“They run like deer, jump like deer, and think like deer.” -Charles Barkley
I would love more than anything to have a prologue to this blog post. The prologue would be this great adventure of how I went out and hiked several miles, bow slung over my back, and I crossed creeks and hid in brush. After a long, exhausting day I would fall asleep in my chair at the campfire and have to be nudged to go crawl in my sleeping bag so I would be ready at 5:00am to cross more creeks and hide in more brush. I would love to say how I did that for three days before tracking down my buck, and then explain all the anticipation and nerves and adrenaline rushing through my body as I got my first buck. I would love to tell that story before posting this recipe.
I would also like to have a blog post on how to clean and store all the meat from that big buck I got. But there are two problems. First, I did go out this past fall for my first mule deer season. I did cross creeks and hide in brush and fall asleep in my chair. But I didn’t see anything. The second problem is if I waited until deer season to post this blog I would be waiting a long nine months. And I wanted to eat this deer tenderloin now! This recipe is incredibly simple and soooo delicious!
So, before I get started on the food, I guess I will share the less exciting, for me anyway, story about my husband and his buck. My husband landed this desert mule deer along the banks of the Colorado River. In Utah, you can apply for a special license called the Dedicated Hunter. With the Dedicated Hunter program, you have to complete so many hours of community service and pay the license fee. In return, your license allows you to hunt for three years and harvest two mule deer bucks in that time frame. You also get to hunt all three general seasons: archery, muzzleloader, and rifle.
My husband struggled this season. Our very unsuccessful archery hunt, which was the season I had a tag for, was disappointing. It was a very quiet season. We didn’t see or hear anything. The muzzleloader season was also very similar for him: unsuccessful. This was the second year of his permit, and his first year had also ended with him not using his tag. He went out after work for the rifle season along the Colorado River and started following some tracks. The tracks entered a large bunch of tamarisk and Russian olive trees. This buck and another small male were lying down in the covering. He was very excited with this buck, which measured around 190. I will admit, I was very jealous. But I love deer meat and now I get to share this very wonderful recipe with you!
We cut our tenderloin into very thin, 1/2 inch butterflied filets. We do this for two reasons, you get to have a lot more tenderloin meals! And cooking up these little filets is super easy. I always let my steaks sit out on the counter for a bit before I start cooking. You want to take the chill off your meat. Letting them sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so will help them to cook quicker, more evenly, and they will take the seasonings better. I season my steaks up with just a little bit of salt and pepper.
Before you start cooking, you want to prepare your gorgonzola cheese topping. These steaks are going to cook up in mere minutes, and you want your cheese topping to be completely prepared so you can drop those big spoonfuls of cheese on at just the right time. To make the cheese topping, start with your crumbled gorgonzola cheese in a big bowl. You could also use blue cheese if you are not a huge fan of gorgonzola. With me, the stinkier the cheese the better. Mince your herbs and add them to your cheese bowl. I like to use sage, rosemary, and thyme. You could try adding other herbs if you like. I go with sage, rosemary, and thyme because I think they have real earthy flavors and that pairs well with the flavor of deer.
Alright, we are on to frying those bad boys up! To start, heat your pan over medium high. You can add a tablespoon of oil to fry your steak in, if you want. I prefer to not do that with deer tenderloin because I don’t want the meat to absorb any of the oil flavor. Like I said before, I just season them up with a bit of salt and pepper and enjoy the taste of the meat.
Once the pan is heated up, drop the filets in. There are two very important steps you are going to perform here. First, lay that meat down and then DON’T touch it! If you try and move the meat once it has touched the hot pan you will rip your steak. You want to let the meat fry up and get that beautiful, slightly brown color. Second, DON’T walk away! These filets are thin, and they will over cook faster than you are prepared for. Don’t leave this meat unattended. It will overcook and you will be sad. I let mine go for about a minute, sometimes a minute and a half on the first side and then flip it. It should release easily. If the meat won’t let go of the pan, don’t force it. Give the meat a few more seconds until it is ready.
