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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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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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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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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