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The Heart
“The heart,?says Fergus Henderson, “encapsulates the beast that it comes from—the whole essence of the animal is in there.?Hence the Native American hunting tradition of eating the warm heart of your prey in order to gain its spirit. For a muscle that never stops working, the heart is surprisingly tender, “firm and meaty but giving,?says Henderson, “with just the right amount of bite.?Besides containing your deer’s spiritual essence, the heart is also loaded with protein and B vitamins and contains very little fat. In this recipe, adapted from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, Henderson marinates the heart in a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper, and then sears it quickly over a hot fire. For a variation, amp up the marinade with some ground chile peppers and cumin seed in the style of Peruvian anticuchos, the grilled skewers of beef heart that street vendors hawk in Lima.

Grilled Marinated Venison Heart
(serves two to four as an appetizer)
1 venison heart
n chopped fresh thyme
freshly ground black pepper
coarse sea salt
a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar

1. Trim the heart of anything that looks like sinew (this is easy enough to spot) and excess fat (which tends to be around the open top of the heart), and remove any blood clots lurking in the ventricles. Slice the heart open in order to lay it flat and complete the process. You want pieces 1 inch square and up to 1/4 inch thick; if the flesh is thicker than that, slice horizontally through the meat before cutting the squares.

2. Toss the pieces of the heart in the vinegar, salt, pepper, and thyme. Marinate for 24 hours.

3. Cook the pieces on a grill over a very hot fire, for about 11/2 minutes per side. (They’re best served somewhere between medium-rare and medium. Overcooking produces tough squares resembling jerky.) Serve with a salad of watercress or white beans and shallots.

The Liver
Of all the viscera represented here, liver is the most familiar to us. Many people, myself included, were raised on weekday suppers of calves?liver and onions (I used to bathe mine in unholy gobs of ketchup), and in my experience, venison liver is the least-neglected organ meat among hunters. Why? For one thing, when it comes to butchering, the liver is big and obvious and easy to handle, and for another, it’s famously easy to cook: All you need is a skillet and a pat of butter for a great deer camp dinner. “Venison liver is the sweetest, happiest liver you can eat,?says Henderson, a devoted fan. In this recipe, I’ve amplified that sweetness with some caramelized onions and apricots and heightened the “happiness?with a hefty shot of Yukon Jack, a Canadian liqueur that’s been a longtime companion of far-north hunters.

Seared Venison Liver With Bacon Chunks, Caramelized Onions, and Yukon Jack
(serves four)
8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch squares
3 medium red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 venison liver (about 11/2 pounds), cut into eight generous slices
All-purpose flour for dredging
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups Yukon Jack
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Heat a large skillet over low heat. Add the bacon and slowly cook until the fat is rendered and the meat is starting to crisp, about 12 to 14 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove it onto a layer of paper towels. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 16 to 18 minutes, until they’re soft and lightly browned. Remove them to a bowl, add salt and pepper, and set aside. (Reheat the bacon and onions in a warm oven or microwave just prior to serving.)

2. In a shallow dish, season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the liver slices, shaking off any excess. Pour off any remaining fat from the skillet and wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until it begins to foam, and add four pieces of liver. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until slightly past medium-rare (cut into them to be sure), then remove them to a plate, covering it with foil to keep the slices warm. Repeat with the remaining four slices, adding more butter to the pan if needed.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the Yukon Jack to the pan. Once it’s warmed?5 seconds or so later—ignite it with a long match or wand-type butane lighter. (The flames will go high, so be careful.) Shake the pan lightly until the flames subside. Simmer the Yukon Jack until it reduces to a syruplike consistency, scraping up any browned bits lingering on the bottom of the pan. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter.

4. To serve, place two liver slices on each plate and top with generous heaps of the warmed onions and bacon. Spoon the Yukon Jack reduction over the liver and garnish it with parsley.

The Kidneys
Kidneys are a tough sell for many people, who are often put off by the dirty work that these organs do, and if they’ve dared try them are sometimes scared off by the sheer intensity of the flavor—“liver squared?would be an apt description of their taste. (Anecdotal evidence: Lamb kidneys were served at my wedding dinner, and I think I was the only one who ate them.) To experience venison kidneys in all their flavor-bomb glory, do as the Argentineans do with beef kidneys: halve them and grill them plain. The recipe that follows, however, is a gentler introduction to eating kidneys, a south-of-the-border variation on the famed British pub standard of steak-and-kidney pie. This is a great way to use the kidneys of a single deer, since a little goes a very long way. For some added bang, try serving the empanadas with a sauce made from charred tomatoes (blacken a few seeded tomato halves in your broiler) blended with spicy chipotle peppers and some venison stock.