Once you flip your meat, let it cook for about thirty seconds and then start piling on your cheese mixture. I am greedy with the cheese mixture. I usually put a GIANT heaping spoonful on mine. I drop a regular spoonful on the other steaks. After you have covered each of the steaks with the cheese mixture, and added the leftovers to your steak because, like I said, I am greedy with the cheese and I get the most in this case, you want to cover the pan with a lid. It doesn’t even have to be the lid for this pan. You just want something to hold the steam in for a bit while your cheese melts. I usually let my cheese melt for another minute. You have to watch this closely though, you don’t want to over cook your steaks.
After the cheese is melted, pull your steaks from the heat and let them rest for just a minute. They don’t need to rest like a thicker steak because you don’t want them to over cook. Just a minute will let them get right to where they need to be. So delicious!
For the side on this meal, I made brussels sprouts. As a side note, until this exact moment in time, the moment where I typed the word “brussels” into the computer, I always thought they were brussel (singular) sprouts. I stand corrected. They are brussels sprout. Huh, you learn something new everyday I guess.
Anyway, I would start this side before I actually cooked my steaks. The steaks cook so quickly and are best eaten warm that you would want to prepare your side before cooking your steak. I made a very simple brussels sprout side. I think with this meal, any green side would be fantastic. I would definitely recommend asparagus, kale, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, carrots, corn, or anything else your heart desires. I even have a small confession to make here. I thought I would love brussels sprouts with this meal. I actually found it to be a less than satisfactory side. Brussels sprouts have a very buttery flavor. They just did not pair as well with the deer as I feel asparagus would. Lesson learned.
For these brussels sprouts, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and then covered the sprouts in olive oil. I sprinkled in some salt and pepper, gave everything a good stir with hands to ensure proper coating, and tossed everyone in the oven. I let them go about 20 minutes. I like my brussels sprouts to be very dark on the outside leaves. I like how crunchy they get. You might want to let your sprouts only go for 15 minutes if you don’t like them quite as dark as I do.
I knew what wine I wanted to pair with this meal the moment I started planning it. I knew I wanted the oaky, earthy flavor of Cline red zinfandel. Cline has a very strong flavor, and I can always taste the black cherry and strawberries. It is a very bold wine, especially for a zinfandel. I knew this would taste so great paired with the deer meat and strong taste of gorgonzola cheese. This is a bold meal and it needs a bold drink. That being said, the Cline was AWFUL with the brussels sprouts. AWFUL! They paired together so horribly that it almost ruined my meal. Brussels sprouts are definitely a white wine vegetable. The deer and gorgonzola were EXCELLENT with the wine though! So, my recommendation for the day is this: don’t make brussels sprouts like I did!
Cheers and I hope you enjoy!
* five to six 1/2 inch butterflied deer steaks
* four ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese (you can only use half the container if you don’t like HUGE amounts of cheese, like me)
* 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
“My favorite animal to hunt is probably elk. There’s nothing like the sound of a bugling bull splitting the cold air at first light. And that smell is unmistakable. Once you experience their musk in the wild there’s no going back! A close second would be a varmint hunt.” – Chris Pratt
If I could only have one meal for the rest of my life, this meal would be it. That is a very bold statement, but horseradish and elk are that good together. Like the deer for the gorgonzola topped tenderloin recipe I posted back in February, I did not harvest this elk. My husband did. I am getting sick of sharing his stories, and not my own. However, he ended up with the elk tag, and I, once again, did not. BUT I helped a lot.
I scouted and hiked with him for this bull, and I helped clean it after he shot it. That was my first cleaning experience, and it was very educational to say they least. I have a new respect for dad and the amount of work he put in during his elk hunts when I was little. It is easy to sit down to the table and gobble down elk steak and eggs with little appreciation for the amount of effort, sweat, and hard work someone puts in to harvesting such a large and intelligent animal.
Before you start preparing the meat for the meal, you need put together your horseradish crusts. The crusts need about thirty minutes in the fridge, so you want to make them at the beginning. The players for this crust are horseradish, fresh or prepared, grated parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, and an entire stick of unsalted butter. You can also use salted butter, but I use the unsalted because then you can control the amount of salt that you add to the mixture. In a medium size bowl, drop in all the ingredients. If you are using the fresh horseradish, you will need to grate it before adding.
