Recipes

Wild Elk and Venison Jerky on Northwest Edible

From the Native Americans to The Hunger Games, people have carried jerky.  You know that if the zombie apocalypse hits, you’ll want some too.

I’m so excited that Erica at Northwest Edible Life has allowed me to do a guest post on her blog about my favorite way to preserve meat.

Rick got this recipe from his mom.  All the men in Rick’s family are big-time hunters, and my mom-in-law is the designated jerky maker for the family.  Her sons, brothers and dad all drop meat off at her house to have her transform it into this good stuff.

I’m sharing the secret recipe over at Northwest Edible.

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Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Venison Stew

When Rick and I got married, though I possessed a decent degree of skill in cooking, my meals were rarely balanced (“chicken breast is dinner… what to you mean what else are we having?”).  It took some time for me to learn that a meal included more than one thing.  But there was an exception to this; soups and stews.

I grew up in a home that made soups and stews regularly.  They were a staple in my parents’ home.  Both of my parents worked outside the home, so my mom is proficient at pressure cooking which made soup an easy weeknight meal.  She is also the master of slow cooking a stew for hours to get it just right.  I used to tell people my favorite foods were easy to remember; sushi, steak and soup!  (Mom makes a mean rare rib-eye too).  It’s tradition for our family to have a big pot of potato soup on Christmas day, which keeps everyone out of the kitchen and allows us to spend time together as a family instead.

I don’t know how Rick felt about stew before we got married.  I don’t get the impression that he had it much growing up.  For me it’s soul food.  There is nothing so good as a hot, delicious soup to warm you up at the end of a long or cold day.  I think our kids feel the same way.  If you were to ask H what is favorite food is he will either tell you potato soup or chicken noodle soup – the homemade stuff – which is my favorite as well.

Naturally, having wild game in the freezer means venison stew shows up on the menu pretty often in our home.  This recipe is one that I’ve developed by marrying my mom’s beef stew with elements of a venison recipe that an ex-coworker of mine shared with me from some now-forgotten cookbook.

Venison Stew

8 slices of bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 lbs venison, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press
12 oz beer – something you like to drink, but not Guinness
4 cups water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp black pepper
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
3-4 potatoes, peeled or not, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup fresh parsley, snipped

In a 4 quart dutch oven or other large pot, cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and save for later.  Saute the onions over medium heat in the bacon grease until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and quickly brown the venison.  Add the garlic and saute for about 30 second.  Turn the heat back to medium and add beer, water and spices including salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about two hours.

When venison is nearly tender, add the carrots and potatoes.  Simmer, uncovered for another 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender.  Taste for salt.  If you wish, thicken the stew by mixing 1 cup of cold water and 1/3 cup flour in a separate container and slowly add it to the stew while stirring.  Reheat the stew to boiling  for 1 minute.  Serve topped with reserved bacon and snipped parsley.

Categories: Food, Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Gamey Taste of Game Meat, Part I

Every so often I publish a blog post either about hunting or with a picture of an elk steak in it.  Usually after this I get at least one or two questions about how to prepare game meat so that it doesn’t taste so “gamey.”  I hear lots of people saying they would hunt but they don’t like the taste of the meat, or that they just don’t know how to cook it. Likewise, whenever we serve game to friends and family, we get lots of surprised comments about how flavorful and good the meat is, not at all gamey as they expected.

Since hunting season is just around the corner for many parts of the country, and since our family mainly eats game meat, I thought I’d share a bit about how we process and cook the meat, and how we deal with the “gaminess” of venison and other meats. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to publish a series of hunting related posts, including recipes for cooking wild game.

Making wild game into a delicious meal was learned through trial and error over the last nine years of cooking and processing game.  We’ve made some discoveries that have really helped us.  When people refer to venison as gamey they are either speaking of the toughness or dryness that often occurs when cooking the meat, the distinctly wild flavor, or both.  It’s a bit backwards but I’m going to talk about cooking game meat first.  This addresses the toughness and dryness of venison.  In part two, I’ll talk about harvesting and processing game and how that directly affects the taste of your meat.

Eye fillet of grass-fed beef.

Eye fillet of grass-fed beef. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Venison is not beef.

It might seem obvious, but deer, elk and antelope are all very different from cattle.

