a great base recipe for creating your own elk meatloaf fitting the likes of your family or friends because it easy to add or subtract ingredients from.  Friends don’t like mushrooms, toss ’em out and add in carrots, corn, or another vegetable they like.  You hate onions?  They won’t be missed if you take them out.  See, it is a very versatile elk meatloaf recipe!

To begin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour a half cup of milk, any percentage you have on hand will do, and soak pieces of Italian bread in the milk until they have soaked it all up.  Set the bread aside momentarily.  It is also time to start the caramelized onions.

Caramelized onions are one of my favorites.  They are so sweet, and the texture is soft and almost kind of chewy.  They are so good!  Cooking them isn’t really all that difficult, it just is a test of your patience.  To get a really good caramelized onion, you have to let the onions cook on low for about thirty minutes.  I always get tempted to turn the heat up in hopes of speeding up the process, but that idea is not a good one.  Instead of sweet onions, you end up more frying the onions, which creates an entirely different flavor and texture than you are looking for.

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe Caramelized OnionsTo cook caramelized onion, heat up two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over low heat.  Add two large onions that have been thinly sliced and allow to slowly cook for about ten minutes.  At ten minutes, I sprinkle in about two teaspoons of salt and give everything a stir.  Allow to cook for twenty more minutes, stirring occasionally.  The onions should start to turn translucent and brown slightly on the edges.  Sometimes I add a little sugar, like a teaspoon, or a tablespoon of vinegar to help with the caramelizing process.  When the onions are done cooking, set aside and start on the meatloaf.

In a second mixing bowl, add two pounds of ground elk.  I like to add bacon to my ground elk so I have a bit of fat in the meat, as elk is incredibly lean and tends to dry out if you don’t introduce a fat source.  When grinding, I do a ratio of about 10% bacon to 90% elk, so for this recipe I did around two pounds of elk and about 3 ounces of bacon.  You could also do beef fat, if that is available from your butcher.  I like to do bacon because it adds a little bacon flavor to my meat, which is something I generally add anyway when making elk burgers or an elk meatloaf recipe, and so it is kind of a two-for-one deal in this situation.

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe Ingredients To the ground elk, add a tablespoon of fennel, and two teaspoons each of dried sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.  If you don’t have all those ingredients on hand, you could add two tablespoons of dried Italian seasoning and you will hit most or all of the dried herbs.  Next, add three cloves of minced garlic, a half cup of tomato juice, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.  Using your hands, give everything a quick mix.

Next, break three eggs into the bowl.  Add in the milk soaked bread crumbs, and use your hands to really incorporate everything together.  It’s time to add the dried breadcrumbs.  I add the dried crumbs a cup at time, mixing after each addition and checking the consistency.  Stop adding when the meatloaf is still moist but holds together in a ball in the palm of your hand.  This time I used about three cups.  Season with a little salt and pepper and then press out into a large rectangle on a sheet of wax paper.  It’s time to start layering some flavor!

I first put down a layer of shredded cheese.  I wanted to use Parmigiano-Reggiano, but my local grocery store doesn’t carry that particular cheese, so instead I went for an Italian cheese blend that had Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago.  Parmesan is more of a generic American term for salty, harder cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano. So when you buy a three cheese blend similar to the one I found it kind of counts as covering the idea of Parmigian-Reggiano.  All three cheeses are salty based cheeses that are harder with a crumbly texture.

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe with MushroomsOn top of the cheese, add the mushroom slices.  I used baby portabellas for this recipe, but you can use whatever type of mushroom you like best.  Shitakes would be fantastic, as would Cremini or even white button.  Add the caramelized onions on top of the mushrooms.  Starting at the edge closest to you and using the wax paper to help keep your hands from sticking, roll the meat and all its ingredients into a tidy little loaf.  Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven.  Allow to cook for one hour.

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe of Rolled MeatloafWhile the meatloaf is cooking, it is time to make the gravy.  This is a very simple brown gravy that has onions, mushrooms, and fresh thyme to help compliment the flavors of the actual elk meatloaf.  I am not the greatest gravy person, in fact many times I struggle with getting a good texture and consistency; however this recipe was incredibly simple and turned out great.

Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe for Thickening GravyMelt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for about eight minutes.  Then, add the onions and cook an additional three minutes.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the mushrooms and onions and then whisk for about a minute into the juices and oils of the pan.  Try and mix in all the flour, as you are creating a roux for you gravy base to help thicken the sauce.  Cook for about a minute.