I would start with a cup of the panko bread crumbs and then you can add more if you think you want more crunch once you have mixed everything together. I use about a cup of the parmesan cheese, a cup of the bread crumbs, and a couple of tablespoons of the horseradish. Like with the bread crumbs, I would start with a smaller amount, like two tablespoons, and then add more if you want more heat. I am a big fan of the heat from horseradish, so I end up with about three and half tablespoons in this mixture. It is much easier to mix up the crust ingredients if you let the butter sit at room temperature before you start, but I always forget to do that. I wouldn’t recommend microwaving the butter in this case because you don’t want your butter melted, just soft. You can use a spoon to mix all this together, which is what most people would probably say, but let’s be honest here: mixing butter with a spoon never works and you just end up crushing your panko bread crumbs into dust. Use your hands! It is much easier.
Once you have the amount of panko, horseradish, and salt you want, it is time to start forming the crust patties. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of wax or parchment paper and make some room in your fridge where the sheet can sit flat.
I make my crust patties about a quarter inch thick and the diameter of the steak you are going to use. Stick the patties in the fridge for about thirty minutes so they can set, and now it is time to get started on preparing the steaks! Usually when I prepare elk steak, I cut the tenderloin or back strap in thin, butterflied steaks. I do this for two reasons: first, it is a force of habit because that is how my dad cooked his elk the entire time I was growing up. Second, you get a WHOLE lot more meals from the limited amount of meat. While I still do a lot of meals with the thinner cuts, I decided to try something new with this bull, which was to cut the tenderloin into much thicker steaks, and it made for some amazing steaks.
For this recipe, I cut the tenderloin steaks about two or two and a half inches thick. Another way to quickly measure is cut the meat the thickness of a slice of bacon, since that is what you are going to wrap the meat in. You could use either tenderloin or back strap for this recipe. I think this would also be great with deer.
After I cut the steaks, I wrap them with a slice of bacon, using two toothpicks to hold the bacon in place, and season them with a little salt and pepper. I let the meat sit out for about fifteen minutes, however thirty is the recommended amount of time to take the chill off them. Taking the chill off helps the meat to cook more thoroughly than when you just throw a piece of cold meat into a hot pan.
While the meat is coming to room temperature, I make the sauce. I LOVE this sauce, and would probably dunk any steak in it, but it is especially great with this recipe because it just adds to the heat of the horseradish in the panko crust. The ingredients for the sauce are very simple: sour cream, mayonnaise, and prepared wasabi horseradish. I put equal portions of sour cream and mayonnaise, which for two people is about half a cup of each, into the bowl and then add the wasabi horseradish to taste. Like the crust, I like it HOT! In this case it works out to about a tablespoon plus a little extra. A good starting point would be two teaspoons and add more from there. If you can’t find the wasabi horseradish, you could also substitute prepared horseradish, plain wasabi, a wasabi sauce, or even the hot oriental mustard. Anything with a little heat will work, but if you can find the wasabi horseradish I would recommend giving it a try. It is delicious.
With the sauce ready and crusts chilling in the fridge, there is only one thing left to do: start cooking those steaks! Okay, so the process for cooking these steaks is a little different from what I am used to, but it works really well. For this, you need a stovetop pan that you can also put into the oven. For the most part, you are going to be safe if your pan has a metal handle. You might need to check if your pan can do both the stove top and the oven, because you don’t want to ruin your pan. To get started, heat your broiler on high. Also, preheat your pan on the stove top on medium-high. Once you can feel the heat coming off the pan you are ready to start cooking some steak. So, I actually get out a timer for this, and it has resulted in perfectly cooked meat for me. If you don’t have a timer you could guess on the times, but a timer really does help. So, to start you want to cook the bacon along the outside of the steaks. I rotate the steak FOUR times in order to cook the bacon. I cook each rotation for 30 seconds. Since the steaks are a bit thicker, you can get them to balance on their side during cooking. I use tongs when I do this, because there is a lot of hot grease bouncing around from the bacon. Once you have cooked all the bacon, you can start to sear the steak itself. I do the first side for three minutes, and then flip it and do the second side for another three minutes. Remember, once the steak has touched the pan do not mess with it until you are ready to flip it. You don’t want to tear your meat. Three minutes per side will give you a medium rare finish on this thick of a steak. Elk tastes MUCH better if you don’t over cook it. A well-done elk steak will be tough and it really exacerbates the “gamey” flavor of the meat. If you want your steak cooked more, you can increase the time to four or even five minutes per side. If you like things a little more on the rare side, drop the cooking time to two minutes per side. After you have seared both sides of the steak, drop your horseradish crusts on top of the steak and stick the entire pan in the oven under the broiler.