When you cook beef, the fat and marbling you should look for when buying a steak keeps the meat moist, tender and flavorful.  A delicious juicy steak depends on it’s fat.  Nicely marbled beef can be tender and choice even cooked past medium.  This is because cattle is mainly fed corn to fatten them up (literally, to fatten them).

If you’ve ever cooked grass-fed beef, you know what I’m talking about.  Grass-fed beef is leaner than conventional corn-fed beef.  Often grass-fed beef is “finished” on corn (meaning the last few weeks of it’s life it gets corn to add in some fat).  And even if it is not, grass-fed beef still has more fat than venison.  Cows are bred to stand around and eat.  Cattle ranchers make an effort to keep their cattle from using their muscles.  Even if not confined, they don’t want them running around.  They want lazy, fat, contented cows.  They want tender muscle.  1,400 pounds of well-marbled, tender muscle.

We all know a muscle that is exercised gets harder, tougher, stronger.

Elk fillet, same cut as beef shown above.

Deer (and certainly antelope) don’t just stand around all day filling their stomachs.  They live their lives using their muscles.  They have to keep on the move, running and jumping, staying away from predators.  They have to search out water and food.  Their food is not usually a lush field of grass or corn (unless they are Nebraskan whitetail).  It’s often patches of under-brush, sage and other soft-wooded plants.  Deer eat twigs and bark and shoots.  They are nearly fat-free beings, trim at 150 (or perhaps 400 for an elk) pounds, with the hardened muscles of athletes.

This means you can not cook venison the same way as you cook beef.  While you might like your beef steak medium- to medium-rare, your venison needs to be much closer to rare, else it becomes shoe leather.  It generally should not be cooked well-done or it will be ruined, dry and tough.

Likewise, grouse, pheasant and duck are not chickens.  You must add fat when cooking grouse and pheasant.  Duck is an entirely different bird and it’s breasts can be treated as red meat, cooked to medium-rare or medium.

How to cook wild game:

To start with, use thick cuts of meat.  If you get your game processed by a butcher, ask them to cut your steaks an inch thick or thicker.  Or if you process your meat yourself, use a ruler or make yourself a template when cutting, so your steaks don’t end up too thin.  The idea here is to preserve moisture as much as possible and not over-cook the meat.  Deer and elk steaks are going to be smaller than beef steaks anyway, so if your steaks are thicker, you have more leeway with this.  Remember, you can always cut your meat thinner if you need to later, or for other uses as you get used to cooking your game.

Venison greatly benefits from a marinade.  Most of the time we, at the very least, drizzle our elk, deer or antelope steaks with olive oil and let them sit in it for 20 minutes to half an hour before we cook them.  Olive oil, crushed garlic and thyme is a great, simple combination.

Before cooking we also add fat to the pan (or grill).  Heat your pan and add a bit more olive oil.  Then cook the steak, flipping once, being careful not to over-cook it.  Remember that venison is smaller and less forgiving than beef, so keep a close eye.

Bacon grease and lard are delicious, traditional ways to add fat to your venison.  A lard-seared elk steak, to die for.  Onions sauteed in bacon grease,  the perfect base for a venison stew.  Or keep it simple with olive oil.

After cooking, let your venison steaks rest for up to ten minutes, covered, before serving.

Notice that I didn’t mention salt?  This is because salt draws moisture from meat.  When cooking venison, salt should be added just before serving.

Important to remember here is that you can’t just take a beef recipe and make it into a venison recipe without accounting for the leanness of the meat.  You want to do your utmost to preserve the meat’s juices and moisture.

If you enjoy stir-fry and fajitas, I recommend using a flank-type steak, cooked whole to medium-rare and then thinly slicing.  Only add the sliced steak into the pan for the last few seconds (if at all).

Check out websites like Field and Stream’s The Wild Chef blog or Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook for lots of delicious, trusted game recipes.

If you’ve enjoyed what I’ve posted about cooking wild game so far, please subscribe to have my future posts shown in your RSS feed or emailed directly to your inbox by using the form in the sidebar at the right.  Thanks for reading.

Categories: Food, Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 25 Comments

What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry

I published a post today on our CSA’s blog, Monroe Organic Farms.  Just a quick one with a stir-fry recipe at the end.

If you’re here from the Monroe blog for the first time, feel free to look around and see what crazy farm-style hijinks we are up to here in the city… bees and chickens and garden, and a few other odd projects.  Plus green cleaning, clothes lines and other green-style stuff.  Welcome.