Slowly pour in two cups of beef broth, continuously whisking as you pour and breaking up any chunks that might develop.  Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about ten minutes so it can reduce and thicken.  In a small mixing cup, add a tablespoon of corn starch to a half cup of water.  I added about a tablespoon of the corn starch mixture at a time to my gravy, stirring and then checking the consistency before I added more.  I only added cornstarch until the gravy was thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, but it still dripped off and was somewhat at a liquid state.  It should be glossy and shiny as well.  Stir in a tablespoon of fresh minced thyme and some apple cider vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.Image of Elk Meatloaf Recipe for Mushroom Gravy

To plate this ultimate comfort food dish up, add a healthy slice of the elk meatloaf to your plate and then drench it in the mushroom and onion gravy.  For my side, I had a mashed sweet potato for a little color on my plate.  Enjoy all those earthy flavors of mushroom, onion, rosemary, sage, and thyme in this elk meatloaf recipe! So good!

Happy Hunting!

Elk Meatloaf Recipe: Onions, Mushrooms, and Italian Cheese

Elk Meatloaf Recipe: Onions, Mushrooms, and Italian Cheese

Ingredients

    For Meatloaf
  • Two pounds ground elk meat
  • 6 Slices Italian Style Bread
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Thyme
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Sage
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Rosemary
  • 1/2 Cup Tomato Juice
  • 6 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 cups Dried Bread Crumbs, such as Panko
  • 8 Ounces Baby Portabella Mushrooms
  • Caramelized Onions
  • 2 Cups Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
    For Caramelized Onions
  • Two Large Onions, Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
    For Mushroom Thyme Gravy
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 8 Ounces Mushrooms
  • 1/2 Large Onion, Sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 2 Cups Beef Broth
  • 2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch with 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Minced Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

    For Caramelized Onion
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and allow to cook, slowly, for ten minutes.
  2. After ten minutes, sprinkle the onions with the salt. Stir and allow to cook for an additional twenty minutes.
  3. Stir the onions occasionally. You will know they are finished when the onions are translucent and slightly browned on the edges. They should taste sweet.
    For the Meatloaf
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, break up the six Italian bread slices. Pour the half cup of milk over the bread and allow to soak. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add two pounds of ground elk meat. To the ground elk meat, add the fennel seed, sage, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Mix everything once with hands.
  4. To the large bowl, add the minced garlic, tomato juice, Dijon mustard. Mix again.
  5. Finally, add the eggs and soaked bread crumbs. MIx everything thoroughly. Now start adding the dried bread crumbs cup by cup until desired consistency is reached. Meatloaf should be moist but hold together when formed into a ball in your hand.
  6. Spread the meat mixture onto a piece of wax paper, forming a large rectangle about an inch thick.
  7. On top of the meat mixture, lay the cheese, mushrooms, and caramelized onions. Using the paper to help you, roll the meat and toppings in a loaf and set on baking sheet.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for one hour.
    For the Mushroom Thyme Gravy
  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and allow to sauté for eight minutes.
  2. Add the sliced onions and cook an additional three minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and onions. Using a whisk, dissolve the flour entirely in the juices and oils of the pan. Cook for one minute.
  4. Slowly add the beef broth and whisk constantly while adding. Bring the a gentle boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer for ten minutes.
  5. Add the cornstarch tablespoon by tablespoon until the gravy is desired thickness and is glossy.
  6. Remove from heat and add apple cider vinegar and fresh minced thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. To plate, cut yourself a beautiful slice of meatloaf and drench in mushroom gravy!
  8. Enjoy!
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Salmon Recipe: Pecan Butter Crusted Salmon

“Salmon. Salmon, salmon, salmon, salmon. I eat so much salmon at these weddings, twice a year I get this urge to swim upstream.” ~David Nicholls

Two years ago, my sister and brother-in-law relocated their family to Olympia, Washington.  There were several reasons for the move, but I am pretty sure a main motivator for my sister was salmon fishing.  She is a fishing fanatic, and the bigger the potential size of the fish, the longer we sit in the boat.  She is one of those people that will wait for hours for a bite, whether there is action happening on the other end of the line or not.  I can’t count how many times I have been out with her, starting at the first peak of light over the horizon and staying until late into the day, and nothing has been happening.  I give up.  I will reach the point where I won’t even bait my pole anymore and start reading because it has been hours and hours with no action.  And just when I think, “Finally! She is defeated and we are leaving!”  there will be that inevitable tug, which most of the time I think she imagined it, and we have to start all over again.  That “tug” is like the refresh button.  The hours we have sat there are irrelevant because “Now! Now, we are getting somewhere and things are starting to happen!”

