Prior to meeting Kristi, I had only eaten venison a few times in my life but enjoyed it every time. Kristi’s extended family lives in Vermont and they are active hunters during deer season which has led to a lot more venison meals for me in recent years. My favorite was last year when I visited the family deer camp for a great meal, some beers, and cards. Although I was relegated to observer status, a fresh leg of venison was butchered, sauteed in butter with onions and served with potatoes. Simple and delicious.
I’ve wanted to experiment with cooking venison on my own but it’s always overpriced, if you can find it, and I generally lack the man skills required to get my own through hunting. However, my brother John recently allowed an acquaintance to hunt on his property which led to a windfall of deer meat. I picked up about 10-15 pounds of a variety of cuts this past weekend and immediately started imagining new ways to use it. You’re likely to see a fair amount of venison dishes on this blog in the next few months.
Up first, a pizza (in annoying restaurant terms, a flatbread) that would incorporate the flavors from the meal at deer camp and add a few elements.
When I went to load the venison meat into the freezer, I noticed that we still hadn’t used a package of sliced leg meat that Net (Kristi’s grandmother) gave us a few months ago. Decided to use that first.
Venison is very lean and almost completely devoid of intramuscular fat. Hence the need to quickly cook in butter or oil to avoid the meat becoming too chewy. The other key ingredients for this pizza were onion, garlic, potatoes, and mushrooms.
The potatoes were quartered and went into a pot of boiling water with the chopped garlic and a good amount of salt. The mushrooms were also sliced, thrown into a hot pan and cooked until they browned a bit on one side. I then added a healthy pour of red wine.
My thought was that the rich meaty flavor of venison would go well with some of the flavors that come from cooking with red wine. When the mushrooms were done, a fresh skillet went on the burner with some olive oil and a chopped onion.
While those were cooking, the potatoes and garlic were strained and put into a bowl with milk, Brummel & Brown spread, salt and pepper to be mashed. I mashed, stirred, and repeated a few times. I was looking for a very smooth and creamy texture.
Once the onions had picked up a little caramelized brown color and turned translucent, I hit them with a splash of red wine as well.
The onions were removed from the pan and a tablespoon of butter went in. This was a trick learned from deer camp; the onion juices are pulled from the pan by the butter and flavor the venison. The slices went into the hot butter for a minute or so on each side.
Once cooked, I let the meat rest and sliced it into the bite sized portions you would want on a pizza.
Earlier in the day, I hit up Randazzos for some raw dough. It’s a local subpar pizza shop that ruins delicious crust with awful sauce and toppings.
Did the usual, stretchcd it out by hand and placed it on a greased cookie sheet. First layer to go on was a thin spreading of the mashed skin-on potatoes and garlic.
Next layer consisted of the red wine flavored onions and mushrooms as well as the venison.
While the oven preheated to 450°, I added a bunch of dollops of mashed potato to the top of the pizza; similar to the blobs of ricotta that dot a well-made white pizza. The crust was brushed with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt, a surefire way to make the crust of any pizza delicious.
10-12 minutes later, the crust is golden brown and the tops of the potato blobs have browned a bit too. Time to come out.
Slice it up and we were ready to eat.
The venison was a little chewier than I would hope, too long in the freezer and cooking it twice hurt it. However, the flavors from the onions and mushrooms combined with slightly irony meat and creamy potatoes on a crispy crust was a very enjoyable combination. Had the rich flavors I remembered and the ones I wanted to add.
Next week has a few possibilities, now I need to get back to focusing on my mustache fundraising. For those who don’t know, I am growing a mustache during the month of November as part of the Movember charity that helps raise money for prostate cancer research. A brief overview of my mustache experience can be found here and here’s the link to my donation page. Thanks again for the support!