I’ll admit, I get a little obsessive sometimes when it comes to fully utilizing my deer. I hate to see anything go to “waste”. I quote “waste” since technically my wild feathered and furred friends will get anything that I don’t personally use. But still, I get a little angst anytime some part doesn’t make it into my cooler for the trip home. When it comes to the bones, I at LEAST come home with all the leg bones and the ribs. The ribs we’ll cover another time, but the leg bones will be used to make make a hearty venison/vegetable stock that will then get used in many other recipes.
Some people may think I’m crazy. Heck, some people KNOW I’m crazy. But venison shanks are one of my favorite cuts of meat from my deer. There are basically three ways to process them:
- Get as much meat off of them as you can and put it in the grinder.
- Slow cook them whole.
- Slow cook them cut up into little disks.
Grinding them is a waste of time, unless you also grind all the tendons too. But who wants that in their burger or sausage? By the time you separate the meat out from everything else, you’ve lost a lot of time for a little meat.
When you think of a venison meal, what normally comes to mind? I know, probably not wontons, or any kind of soup for that matter. I think most people think of two things:
- The good experience they had – usually jerky.
- The bad experience they had – some tough roast that they (or someone else) cooked too long and needed a chainsaw to cut.
Well, one of my goals is to breakdown venison stereotypes. When it comes down to it, venison can be substituted in any recipe that calls for a four legged animal. Beef, lamb, and pork recipes plague cookbooks and internet recipe sites. And I can (almost) guarantee you, that if you have a good recipe, you can swap venison in and you can have a great venison meal. Learn your cuts of meat, and understand how they compare across animals, and not only will you become a better cook, but you’ll help to break other people’s venison stereotypes. If you are a hunter, that means listening to less whining about “eww, venison”, leading to more venison meals, leading to needing to hunt more next year to keep everyone happy. Which of course means you need a new bow. And maybe a new gun.
It’s all to keep the family happy after all. You deserve it…
We’re using ground venison to make the wontons. While there is nothing fancy about ground meat, it’s still important to consider what you are grinding up. If you think about beef, you’ve probably seen things in the grocery store like ground chuck, ground round, ground sirloin, or just plain old ground beef. Chuck and round you may be familiar with if you’ve read other recipes here. Chuck means neck or shoulder, round means it’s coming from the rear quarter. Sirloin is some prime stuff, comparable to the end of a backstrap on a deer. And plain old “ground beef”? Well, in deer comparison, that’s just whatever scraps you had left over from anywhere as you were butchering.
So, what does all this mean? In beef, it primarily means fat content, from highest to lowest: ground beef, ground chuck, ground round, ground sirloin. That pretty much is the reverse of the price, your ground sirloin will cost a lot more than ground trim pieces.
But what about for deer? The difference in fat content is still there, but to a lesser degree. Deer are so lean, that it would be hard to argue the fat content difference between the loin and a well trimmed round roast. Where it DOES come into play is in those trim pieces you saved especially for grinding. Odds are, there will be some fat in there. And venison fat has a chalkiness to it, that most people don’t enjoy. That’s why you will read so much about trimming out the fat. However, when it comes to the trim meat there is a fine line between well trimmed and wasted.
So my point here: if you are cooking something where the venison will stand out, you may want to grind a roast up instead of using your trim meat. You will have much better control of any fat, and you’ll end up with dish that will get NONE of those “eww, venison” complaints.
- ¾ lb ground venison
- 1 tablespoon sake/rice wine (white cooking wine works too)
- ¼ cup dried milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger (I’ll double or triple this depending on my mood)
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of Sriracha sauce (to your preference)
- 25 wonton wrappers
- water, to seal the wontons
- 1 lb bok choy, sliced (cabbage works great too!)
- 1½ cups of sugar snap peas
- 1 carrot, sliced
- ½ chopped green onions
- 1 quart of beef or venison stock
Thoroughly whisk the cornstarch into the sake in a large bowl. Add the rest of the wonton ingredients and thoroughly mix. Refrigerate for an hour or so.
To stuff the wontons, take a wrapper, add a tablespoon of the venison mixture to the center, and brush around the outside of the square with water. Fold in half diagonally, sealing the edges. You can use a fork to squeeze the edges and to add a little texture as well.