Since her move to the Pacific Northwest, my sister has landed exactly zero salmon.  This is not from a lack of trying, trust me on that one.  She has spent hours on the Puget Sound, pole in the water, patiently waiting for a bite.  She has tried hundreds of locations, stopped at dozens of fishing shops and talked with people about how they go about salmon fishing in the area, experimented with multiple bait and lure set-ups.  She has tried early morning, mid-day lunch time, evening, even night time fishing.  She has done it all, and had zero success.  Until this weekend!!!

This weekend, her family landed their very first king salmon, and the excitement was palpable.  I am pretty sure she called me half a dozen times to remind me that, yes indeed, she had caught a king salmon in the Puget Sound.  It wasn’t a huge fish, in fact it was only a few inches over the legal limit-size, but it was a fish! And she had caught it! And I think she wanted me to hum the Rocky theme song or something for her over the phone to acknowledge her accomplishment, but I draw the line there!

Anyway, in honor of my sister’s first official king salmon caught in the Pacific Northwest, I am going to share a recipe for pecan crusted salmon.

Salmon is one of my favorite eating fish. It has a very meaty, and filling texture but is also flaky.  Salmon is an oily fish, which adds to the mild but buttery flavor of the meat.  A very diverse fish, salmon is great in sushi, grilled, baked, and smoked.

For this recipe, I left the skin on the salmon since I was grilling it.  If that bothers you, the skin is easy to remove and you can bake this instead of grilling it.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to grill it without the skin though, as I am pretty sure the entire thing will just fall apart and you’ll lose all your fishy goodness to the coals.

Preheat your grill, whether charcoal or gas, to a medium heat.  It might also be useful to lightly oil the grate, which will help prevent sticking.

While the grill is preheating, prepare the salmon filet by dousing it in Worcestershire sauce, about a tablespoon will cover a pound of fish.  Massage the sauce into the fish a bit, and then season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

When thinking about how much fish to prepare, I like to estimate a half pound, or eight ounces, per person.  At our house, some people can eat a lot of salmon, and others not so much.  The eight ounces per person usually balances out just right and everyone is satisfied by the meal’s end.

For the salmon topping, preheat the oven broiler to high.  Place a cup of pecans in an oven-friendly dish and let broil for five minutes.  Keep an eye on pecans, as sometimes they will cook a little quicker than you intended and you end up with burnt pecans.  I usually check mine after two minutes and see how things are looking.  You will know they are ready when you open the oven door and are essentially overwhelmed by the nutty aromas filling the oven.  It smells amazing!  Let the pecans cool.

In a food processor, add the cooled pecans, a quarter cup of unsalted butter, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Grind it all up until a buttery paste is formed. This recipe makes a decent amount of the topping, it will easily coat a pound and a half of salmon.  If you like a bit thinner topping, you could stretch it to do two pounds. Top the salmon, coating evenly, with the pecan topping.

Image of Pecan Crust on Salmon for Pecan Butter Crusted Salmon RecipeWell, all that is left to do is grill the salmon!  Place the salmon filet skin-side down directly over the heat.  Close the grill lid and allow to cook for seven minutes.  I do a check at seven minutes to make sure the salmon is cooking properly, that my grill isn’t on fire, that my fish hasn’t fallen into the coals, you know, all the bad things that could happen. I check at seven minutes just to make sure they haven’t happened.  Anyway, depending on the thickness of the salmon, it takes about 12 minutes per inch of salmon to cook.  The piece I used for this meal was about an inch and a half thick, so it took about 18 minutes to fully cook. You can tell the salmon is ready because it will flake easily off the skin with a fork, and it should also start to release some of the meat’s fats, which kind of look like mayonnaise (yeah, sorry, that sounds gross but it really is the best description).

Now all that is left to do is dig in!  The pecan and butter topping pair perfectly with the oily, salmon.  The Italian seasoning adds a twist that is somewhat unexpected, as it almost clashes with the pecans and fish flavor, but then somehow at the same time compliments the flavors.  This is a very simple, fast, and delicious recipe that really lets the salmon shine!  Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Hunting!

Pecan Butter Crusted Salmon

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 22 minutes

4

Pecan Butter Crusted Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds cleaned salmon, skin-on
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/4 unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Preheat the oven broiler to high.
  3. Place the pecans in an oven-proof dish and cook for five minutes, watching carefully to not over cook. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
  4. Prep the salmon by massaging in the Worcestershire sauce and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. In a food processor, blend thoroughly the cooled pecans, butter, Italian seasoning, and paprika. Spread the mixture evenly over the salmon.
  6. Place the salmon skin-side down on the grill. Cover grill and allow to cook for 12 minutes per inch thickness of salmon.
  7. Enjoy!
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Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear.” ~ Adam Richman

I love a good jalapeno popper.  I love the rich cream cheese paired with buttery sharp cheddar.  I love the, sometimes overwhelming, heat of the jalapeno.  And I love the salty bite of bacon.  It is easily my favorite grilled food.