You are only trying to brown your horseradish crust and melt the butter and cheese in the crust, so you don’t want to walk away during this part of the process. Things can change VERY quickly under the broiler. I find that it takes about a minute and half in my oven for the crusts to start looking a beautiful, and very delicious, golden brown. This is with the pan on the middle rack of the oven. I would expect this to last anywhere from thirty seconds to two minutes, depending on your oven’s personal temperament. Keep on eye on things is the best advice. Once the crust is bubbly and perfect, pull your pan and it is time to start plating! I served the steak with a side of asparagus I grilled on the stove with olive oil, a little garlic, and some salt and pepper. I dropped a bit of parmesan cheese over the top at the end. I also poured a glass of cabernet sauvignon, which pairs really wonderfully with a dark, red meat like elk. And don’t forget to get yourself a serving of that sauce for dipping your meat in! Seriously, like I said before, if there was only one meal I could have for the rest of my life this would be it!
*tenderloin or back strap cut into two inch thick steaks (one per person)
*bacon (one slice per steak)
*salt and pepper to taste
*one stick unsalted butter
*two tablespoons horseradish, prepared or fresh
*3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated *one cup panko bread crumbs
*salt to taste
*half cup sour cream
*half cup mayonnaise
*tablespoon wasabi horseradish
Begin by preparing horseradish crusts. Combine softened butter, horseradish, parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, and salt. Form into 1/4 inch disks and refrigerate for thirty minutes. Prepare steaks by seasoning with salt and pepper and wrapping in bacon. Let rest at room temperature for up to thirty minutes. Prepare the dipping sauce by combining sour cream, mayonnaise, and wasabi horseradish. Preheat broiler on high and a pan on the stove top on medium high heat. Once pan is preheated, place steak on side in order to cook bacon. Cook bacon for thirty seconds, and then rotate meat. Perform this three more times, for a total cook time of two minutes. Sear steak for three minutes and flip to second side for additional three minutes. Place chilled horseradish crust on top of steaks and place entire pan in oven broiler for up to two minutes, or until crust is bubbly and golden brown. Serve with horseradish dipping sauce.>
““We recommend that no one eat more than two tons of turkey-that’s what it would take to poison someone.” – Elizabeth Whelan
The craziness of the holidays has finally died down! I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, decorated and then undecorated my tree, and ate my fair share of holiday treats. After the holiday season, I always fill just a bit empty. During the holidays, there are so many noises, smells, and colors! Hibernating trees are draped in beautiful lights, the house is filled with the aromas of baked goods or holiday dinners, and everyone is dropping by to visit, even if just for a few minutes. I will admit that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of it, but it is just a bit lonely when it all ends.
I was sitting at home a few days after New Year’s Day and thinking about how as soon as the holiday season is over I immediately am ready for spring. I decided in that moment I needed to do something about this, and nothing brightens up the mood of melancholy day better than comfort food. And there is no better comfort food than wild turkey and dumplins!
For this recipe, I used the leg of a Rio Grande turkey I had harvested during the spring hunt in the picture above. I know the leg looks a little beat up, but this particular turkey took a shot to the leg. I could have used the other leg from the turkey, but I wanted to share a little tip I learned when helping clean this turkey. When you clean animals you shot with a shot gun, you can end up with a lot of pellets in your meat. In order to extract all the pellets, find the little holes on the surface of the meat where the BB entered and the follow its path. Your meat will end up looking a little beat up, like this leg does, but I did not bite in to any BBs during the meal. Biting down on a BB can be a real meal ender!
Turkey legs can be a bit tough. I tried roasting them, and I just did not like the texture. They work amazing in this soup because they are so tender after slow cooking all day, and they add an amazing flavor to the soup base. Turkey and dumplins is one of those meals you can start in the morning before you leave for work and then finish it up when you get home in the evening. Nothing is better at the end of a cold winter’s day than walking through the door and being hit with the smells of turkey soup slow cooking all day. So good!
