Friday, June 21, 2024

BEYOND CHILI RECIPES: Use culinary techniques for succulent wild game


“Use the whole animal — as much as possible, if possible.” “Don’t lose the point of cooking wild game by masking the flavor.” “Use proper cooking methods for the cut.” “Cook respectfully.”

This is the formula for success in cooking wild game from Joshua Schwencke, a Texas culinary anthropologist and chef. Choose your recipe to match the cut of meat to let the flavor and richness of the meat shine through. In this way, hunters can fully honor the animal they have taken from the wild.

Here are two recipes that use braising to tenderize and intensify the flavor of venison.


Osso buco is an “Italian grandma” dish, according to Schwencke, and can be made from cross-cut venison shank. Ask the processor to cut the shank from the hindquarter (the front shank will work, too) into cross-cut pieces, or try using a reciprocating saw to do the cuts yourself. The resulting cut of meat has a good bit of muscle and a bone, which will lend good flavor in the cooking process. The presentation is also quite lovely when served over a saffron risotto (traditional), a parmesan mushroom risotto, or with humble mashed potatoes.

  • 4-5 shank pieces, 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick
  • All-purpose flour mixed with salt and pepper to taste
  • Red wine to deglaze pan
  • 1 can premium tomato sauce
  • 2 cans of whole Roma tomatoes
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1-2 white onions, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped fine (more if you love garlic)
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • Dried marjoram
  • Dried parsley
  • Beef stock for braising liquid
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Dredge the shank pieces in seasoned flour. Using a Dutch oven or enameled cast-iron pan with lid, sear the shank pieces in olive oil until crust forms. Remove from pan and deglaze with red wine, scraping the bottom of pan to remove the crusty bits that cling (also called “fond”). Put shanks back into pot with vegetables and dried herbs. Add enough beef or game stock to cover and bring to a simmer. Finish in the oven at 300 degrees with lid on for about an hour until meat is tender. Garnish with fresh basil before serving.


Kaldereta is a Filipino dish that combines a rich sauce and hearty meat into a savory stew. Like any good slow-cook recipe, the steps to making it are more of an art form than a procedure but use the following as a guide to transform your venison into a masterpiece. David Montesino, HCN’s managing editor, said that every kaldereta is a bit different but his version below, with adaptations for game meat, absolutely requires the characteristic flavors of pineapple, lemongrass and tomato.

Using the trim from a venison shoulder or ham (deer, elk or pronghorn will work), cut 2-3 pounds of meat into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes, removing all silver skin. Add olive oil to an enameled cast-iron pot or Dutch oven, and sear meat until dark brown. Remove from pot. Deglaze pot with red wine and add liquid to meat. Set aside off the heat while you make the sauce.

For sauce, combine the following and sauté in olive oil.

  • 3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1-2 bell peppers, chopped

When onions are translucent, add:

  • 2 cups pineapple, pureed
  • 2 cans premium canned tomato sauce
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, beaten with the back of a knife to release flavor
  • 1-2 star of anise
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Salt and pepper (depending on the stock used, don’t oversalt)
  • Beef stock (or homemade game stock) to cover

Bring this mixture to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add meat (and more broth as needed), and add:

  • 5-6 new potatoes, cut in chunks
  • 2-3 carrots, cut in chunks

Cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer and let cook for at least 90 minutes. Test the meat for tenderness. Before serving, remove bay leaves and star of anise, and stir in:

  • 1 can of English peas

Serve over white rice and garnish with chopped green onions or scallions.