I am such a fan of the grilled jalapeno popper that I tend to take other popular grilling items and transform them into jalapeno popper versions.  For example, I never turn down a dove jalapeno popper.  I also have been known to create a grilled shrimp jalapeno popper.  None of these are novel ideas, but they are recipes that never disappoint.

This summer, I opened the freezer and noticed a few forgotten mallard breasts.  I had just seen a recipe for duck jalapeno poppers while visiting some popular grilling websites I frequent, and of course I mentally fired up the charcoal and started cleaning jalapenos for duck poppers.  Upon wandering outside to actually start the grill, I realized it was well over 100 degrees outside, and nothing sounded worse than standing in front of a sweltering grill slowly turning poppers.  I retreated back to the air conditioning and started to reformulate my plan.

A little contemplation lead to the duck jalapeno popper quesadilla.  All the beautiful grilled flavors of the popper, including the jalapeno, onions, cream and cheddar cheeses, and bacon but prepared in a crispy tortilla shell quesadilla style.

Instead of leaving the duck whole and wrapping it in bacon, I slow cooked it for a few hours, with bacon to add a little fat, and then shredded the meat.  Add to the shredded duck all the popper fixing, grill it on the griddle or in the oven, and you have a fast, easy alternative to the popper!  And you don’t even have to break a sweat doing it.

The full recipe is featured on huntinglife.com, which I am very excited to be able to be a part of.  Check out the entire recipe here: Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadilla!

Happy Hunting!

Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

6-8 quesdillas depending on size of tortilla

Wild Duck Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • 3 wild duck breasts, cleaned and skinless
  • 6-7 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil or butter

Instructions

  1. In a crockpot, place the cleaned, skinless duck breasts. Cover with the half cup of water and place two slices of bacon over the top.
  2. Cook the breasts on low for 3-4 four hours, until the duck because tender and starts to fall apart.
  3. Using two forks, shred the duck breasts. Discard the bacon.
  4. In a medium bowl, cream together the block of cream cheese and two cups of the cheddar cheese.
  5. Prepare bacon by placing on a large baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cooking in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Let bacon cool slightly and dice into small pieces.
  6. Finely dice onions and jalapenos.
  7. To construct quesadilla, take one tortilla and place about a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on top. Spread it evenly over tortilla. Add a spoonful of shredded duck, diced jalapeno and onions, and bacon crumbles. Top with more cheddar cheese and cover with second tortilla.
  8. Preheat a grilled to medium heat. Melt about a teaspoon of butter or cooking oil. Once oil is hot, place quesadilla on hot griddle and cook for two to three minutes, until the cheese has started to melt and tortilla is slight browned. Flip quesadilla and cook additional two to three minutes on second side.
  9. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Serve with chipotle sour cream and salsa.
  10. Enjoy!
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Dutch Oven Biscuits and Gravy

Be sure to watch your biscuits! Everyone is going to want a taste of this hearty and delicious dutch oven breakfast.

“Time camping isn’t spent, it is invested.”

When I first bought a dutch oven I had one thing in mind: biscuits and gravy.  Biscuit and gravy is the most cliché dutch oven meal you can make, but it is the definition of dutch oven cooking.  Biscuits and gravy (or B&G as it is more affectionately known as) is a quick, simple, easy clean-up, hearty meal, which is what dutch oven cooking is all about.  A good dutch oven meal tastes like a home cooked meal served next to a campfire on a paper plate.  B&G fulfills this role perfectly, as nothing tastes more home cooked than creamy sausage gravy from scratch piled over warm, oven cooked golden biscuits.

The hardest part of making dutch oven B&G is the preparing the dutch oven (and trust me, this part isn’t difficult!)

For this recipe, it is easiest to have two dutch ovens.  You can do it in a single one, but the bottoms of your biscuits will most likely be soggy. So, I am going to go through the recipe for two ovens, but know you could accomplish this task in a single one.

When cooking with a dutch oven, there are a few different options for a heat source: charcoal, wood, and gas.  I tend to go with charcoal because it creates a nice even heat when cooking, is easy to prepare, and easy for clean-up.  Wood is a great option as you usually don’t have to purchase extra materials since wood is all around you while camping!  A main disadvantage is that wood creates uneven heat, so you have to be a little more meticulous while you cook.  Finally, gas is as easy option if you have a propane stove with you to just set the oven on, but I actually take a dutch oven to replace the whole concept of carrying around a stove.  Anyway, all three options will work and have pros and cons, it really is all about personal preference.