Also – there are a couple of days left to vote on this… Pick me!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Garlic Scapes Two Ways

Last spring we harvested our first crop of garlic.  At that time I knew that we should cut the scapes, the flowering shoots that hard-neck garlic sends up in the spring, off of the plants so that my bulbs would reach a good size.  Once I cut them though, I didn’t quite know what to do with them.  I had heard that they were edible, but I was really uncertain on how to use them, so I ended up putting them in a vase to let them keep curling and eventually open up.  They were striking, my sister even asked to take some home.  But this year, none will be in vases.  My pallet is no longer a garlic scape virgin, and there is no going back.

I did a quick search and decided t try a couple of simple garlic scape recipes.  They are, honestly, amazing.  Checking in my cupboard, I realized that I had all the making of pesto.  I was inspired by this recipe, but used 12 scapes and added a bit of lemon juice and ground black pepper to mine.

It is honestly the best pesto I’ve ever tasted in my life.  I used my food processor, and chopped it pretty fine.  H helped me add ingredients to the food processor.  I also have to add that the olive oil we recently bought (3 gallons of it) is very fruity and I think it made a big difference in the quality of our pesto.

We used some of the pesto last night to make pasta.  I ran to the store to buy these curly-cue noodles in honor of the scapes, specifically for this.  For the sauce, I whisked together a good, large dollop of the pesto with about 1/3 cup crumbled feta and half a cup of the hot pasta water until it was fairly smooth.  Then I just tossed it over the pasta.

It had an initial garlicky bite that quickly mellowed and was quite delicious.  Even C loved it.  Tonight, I plan to use the pesto as a base for some homemade pizza.

Since I already had the food processor out, I decided to whip together a quick hummus.  I didn’t even clean it out, I just added more scapes, a can of rinsed chick peas, salt, juice from the other half of the lemon, and a bit more olive oil.

It is insanely good.  I don’t know if it really qualifies as hummus, it doesn’t have tahini (which I don’t care for much), but it is so good.  I hope I can make some for a party or, crossing my finger here that I still have scapes, our next potluck.

The garlic flavor is such a highlight.  It is much more mellow than using a garlic clove, but still strong, and the color is so beautiful.

I really think garlic scapes would make an awesome addition to guacamole.  Today, I think I’ll try making a batch of garlic scape pickles.  Just the thought has me salivating.

Garlic Scapes Two Ways on Punk DomesticsGarlic Scape Hummus:

In a food processor blend:

12 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

When everything is well combined, add 1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil in a thin stream while the food processor is running.

Pasta with Feta-Garlic Scape Pesto Sauce:

1 lb of pasta
1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic scape pesto (link above, made with lemon juice)
salt

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.  In a bowl, whisk together the hot pasta water with the feta and pesto until smooth.  Toss over drained pasta and serve.

*Any leftover pesto or hummus (yeah, right) can be frozen.  Simply put pesto in ice cube trays or a freezer bag (flat).  Defrost hummus in fridge overnight and stir in a little olive oil to bring back the creamy consistency.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 24 Comments

Spicy Hot Lava Cakes

Over the last few months, I’ve been on the quest for the perfect brownie recipe.  I love rich, fudge-y (not cake-y) brownies, with dark chocolate, that can be made in under half an hour prep time.  In other words, they need to be amazing at the spur of the moment for that night’s dessert.  This has been a delicious quest which my husband is truly appreciating.

During my search, a few weeks ago, I came across a molten chocolate cake recipe.  It was pretty good, quick and easy, but after tinkering with it a bit, and applying some of the techniques and twists I’ve acquired during my perfect brownie search, I think I came up with the best molten chocolate cake recipe ever.

Step one:  preheat the oven to 400° and butter and dust your muffin tin with cocoa powder or granulated sugar.  My only muffin tin has 12 cups, but you need only six for this recipe.

Now, in a double boiler, melt butter and dark chocolate chips together.  Just so you know, with a double boiler, the boiling water should not be touching the bottom of the upper pan.

Also, I added chile powder, because I’m addicted to chocolate and chiles. And chiles in all their forms are just awesome.

If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a heat proof bowl set over a pan of boiling water.  But the bowl should not be in the water – just over it.

