If you have a hunter in your family, or you're one yourself, then you may be looking for creative recipes for wild game. Wild game is much leaner and has different flavor profiles than store-bought conventional meats, so having a few recipes in your back pocket can help you serve delicious meals tailored to the meat.
Venison With Cranberry Sauce
Wild venison (deer) is typically lean and has a distinctly gamey flavor, particularly in any fat. Therefore, trimming it before serving can help to remove some of that flavor. The cranberry sauce has a sweet/tart counterpoint to the earthy flavors of the meat. Cook the venison with fat in place to keep it from drying and then trim before serving if desired. This recipe works with elk, pheasant, and grouse. Serve it with a simple side salad, mashed cauliflower, or roasted root vegetables. The recipe serves two people.
- 2 venison steaks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter, divided and cut into small pieces
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup ruby Port
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- Zest of 1 orange
- Season the steaks with salt and pepper.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter on medium-high until it shimmers.
- Add the steaks to the pan and cook without turning until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the steaks and cook on the other side, about 5 minutes more, until the venison reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Move the steaks to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm.
- In the hot pan with the venison drippings, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Add the Port and use the side of the spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 1 minute, or until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Add the shallot, beef broth, rosemary sprig, cranberries, and orange zest.
- Cook, mashing the cranberries slightly with the spoon as they begin to pop. Cook until the sauce reduces by half and cranberries are saucy, about 5 minutes more. You can tell the sauce has reduced enough when you run your finger over sauce coating the back of the spoon, and the impression of your finger remains.
- Remove the rosemary sprig and discard it.
- Working a small piece of butter at a time, whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of very cold butter until the butter is incorporated.
- Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
- Return the venison to the pan, turning it once or twice in the sauce to coat it. Serve immediately.
Wild Boar Tenderloin Stuffed With Chanterelle Mushrooms
Wild boar is similar to pork although it is often leaner with slightly darker meat. The meat tends to stringy if you are not careful, so using the proper cooking methods is essential. Wild boar has an earthy, faintly sweet flavor that goes incredibly well with another ingredient found in the woods, chanterelle mushrooms. Chanterelles are typically available in the fall, and they have an earthy flavor that matches the boar nicely. If you can't find them, replace the mushrooms with an equal amount of any other mushroom. Serve with a side of cheesy polenta and fresh green beans. Make the recipe with conventional pork tenderloin or venison. The recipe serves six.
- 1 two-pound wild boar tenderloin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning the meat
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning the meat
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 pound chanterelle (or other type) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon)
- 1/4 cup dry Sherry
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Butterfly the tenderloin (instructions) and lay it flat on a cutting board.
- Season both sides of the tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter on medium-high until it shimmers.
- Add the shallot, chanterelle mushrooms, and tarragon along with a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms brown and the liquid evaporates, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add the Sherry to the pan, using the side of the spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Sherry evaporates completely, 2 to 5 minutes.
- Wring any excess water out of the spinach. Line the boar with the thawed spinach in a single layer.
- Spoon the mushrooms over the top of the spinach.
- Roll the tenderloin around the filling and use kitchen twine to tie it closed.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the internal temperature of the boar reaches about 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Allow to rest outside of the oven for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Pheasant Pot Pie
While this recipe calls for pheasant, it will work with any wild game bird, such as wild turkey, duck, or partridge. Before starting, you need to cut the meat off the bones, removing the skin as you do. Cooking wild game birds in a pot pie essentially braises the meat, keeping it moist and tender as you cook. The result is a flavorful and satisfying meal that has a slightly earthy flavor redolent with herbs. Serve with a simple side salad and some crusty bread to soak up any gravy. The recipe serves four to six.
- 1 pheasant, deboned, skinned, and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
- 3 bacon slices, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons chopped fennel fronds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 recipe puff pastry, or 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, rolled to fit your pan
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season the pheasant with salt and pepper.
- In a large sauté pan or pot, heat the olive oil or butter on medium-high until it is shimmering hot.
- Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the fat in the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
- Add the pheasant and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the pheasant with a slotted spoon from the fat in the pan and set it aside.
- Add the onion, carrots, fennel, and mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine, using the side of a spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken broth, fennel fronds, dried thyme, and reserved bacon and pheasant to the pot. Bring to a simmer.
- Pour the bubbling mixture into a 9x13-inch baking pan or deep dish pie plate. Cover with the puff pastry, cutting three or four slits in the top of the pastry and crimping it around the edges.
- Brush the puff pastry with the beaten egg. Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry is puffy and golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
Tips for Cooking with Wild Game
Because it is so lean, wild game benefits from certain cooking techniques to maximize flavor and texture.
- Overcooked wild game is stringy, tough, and dry. Therefore, you want to cook it to a medium-rare to medium temperature with some pink in the middle. Keep in mind the safe temperature for meats.
- Fast, high-heat cooking keeps game from drying out, so sautéing and grilling is a great way to go. Use a marinade to keep the game meat moist and remove some of the gamey flavors. Cuts from game that work well for quick and high cooking include chops, tenderloin, and steaks.
- Other cuts, such as shanks, roasts, stew meats, and ribs, require a low and slow method, preferably with moisture (such as braising) to keep the cuts tender. You can do a slow oven or stove-top braise or use a slow cooker to keep these cuts moist.
- Vinegar, citrus, and garlic help to tone down gamey flavors, so they work well as marinade ingredients.
- Cook the game with fat untrimmed and trim it before serving as the fat helps keep the meat moist during cooking. Never trim meats you plan to braise. Instead, you can remove the fat from the braising liquid before serving.
Wild game makes a tasty meal if you use the proper recipes and techniques. Try the dishes above to increase your enjoyment of this healthy animal protein.