To heat up my charcoal briquettes, I use a chimney.  This is the easiest way I have found to light and burn down the charcoal.  Chimneys are a relatively cheap investment, here is a link for a few different options: Charcoal Chimney. To light the briquettes, simply place the chimney over a few pieces of newspaper or other paper source, add the charcoal to the top of the chimney, and light the paper on the bottom.  The paper should flame up and then the chimney should start to smoke.  It takes about fifteen minutes for briquettes to heat up, you will know they are ready when the top layer starts to ash over.

 

To my first dutch oven, I add the biscuits.  You could whip up a batch of your own dough and make the biscuits from scratch, but since this is camp cooking, I tend to opt for the easier version on things.  So, for camp B&G I just use store bought biscuits.  I like to get the big homestyle ones that are buttery and flaky.  Before adding the biscuits, I place a layer of aluminum foil into the oven.  This helps the biscuits from getting too brown on the bottoms, keeps them from sticking, and also makes clean-up that much easier.  Place the biscuits in a single layer on top of the foil, and cover with the lid.  To the bottom of the dutch oven, add between 8-10 briquettes for a 12″ dutch oven.  The biscuits need to bake around 350 degrees to cook.  If your oven is smaller than 12″ subtract two or three briquettes, if it is larger add two or three.  On top of the oven, add 15-18 briquettes.

While the biscuits are cooking, start to preheat the second dutch oven stacked on top of the first.  Once the oven has heated up, add the pound of ground sausage.  I like to use homemade deer sausage, but any breakfast sausage is perfect for this recipe.  Cook the sausage until it is golden brown.  There is no need to remove the sausage from the pan.  You want to create a roux so the gravy will be thick and creamy, and at home you traditionally would pull the sausage out to do this, but this is camping! And the rules are meant to be broken while in the outdoors.  So, let’s break some rules and not remove the sausage!

To the sausage and drippings, add 1/4 cup flour and whisk until a paste forms and the mixture looks smooth and free of lumps.  This should take about a minute.  Slowly add the milk, stirring the entire time.  Allow the mixture to bubble and cook down until it reaches your desired consistency, stirring occasionally to keep things from burning or sticking to the bottom.  While you want the gravy to bubble gently while cooking, don’t allow it to come to a hard boil.  If things are too hot, simply remove a few pieces of charcoal from under the top oven and continue cooking.  Once the gravy is thick and glossy, season with salt and pepper.

The biscuits need between 12-15 minutes to cook.  They should be fluffy and golden brown on top when finished.

To plate this bad-boy breakfast up, split a biscuit in half and place it on the plate.  Smother it in the sausage gravy.  Dig in!  It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Enjoy and Happy Hunting!

 

Dutch Oven Biscuits and Gravy

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

6-8 servings

Serving Size: 1 biscuit and half cup gravy

Dutch Oven Biscuits and Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 can homestyle biscuits
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Line the a 12" dutch oven with aluminum foil. Place biscuits on top of foil and cover with lid.
  2. Place 8-10 already heated charcoal briquettes below the oven. Add 15-18 briquettes on top.
  3. Stack a second dutch oven on top of first.
  4. Allow second oven to preheat.
  5. Add pound of sausage and cook until just browned.
  6. To the sausage and its drippings, whisk in the flour, creating a roux. The flour should create a lump-free, smooth paste.
  7. Once roux is ready, slowly add the milk, stirring the entire time.
  8. Allow the gravy to come to a gentle boil and reduce down, stirring occasionally to prevent burning or sticking. Once the gravy has reached desired consistency, and season with salt and pepper.
  9. The biscuits should be ready in 12-15 minutes, so check them as you cook the gravy.
  10. Plate by breaking open a biscuits and smothering in sausage gravy.
  11. Enjoy!
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Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

“The turkey’s eyes are such that he can see a bumblebee turn a somersault on the verge of the horizon.” ~Archibald Rutledge

Every time I cook with wild turkey, four things run through my mind: it will be gamey, it will be tough, it will be chewy, it will be dry.  Those four fears not only run through my mind, but they try to dictate how I will prepare my wild turkey.  I take those four things and try to construct a plan for the handling, preparation, and cooking of my turkey that avoids those four possibilities.  Those four fears also lead to me half jokingly say before I set a plate down in front of an eater, “If it tastes bad, we are ordering pizza.”  And every time I make something with wild turkey, the first bite shoves those four fears out of my mind and instead all I can say is “Oh man!”