After everything is all melted and mixed together, pour it into a mixing bowl with 1/3 cup brown sugar.  Whisk the chocolate mixture with the sugar, and then add three eggs, whisking well.

The chocolate mixture will get all gloopy and shiny looking.  At this point, mix in flour and a pinch of salt.

Then fill up your muffin cups.  Go ahead and fill them to the top, they don’t rise much.

Then set the muffin tin on a baking sheet and put them both in the oven.  This is actually kind of important.  It’s not to contain the mess or anything (there’s no mess), but I think it insulates the bottom of the muffin pan.  When I tried not using the baking sheet, the cakes came out too well done at the bottom.

Anyway.  Bake them until the tops are set.  For me this is 12 minutes.  It might be more or less for you, keep an eye on them.  You only want them set, not cooked through.  Like this:

Let them rest in the pan for ten minutes.  Set your timer and read a blog post, answer some email, wash up your mixing bowl.  Whatever.

Then plate them up hot and enjoy…

Spicy Hot Lava Cakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 TBS hot Chimayo chile powder (or other New Mexican chile powder)
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

butter and cocoa powder or sugar for dusting muffin tins

Preheat oven to 400°.  Butter and dust 6  muffin tins.  In a double boiler or a heat proof bowl set over (not in) boiling water, melt together the butter, chocolate and chile powder.  When melted and combined, whisk chocolate mixture into brown sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Combine the flour and salt and fold into the chocolate mixture.  Divide batter between the prepared muffin cups.

Set muffin tin on a baking sheet, and bake for approx. 12 minutes, just until the top is set.  Remove from oven and let stand 10 more minutes before serving.  Enjoy hot (and spicy).

*Note: for my friends who like it on the milder side, you can use less chile powder or none at all, and they still turn out scrumptious.

Categories: Food, Recipes | Tags: , | 19 Comments

Easy Roasted Asparagus Soup

Since spring is around the corner, we are making an effort to ensure we have room in the freezer for the coming crops.  The first thing in the freezer each year is asparagus.  When the asparagus comes on, we try to eat as much of it as we can, but we usually put some aside for the dark days of winter when we need a soup to warm us and remind us that yummy green things are just around the corner.

The other night, I used the last of the frozen asparagus in this simple soup.  It’s a variation on one I posted a couple of years ago.

First, cut three pounds of frozen asparagus into one to two-inch long pieces.  Peel and smash six to eight cloves of garlic.  Divide the asparagus and garlic between two baking sheets and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried thyme.  Roast in the oven at 450° for about twenty minutes or so (keep an eye on it, I didn’t time it exactly), or until the asparagus starts getting nicely toasted.

The above picture isn’t quite done enough for me yet.  When you have roasted it long enough, transfer your roasted asparagus and garlic to a large pot.  Use a small amount of water in your baking sheets to get up all the brown bits from the roasting and pour that into the pot with your asparagus.

Add enough water to your pot to cover the asparagus and bring to a boil.  Make a slurry of 3 Tablespoons of flour and about half a cup of cold water.  Whisk into your soup.  Return it to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for five or six minutes.  After it has thickened a bit, use an immersion blender to purée it smooth (or transfer to a regular blender in batches).

At this point you could actually cool and freeze the soup.  But if you are serving it right away (of course you are), ladle it into bowls and give each bowl a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of heavy cream.  Serve with some cheesy toast and enjoy.

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , | 6 Comments

How to Peel an Acorn Squash

Each fall I can’t wait for winter squash.  It’s so yummy and delicious.  Butternut is my favorite, but only because it’s much easier to prepare than acorn squash.  Until last night.

Last night I made this delicious recipe.  I substituted acorn squash for the pumpkin, and was once again faced with the challenge of peeling the squash.  And I finally figured this out.

First halve the squash and remove the seeds.  Cut a small slice off the bottom of the squash so it can sit on your cutting board.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the ridges.

Cut a wedge off the squash, slicing through the, um… valley?  Crease?  Valley – we’ll go with valley.

Now you have a nice wedge that you can turn and finish peeling.

Before slicing off another wedge, peel the exposed edge that was left on the half-squash.  Then, slice through the valley again and repeat on the next wedge.

I can’t believe it’s taken me all these years to figure this out.  But now that I have, acorn squash just moved up a notch in the favorite winter squash category.

Categories: Food, Recipes | Tags: | 14 Comments

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