You can fold them in half again to get a more traditional wonton look. If I’m making a large batch, I’ll do a mix of single fold and double fold. The single folds are good for frying, the double folds look better in soup. It’s all cosmetic though…
These suckers will stick to each other if left in contact for too long. If you are not going to use them right away place them on a lightly greased baking pan with space between them so they don’t touch. You can make these up ahead of time, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook your soup vegetables: add the bok choy, peas, carrots, and green onion a steamer, and steam for a few minutes until tender. The bok choy cooks similar to spinach, so it will really compact down as it cooks.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Add enough wontons to not overcrowd the pan, and poach them till the venison is no longer pink, between 5 to 10 minutes. You can do multiple batches if need be, depending on how many you want in the soup.
To serve, add some of the vegetables to a bowl, and add the wontons and broth on top.
Save at least a few of the wontons (don’t poach them) and fry them. They crisp up nicely and make great appetizers.
I’ve never viewed a recipe as a hard and fast rule. Then again, I’m not much of a baker. In learning how to cook venison, you will become a better chef by learning how you can twist recipes to suit your needs. You can make this venison stew recipe exactly as I lay it out here and create an excellent meal. Or tweak it to give it a twist: use fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Use beef instead of venison (if you run out of venison that is..).
This actually started out as a beef stew recipe. When I look for ways to cook venison, very seldom do I search for a “venison recipe”. Instead, I think about the cut of meat I’m cooking, and I’ll look for interesting recipes for more common meats with the same cut. This vastly increases the options.
When doing this, what you need to understand is the difference between the meat in the recipe you use, and the meat you are actually cooking. Venison is leaner than almost any other meat you will compare it to. What this means for a beef stew to venison stew conversion is: cook it a little lower, and cook it a little slower.
There are no hard and fast rules here, and experience is the best teacher when trying to wing it. Though stewing is pretty easy: if the meat is still tough at 2 hours, give it more time. If the meat completely breaks down, well, you over did it, BUT hey, it will still be tasty stew!
One last tip before the recipe: invest in a enameled cast iron dutch oven. You can use this for your stews, chilis, and many other things. The benefit: you can use it on the stove AND put it in the oven. For a stew, this means you can sear the meat and anything else that needs browning on the stove, and then finish it in the oven in the same pot. You’ll have fewer dishes to clean. Plus, by simmering in the oven, you avoid the chance of food burning to the pot that can happen on the stovetop.
With a stew, you are slow cooking. You are letting flavors breakdown and mingle from the ingredients over a long time. If you want your meat to still be recognizable as meat, you want to select a cut that can handle that and still stay together. For stews and chilis, go with the “chuck” steaks or roasts cubed up. The chuck as they call it in beef would be the neck and shoulder cuts of a deer. These cuts have more connective tissue and are a lot tougher than the rest of the deer, so they are the perfect candidate for a low and slow cooked stew.
- 2 ½ lbs venison in 1 inch cubes
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 head of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1/3 cup of AP flour
- 6 cups of venison stock or beef stock/broth
- 1 tablespoon of dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ¼ lbs of potatoes, cubed
- 4 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
- vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- salt and pepper
Generously season the venison with salt and pepper. Cover the bottom of a large dutch oven in oil and heat over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add half the venison, and brown all sides. Transfer the browned venison to a plate and brown the rest. Move the remaining venison to the plate once browned.
Preheat the oven to 325°.
If you used a lot of oil to sear the venison, you can remove some of it. I like to leave it as it now has some nice meaty flavor, and again, venison is so lean to begin with. Add the butter to the dutch oven (venison is on the plate still). Add the onion and cook till it turns translucent. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir till lightly browned (about 1 minute).
Add the venison. Scatter the flour over everything, stir to lightly coat, and let brown, stirring occasionally. Add the broth and the spices. Bring to a simmer.
Transfer the dutch oven to the oven. Cover and cook till the meat is tender, about 3 hours. You could do this on the stove, but plan on doing a lot of stirring to prevent burning!
Once the meat is tender, add the vegetables and potatoes, and cook uncovered until the vegetables are tender (about another hour).
Stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and serve…