While making this latest wild turkey meal, I tried to start with the idea that it was going to work.  I tried to think about how I wanted to meal to taste at the end and not how I was going to try and manipulate the meal around the fact that the protein in it was wild turkey.  This got me thinking about my four fears and why they were so ingrained in my head.  I guess it is because they fit the myths formed when trying something new.  These myths can really be used to describe any new food experience: it will taste different and the texture will be weird.  So, I decided to give these four wild turkey myths a little debunking.

My Wild Turkey will be Gamey

I cannot 100% define what meat being “gamey” actually means.  All I can determine is when people say something is gamey they mean “I don’t like it.”  A few things I think people mean when they say something is gamey is it tastes strong, perhaps a little overwhelming to the taste buds, possibly an earthy flavor.  I think people also are referring that the animal tastes like what it has been eating.  For example, I have heard people say mule deer tastes like sage brush, or that wild turkey tastes like garlic.

I can’t change someone’s mind about if something taste gamey.  All I can say is that all meat tastes a little different.  And I think you can develop a liking of the way a meat tastes by trying it a couple of times, maybe prepared a couple of different ways.  I was not a huge elk fan growing up.  I didn’t mind deer, but elk was a little harder for me to try.  The same goes for duck.  And I am still working on developing my taste for goose, which has so far been unsuccessful.  But I am working on it.  With all that being said, I actually do not care for beef as much now that I do not eat it as often.  Whenever I go out now and order a steak, it just tastes a little “off” to me.

I also think that the “gamey” taste many people describe comes from how people care for their harvest afterwards.  There are a variety of techniques and tricks people have for cleaning and processing an animal, many of which I am still learning, and they can really help enhance the wild game dining experience.  A few quick tips I have for cleaning wild turkey is to take time to carefully remove all the fascia from the meat.  Remove as much as the fat as possible as well.  Go over the meat rigidly a few times and inspect for bb’s (While they don’t taste gamey, nothing ruins a meal faster than biting into a bb!).  Also, learn to properly clean a turkey so you don’t hit the croup or intestines (they can really makes things not smell so wonderful when pierced). Finally, if it is hot out when you shoot your tom, field dress the animal and put it on ice quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

My Wild Turkey will be Tough, Chewy, and Dry

While turkeys are tough birds (just ask my father-in-law, he has a few stories about some vicious run-ins with America’s favorite bird!), their meat doesn’t have to be!  Any piece of meat can be tough, chewy, and dried out if not prepared properly, and no two meats are prepared the same.  Even on a wild turkey, I prepare leg meat very differently from how I prepare breast meat.

For this recipe, I wanted to use the breast meat and keep it in larger-sized chunks.  In order to keep the breasts from becoming tough, chewy, or dry, I decided to roast them first.  In the past, I have also created some fantastic twists on turkey breasts that weren’t tough or dry using a variety of techniques, such as slow cooking and shredding the breasts, or grinding the meat with a little fat and forming meatballs or burger patties.  There are lots of options out there, it is just a matter of handling the meat correctly in order to avoid having a tough, chewy, dry slab of meat laying in front of you.

So, with all that said and done, let’s get to the recipe!

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle!!!

For this recipe, I like to roast the turkey breast because I am going to be keeping it in large chunks for the dish.  Roasting releases the natural juices of the meat, which helps flavor the turkey breast and keeps it from drying out.  Roasting the wild turkey breast also kept the meat tender.  I think if I had just cooked it on the stovetop in a pan, it would have resulted in a much tougher and chewier texture.

Season the breast liberally with salt and pepper, then place on a baking sheet. I like to line my baking sheet with a little aluminum foil to help clean-up go faster.  You can skip this step if you want.  I just thought I would mention it as a little tip to help with dishes.

Place the breast in the oven and let it roast for twenty five minutes, flipping once during the process.  Once the meat is done cooking, set it aside and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into large, but still bite-sized, chunks.

While the turkey is roasting, heat a large pan over medium-high heat with four tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, add the small diced onion and cook for about five minutes, until the onion is soft and starting to turn translucent.  I just have to add right here, that I love the smell of onion cooking in butter.

Once the onions are soft, add the two crushed garlic cloves.  If you don’t crush garlic cloves often, which I can’t actually say that I do, there is a quick little trick for it.  There is no need to peel the clove.  Instead, take your knife and place the side of the blade against the clove on a hard surface, like the cutting board.  With one hand firmly pressed the knife against the garlic, use the heel of your other hand and gently give the knife blade a whack.  The garlic should crush under the blade and then the skin of the clove easily falls off.  Drop the crushed clove into the oil and you’re done!