Turkey and dumplins does not require too many ingredients, and putting it together only takes a few minutes. What I usually do is throw everything in the crock pot in the morning except for the heavy cream and the biscuits. I dice up the carrots, celery, and onion into bite sized pieces. I also add nine chicken bouillon cubes and a couple of tablespoons of butter for flavor. You could also probably pour in a quart of chicken stock if you had that around the house, but I prefer to use the bouillons when slow cooking. I also add the herbs at this point. For this soup, I put in marjoram, tarragon, and bay leaves. The tarragon adds this amazing flavor similar to black licorice that pairs, unexpectedly in my opinion, wonderfully with turkey. I also add tarragon to all different kinds of chicken dishes. Now, my husband and I always argue about the amounts on the herbs. He buys a package of the fresh stuff and adds all of the leaves, because he apparently has a tarragon addiction, but I would recommend two tablespoons. I like to use the fresh herbs in this case, but you could use dried too. If you are using dried you want to cut the amounts in half. After everything is added to the pot, pour in twelve cups of water, drop the lid on your pot, and set the temperature. I set it to high for eight hours (very light simmer). I have had people tell me again and again the legs aren’t usable, but after eight hours the texture is similar to tenderloin.
After a cold day at work, the turkey leg is now tender and ready to be shredded. It should pull apart easily. I use two forks to pull it apart into bite size pieces. The shins are very protected in the shins, but make sure you get it all as the lower leg meat has the best texture. You discard the bone at this point and return your meat to the pot. You could just boil up some egg noodles and add them to pot if you want turkey and noodles, but I highly recommend you take the time to finish up the dumplin part of this recipe. You won’t regret it!
So, the hardest part of this soup is the next step. In order to thicken the soup up, you need to be able to bring it to a boil. You can’t bring a crock pot to a boil (ughhh…I know, transferring the soup is not fun!). So, I pour all the soup into a large pot and move things over to the stove. I add a tablespoon of cornstarch to a about a half cup of the soup base and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. You want to dissolve the cornstarch before adding it or you could end up with just floating chunks of cornstarch in your soup, which isn’t very appetizing. I bring the whole pot to a gentle boil and stir as the soup base thickens. Once it has come to a boil you can turn the heat back down and the soup will continue to thicken. I stir it for a minute or two just to make sure things are working right. You can add more if you like it thick. I try to get the consistency of a hearty beef stew. At this point, drop in your dumplins! You could make your own dumplins, and I am sure it isn’t too hard, but I bought canned biscuits in order to save time. I break each biscuit into three or four pieces throw it in and give it a quick dunk before adding the next one to keep them from sticking together. Place the lid over the pot and let it sit for ten minutes on a low to medium heat. Then stir the dumplins in and simmer for ten more minutes.
The final step is to add the cream. This is again one of the places where my husband and I disagree. He likes an entire quart of heavy cream in his soup. I like to add about half that. I would recommend starting with half and tasting it before you add the entire quart. You could also use half and half if you were looking to cut a few calories, but it will not be quite as creamy. Adjust the water to accommodate the amount used for a total of 12 cups.
Well, the soup is on!!! I like to have a piece of crispy bread to dip in my soup. You could also mix up a side salad and have a complete meal. This soup is very hearty and full of flavors. The turkey and tarragon pair really nicely together.
* Two carrots
* Two celery stalks
* Medium sized onion
* Nine chicken bouillon cubes
* 1/4 cup butter
* Wild turkey leg and thigh (bone in)
* 3 tablespoons fresh marjoram
* 1 package fresh tarragon
* 7 bay leaves
* 8 cups water
* 1 quart heavy cream
* Four cans refrigerated Pilsbury buttermilk biscuits
* 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
* Black pepper to taste
Chop up the carrots, celery stalks, and onion. Place with butter in crockpot. Add turkey leg and nine chicken bouillon cubes. Chop up and add marjoram, tarragon, and bay leaves. Pour in 8 cups of water. Cover and set the crock pot to high heat. After eight hours, remove turkey leg and shred. Discard bone and return turkey meat to pot. Transfer soup to a large stock pot. Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with half a cup of soup base. Add dissolved cornstarch back into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir until thickened. Break biscuits into three or four pieces and dunk into pot. Cover and simmer for ten minutes. Stir and simmer for ten more minutes. Uncover and add heavy cream. Mix until incorporated. Cute a slice of thick crusted bread and enjoy!!!