Venison Steak-and-Kidney Empanadas
(serves four)
1 cup masa harina*
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
n 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon chile powder plus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon lard or shortening
1 cup warm water
1/2 pound venison top round or any tender cut, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 venison kidneys (about 1/4 pound total), diced small
1/2 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and paprika
11/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup venison or beef stock plus 4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water

1. Combine the masa harina, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon each of cumin and chile powder in a bowl. Mix in the lard and then the water, adding a little at a time, working it with your hands until a dough forms. Mold this into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cubed top round and kidneys with the remaining teaspoon each of cumin and chile powder, along with the crushed red pepper and paprika. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the seasoned meats, stirring until the pieces are well browned. Put in the onion and poblano pepper, and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until just softened, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in 1 cup of stock and bring it to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons of stock and the cornstarch. Add this to the pan and stir to incorporate. Simmer briefly until the liquid thickens to a gravylike consistency. Remove it from the heat and set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fetch the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into eight equal-size pieces. With a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough between sheets of plastic wrap, into 8-inch circles. (Allow yourself some time here; this is a bit of grunt work.) Beat together the egg and water until frothy, and working one by one, brush the dough rounds with the egg wash and place 1/4 cup of the meat filling in the middle of each. Fold the round over into a semicircle (use the plastic wrap to avoid touching and cracking the dough). Seal the edges; if desired, crimp them with a fork. Brush the tops with more of the egg wash.

5. Place the empanadas on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper and bake them for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Serve them hot with a charred tomato-chipotle sauce.

*Masa harina is hominy flour carried by most large supermarkets. If it’s unavailable at yours, try a Latin grocery.

The Tongue
According to one U.S. survey, tongue ranks with kidney as the foods most likely to be refused at dinnertime. In the case of the former, it’s all in the looks—it is instantly recognizable, and what’s more, a tongue is a tongue is a tongue, meaning that what you see on the plate isn’t that far off from what you see in the mirror. We Americans, as a rule, don’t like our meats to be so visually…precise. But hunters should get over such squeamishness: Venison tongue, like that of any ungulate, is a lean, boneless muscle that’s packed with protein, sublime texture, and great meaty flavor. A deer’s is fairly small, sorry to say, but about the same size as yours, apart from being longer. You can freeze and collect them as the season goes on or, for this preparation, mix in some thinly sliced venison sirloin to flesh out the meat quotient. This recipe is a deer-camp variation of Vietnamese pho, the hot, fragrant noodle soups made with beef, chicken, giblets, or pig hearts and sold on the streets of Hanoi. The Vietnamese consider pho the ultimate restorative, and it’s easy to see why: After a cold day in the stand, a bowl of this will instantly thaw your frozen bones.

Braised Venison Tongue With Cinnamon and Star Anise Over Rice Stick Noodles
(serves four)
4 venison tongues (about 1 pound total)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, lightly smashed, peeled, and thinly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
9 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (optional)
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
1 3-inch piece ginger
8 ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained
8 ounces medium rice stick noodles*, cooked according to package directions, rinsed, and drained
Chopped cilantro or sweet basil, and minced scallions for garnish (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tongues, reduce the heat, and simmer slowly, covered, for about 2 hours. Remove the tongues with tongs, let rest until just cool enough to touch, and peel off the skin. (It will come off easier when the tongues are warm. If the skin still adheres, trim it with a paring knife.) Cut into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the garlic, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and hot chile paste and sauté until fragrant—only 15 seconds or so. Then add the water, soy sauce, and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Put in the tongue slices and reduce the heat until you have a slow but steady simmer.

3. Using tongs, char the ginger and onion halves directly over a gas flame, until evenly scorched. (For electric stoves, heat a heavy dry skillet over high heat and sear the ginger and onion on all sides until nearly blackened.) Add these to the pot.

4. Let simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the tongue slices are very tend

er. Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, and onions, reserving the onions. Cook the noodles. Chop the onions roughly and return them to the pot along with the spinach. Bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat.

5. Divide the warm noodles among four bowls and ladle the meat, broth, and spinach on top. If desired, add minced scallions and either roughly chopped cilantro or sweet basil.

*Rice stick noodles are available at Asian markets. You can substitute fettuccine if needed.



Here are some great venison recipes that have been accumulated by Whitetails.com over the years. These venison recipes are great ways to enjoy your trophy! Select a venison recipe category, and enjoy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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