Next, it is time to add the zucchini.  You can slice the zucchini into thin, julienne-style strips, but I bought a new kitchen gadget that creates spiral cut noodles and I thought I would use it for this dish.  These spiral cutters are really cheap, you can pick one up for about $10, and they work really well.  You just insert the vegetable of your choice and twist.  Easy!  Here is a link for an example of a spiral cutter: Spiral Vegetable Cutter.

Add the zucchini to the dish, top with a little salt and pepper, and the minced fresh marjoram.  Cook for two or three minutes and then add in the chunks of wild turkey.

Cook the turkey and zucchini mixture for eight to ten minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and season with a pinch of salt.  Add the tagliatelle noodles and cook to al dente, according to the instructions on the box.  If you are like me, you might not really know what tagliatelle noodles are.  I did a little research before I used them, just to see what I was getting myself into.  Basically, tagliatelle noodles are an egg based pasta similar to fettucinne.  They are long, thin ribbons that pair great with meat sauces.  Once I read they were similar to fettucinne, my fears of the pasta unknown were pretty much gone.

Anyway, add the cooked noodles to the turkey mixture, drizzle on the second tablespoon of olive oil, and give everything a good stir to make sure everyone has a little of the butter sauce on it.

To serve this wild turkey dish up, place a heap of the turkey, zucchini, and noodles on a plate.  Sprinkle on some fresh shaved parmesan cheese, and then garnish with a pretty zucchini flower straight from the bush (if you have a zucchini bush it is a fun little touch to add to the dish, if not you don’t have to worry about finding a flower, the dish is designed to be amazing without it).  The flower is also edible!

Before I sign off, I have to say that this dish was definitely better than ordering pizza.  My fears of it being gamey, tough, chewy, and dry were quickly replaced with “Oh man!” at the first bite.  The turkey was juicy and tender, not tough or chewy at all, and it paired really well with the zucchini.  The very simple butter and olive oil sauce was delicious and delicate while the marjoram added a beautiful aroma to the dish.  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

 

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

4-6

Wild Turkey Tagliatelle

Ingredients

  • 1 fully-cleaned, skin-off wild turkey breast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, cut julienne-style
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh marjoram, minced
  • 1lb tagliatelle noodles
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Instructions

    For the turkey breast
  1. Preheat the broiler on the oven to high.
  2. On a large baking sheet, lined with foil for easy clean-up, place the turkey breast. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Broil the turkey breast for 25 minutes.
  4. Set aside to cool briefly.
    For the Turkey Tagliatelle
  1. In a large pan over medium high heat, melt the butter with a tablespoon of the olive oil.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the diced onions and cook until they are soft and slightly translucent, about five minutes.
  3. Add two crushed garlic cloves.
  4. For the zucchini, cut into julienne strips or use a spiral noodle cutter. Place the prepared zucchini into the butter and onions. Coat with the butter mixture.
  5. Add the marjoram and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Cool for two to three minutes.
  7. While the zucchini are cooking, dice the roasted turkey breast into large, bite-size pieces.
  8. Add turkey to zucchini and cook for eight to ten minutes.
  9. While turkey is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with a pinch of salt.
  10. Cook tagliatelle noodles according to instructions on the box.
  11. Add cooked noodles to turkey and zucchini.
  12. Serve the turkey tagliatelle with shaved parmesan cheese and garnish with a flower from the zucchini bush (which is edible!!!).
  13. Enoy!!!
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Seared Deer Steaks in a Cilantro, Lime, Jalapeno Sauce: Kick Summer Up a Notch!

“People get a little bolder and more wild in summer. You’ve got things going on kabobs, things cooking on the bone. There’s something about standing over a grill or outside with the family that inspires us.” ~Guy Fieri

Living in the middle of a desert, seafood isn’t always the best choice.  Anytime I order fish or other seafood from a restaurant, I can almost taste the freezer burn.  I can actually see it on the crab legs when I am at the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy those crab legs and cook them up as a special treat every once in awhile, but I am still saying that in the middle of the desert, seafood is not like seafood you get other places.

That being said, oddly enough our little town has a sushi restaurant.  If you had opened up a sushi restaurant in this simple little uranium mining town thirty years ago, you would have been laughed out of town.  And most likely gone bankrupt, because I can’t imagine the tables would have been full.  However, as the town has blossomed, or actually a better word is probably exploded, into a tourist destination quickly over the last ten years, the cuisine has evolved.  There are several Thai restaurants, a handful of Mexican places, and even this sushi restaurant.

