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Venison Cuisine

Venison Cuisine
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BY STEVE NUBIE

Whether you’re a hunter with a freezer full of venison or have a friend who shared some cuts of venison with you, here’s how to make the best of it.

It’s hunting season in many parts of the world and deer are often the game of choice this time of year. Most hunters have ideas about how to cook venison but may be missing a few recipes, and anyone who is given a gift of venison often says “thanks” and wonders what to do next.

I’m a chef and have both hunted and been granted the gift of “venison” from friends and neighbors I’m allowed to hunt on my land in Michigan. It took me a few tries but I think I’ve mastered some of the basics for the following recipes that we’ll cover:

  • Venison tenderloin in a brown-blueberry sauce
  • Venison Chili
  • Venison Sausage
  • Venison Jerky

They’re all very easy to make but some take some time and a bit of chopping. Before we begin there are few things to make sure you know.

  1. If someone gives you some venison after their hunting trip, make sure to ask them what cut the meat came from. There’s a big difference between a tenderloin and a cut from the rump or shoulder in terms of tenderness versus toughness and how it’s best prepared.
  2. If you’re not planning to cook or process it immediately, freeze it. It should keep for up to 3-months.
  3. Venison tenderloins should be cooked medium-rare to medium. Venison is very lean and can be “gamey.”  Overcooking a tenderloin could leave you with a very tough cut with a bit of a liver aftertaste.
  4. Don’t be afraid to overcook venison chili, sausage and certainly not venison jerky. These recipes tend to be made from the tougher cuts and need the extra time in the crockpot for chili, in the frying pan for sausage, or in the oven for jerky.

If you’re ready to consider some venison for the holidays, here’s the first recipe.  I actually had this for the first time at a Russian Restaurant with 3 Michelin stars in Los Angeles.  It’s the classic venison tenderloin recipe.

Venison Tenderloin in a Brown-Blueberry Sauce 

INGREDIENTS:  

2 venison tenderloins Salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Sauce:

1 cup red wine 1 cup demi-glace 1 small red onion, halved 2 sprigs fresh thyme 1 sprig fresh rosemary 1 tablespoon juniper berries 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup blueberries Salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons butter

DIRECTIONS:

Season both sides of the venison tenderloins with salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the tenderloins. Reduce the heat to medium and sear the tenderloins on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the loins from the pan and let rest until ready to serve. In a small saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients, except for the blueberries and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, add the blueberries, and simmer until reduced a little and thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain the sauce back into the saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and then whisk in the butter.

Slice the venison on a bias and plate topped with the sauce. You can serve potatoes or rice on the side with your favorite vegetable.

 Venison chili 

I’ve entered and won numerous chili competitions and this variation on venison chili starts with my foundation chili blend.  This is best finished in a crockpot and allowed to simmer for one to three hours to tenderize the venison and meld the flavors.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds of venison (any cut) cubed into ½ inch chunks

½ cup of flour

1/3 cup of vegetable oil

1 large Spanish onion coarsely diced

2 sweet green peppers diced

2 cans of diced tomatoes

1 sliced and diced, seeded jalapeno (optional)

1 tablespoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of paprika

Seasoned salt and your favorite hot-sauce to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Coat the venison cubes in flour. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil.  Gently sauté the venison cubes until browned and place in the crockpot.  Add the onions and green peppers to the skillet and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add all to the crockpot and select the low setting.  Taste before serving; add salt or hot-sauce until you think it’s right.  Serve with crusty bread.

Venison Sausage 

We’re going to keep this simple and make a bulk sausage rather than sausage links. Because venison is so lean you’ll need to add some ground pork to add some flavor and fat.  I also like to add a little fennel seed.  This gives the meat an Italian sausage flavor.  If you want, you can add sage instead to create more of a breakfast sausage flavor.  We’ll cover those variables in the recipe.

This recipe makes a lot of sausage. If you want to make a smaller batch just cut the ingredients in half or by a third.

INGREDIENTS:

6 pounds of ground venison

2 pounds of ground pork

1 tablespoon of ground black pepper

3 tablespoons of fennel seed for an Italian sausage flavor, or

3 tablespoons of chopped sage for a breakfast sausage flavor

¼ cup of a sugar-based curing mix (I like Morton Tender Quick)

¼ cup of brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl sprinkle the venison and pork with all of the spices, brown sugar and the curing mix. Using your hands blend and incorporate all of the ingredients until you have a consistent texture and consistency.  Cook a chunk and taste and adjust the spices to suit your taste.   Divide into portions in plastic bags and freeze, or you can form into patties and freeze.

Venison Jerky

This takes a while to make but you can use your oven to dehydrate the venison. There’s an 8-hour marinating process and an 8-hour drying time in the oven.  I usually marinate overnight and put the venison strips into the oven on an early Saturday morning.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound venison roast

4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

4 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tablespoons of liquid smoke

1 tablespoon of ketchup

½ teaspoon of black pepper

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

¼ teaspoon of onion salt

DIRECTIONS:

Slice the venison roast into long strips about 1-inch wide and 1/8 of an inch thick. If you partially freeze the roast and use a very sharp knife this will be easier.  Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large, reseal able plastic bag and gently distribute.  Add the venison strips and gently squeeze and knead the plastic bag to distribute the marinade.  Seal to one edge and press out the air and then seal closed.  Refrigerate for 8 hours.

When marinating is complete put the strips on a baking rack to drain. Make sure none of the strips are touching. Preheat oven to 160° F. / 70° C.   Place pan lined with aluminum foil under the rack to catch any drips and dry in the oven for 6 to 8 hours.  Taste after 6 hours to assess consistency.  Refrigerate in plastic bags when done.

I’ve made these recipes numerous times and they should give you some good options if, and when you find yourself with venison in the freezer. If you have a lot of venison you can double or triple any of the recipes.  Venison is great around the holidays and if you’ve never tried it you might be surprised with your results.

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Steve Nubie
Steve Nubie has been writing professionally for 38 years. He is a published author with 10 books to his credit, has written for CBS Entertainment for the Twilight Zone series, and has written hundreds of articles for magazines and the Internet. He has served as Chief Creative officer in the marketing and advertising industry, was an Executive career-coach, is a chef and has traveled extensively living in Asia for two years, and London for two years.