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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Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

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

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

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

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

My parents would ignore me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hunting!

Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

4 servings

Whiskey Rosemary Cream Sauce over Deer Steak and Mushrooms

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hunting!

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes

2

Serving Size: 4 cups

Homemade Pheasant Stock

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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