Anyway, for being a sushi restaurant sitting in a barren dust bowl of red blow sand, cactus, and sweltering heat, it is actually pretty good.  The fish is flown in daily from Hawaii, and they try to source local ingredients for the rest of their ingredients, such as vegetables and fruits.  I think the local produce is part of what appeals to me when I dine at the sushi place, and in particular I like their La Sal Roll.  Named after the mountains to the west of the town, the La Sal Roll is a salmon based roll with asparagus, lime, cucumber, and avocado.  The roll has a refreshing bite from the lime and cucumber, but is also hearty from the avocado.

This roll is the inspiration for this deer steak dish.  With summer dragging in an extra long heat wave this year, eating has been…challenging.  It feels so hot that steak sounds awful.  But it is also summer, the season of grilling, which makes steak sound appealing.  It’s a confusing state to live in.  This deer steak is a great compromise.  It takes the refreshing flavors of lime and cilantro and pairs it with the kick of jalapenos, creamy avocados, and a bit of spicy ginger.

For the steaks, I used deer backstrap and cut it into four medallions about three inches thick.  It would also work great with tenderloin or another steak cut.  Another substitution would be to use elk, moose, or pronghorn. I think this sauce would pair great with any of those steaks.  Let the steaks rest at room temperature for ten to fifteen minutes.  Then season them liberally with salt and pepper.

While the steaks are resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a rimmed cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, place some cherry tomatoes and asparagus.  I usually do four to five cherry tomatoes and half a bundle of asparagus per person.  Drizzle a little olive oil over everything, season with salt and pepper, give everything a quick mix using your hands, and throw those puppies in the oven.  They should take about twelve to fifteen minutes to cook.  You will know they are ready with the tomatoes are just starting to burst.

Next, prepare the sauce.  To a large bowl, add two big handfuls of cilantro, just torn with your hands into chunks, one jalapeno sliced into rings (if you aren’t a fan of spicy, remove the seeds before you slice up the pepper), two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger root (which I suggest purchasing a microplane to use.  They are the best, and can be used on cheese, garlic, nutmeg, or for zesting fruit), two cloves of garlic (which can also be grated on the microplane!), the juice of three limes, and four tablespoons of coconut aminos.  I like to use coconut aminos for this recipe because it adds that salty soy sauce taste, but it also adds a hint of sweetness.  If you don’t have coconut aminos you can always just substitute in soy sauce or tamari.  Whisk everything together and set aside.

To cook the steaks, heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Wait until the pan is good and hot before adding the steaks.  This will create a really nice crust to the steaks.  I like to actually time my steaks when cooking them.  Since these steaks were fairly thick, I let them go for three minutes per side, for a total of six minutes cooking time.  That resulted in a medium rare steak.  If you are more of a medium person, add a minute.  More of a rare person?  Subtract a minute.  If your steaks are thinner than three inches, subtract a minute.

Once you have cooked both sides, it is time to add the sauce.  Leave the pan on medium high heat and slowly drizzly the sauce into the pan and over the steaks.  The pan should be hot enough when the sauce hits the pan, it sizzles.  You are almost caramelizing the sauce for a minute.  Let it bubble around the steaks for about thirty seconds and then turn the heat off.  Let the pan sit while you prepare the plates.

For plate preparation, dice up half an avocado per person.  Make the pieces bite size chunks.  Lay two medallions onto each plate.  Place the roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and avocado around the steak.  Pour the sauce over everything and garnish with a little fresh cilantro.

So, if you are looking for fresh twist on steak, give this recipe a try.  I love the heat you get from the jalapenos, the spicy little kick of the ginger, and the sweet hints from coconut aminos.  Enjoy!

Happy Hunting!

Seared Deer Steaks in a Cilantro, Lime, Jalapeno Sauce: Kick Summer Up a Notch!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 23 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes

2

Seared Deer Steaks in a Cilantro, Lime, Jalapeno Sauce: Kick Summer Up a Notch!

Ingredients

  • 4 deer steak medallions, about three inches thick
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Avocado
    Steak Sauce
  • 2 handfuls torn cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 inch piece ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut deer steaks into about three inch thick medallions. Allow to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Place tomatoes and asparagus on a rimmed cookie sheet, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place to 400 degree preheated oven for fifteen minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst.
  3. For the sauce, whisk together cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, limes, olive oil, and coconut aminos.
  4. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is preheated, place seasoned steaks down for three minutes per side.
  5. Pour sauce over cooked steaks, allow to come to a bubble for thirty seconds. Turn heat off.
  6. On a plate, set two steak medallions, four to five cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and diced avocado. Pour sauce over top and enjoy!
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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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