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Shoot, Wellness / September 18, 2016

This cookbook will change your venison game

Written by: Justin Park

If you’ve eaten venison, you’ve probably had it wrapped in bacon, fried in butter, or mixed up in a Hamburger Helper-style “cheezy bake”.

In other words, you’ve probably had it drowned in some other animal’s fat.

More than 10 million hunters chase deer in the U.S. every year, but most of them still seem scared to let venison hold its own on the plate.

Hank Shaw wants to change that. Shaw is the man behind Hunter Angler Gardner Cook, a website that won a James Beard award in part for its wild game recipes.

 

Chef Hank Shaw has made a career teaching people to properly cook garden veggies and wild game.

Shaw's latest book is something of a spiritual sequel to his waterfowl cookbook "Duck, Duck, Goose".

Shaw’s new venison-only cookbook Buck, Buck Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and Other Antlered Things, is out this month. It’s stuffed with great photos, world-class recipes, and tips that will take readers all the way from cleaning their kill to plating their meal.

“If you’re not well-versed in cooking venison, you’re going to think it’s beef,” says Shaw. “. It’s not. It’s close but there are just enough differences that you can wreck it. Thus this book.”

The differences, broadly, are that venison is much more tightly grained and far less fatty than even grass-fed beef. Treat that lean venison roast like a beef brisket and you’re in for a dry mouthful.

“If you’re not well-versed in cooking venison, you’re going to think it’s beef. It’s not. ”

To make matters worse, Hunters place great value on their meat. That makes them hesitant to try anything new in the kitchen.

“The last thing you want to do is screw up what has been so difficult to obtain. It’s the fear of messing up something precious, that elk you had to pull off a mountain, that keeps people from cooking {venison} more adventurously.”

Shaw’s book caters to chefs of all adventure levels. Want to take a stab at cleaning and cooking your own venison tripe? Instructions are there. Just want a more interesting way to cook an elk steak? You’re covered there, too.

The recipes are tested not only by Shaw but by a group of his readers who aren’t professional cooks. Shaw says he changed about ¼ of the recipes in the book to reflect feedback he got from his tester group. Those recipes include dishes like Jagerschnitzel and multiple takes on venison meatballs.

To give a taste of what he offers, Shaw agreed to share one of his favorite recipes from the book. So here it is, taken (almost) verbatim from the pages of Buck, Buck, Moose:


 

Austrian Braised Venison Steaks

 

I cooked this dish with a large shank from a big Ohio whitetail buck that my friend Joe gave me. For whatever reason, his butcher sliced the shank bones—maybe for osso buco—but not all the way through.

I like the effect, because it looks cool on the platter, and it opens up the bones to the marrow, which you can easily scoop out and add to the sauerkraut mixture. Yes, it’s delicious; trust me on this one. Smaller shanks work fine, too.

If you can’t find squash seed oil, which is dark and tastes vaguely of roasted peanuts, use a high-quality sunflower oil or walnut oil here. You want an oil with some flavor to it, not just a bland cooking oil.

Serve this with good bread, like a German pumpernickel or a Jewish rye. And even though this is a red-meat dish, I like an Austrian white wine here. German beer is another good alternative, such as a weizenbock, or if the weather’s a little warmer, the same hefeweizen you used in the pot.

Ingredients (serves four):

  • 1 elk shank, or up to 4 venison shanks
  • 2 tablespoons squash seed oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or 2 teaspoons
  • minced fresh garlic
  • Salt
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, drained
  • 10 cups coarsely shredded potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 12- to 16-ounce bottle hefeweizen beer
  • 1 cup stock (any kind)
  • Black pepper and chopped chives for garnish

Directions:

  • Take the shanks out of the fridge, coat them in a little oil, and salt them well. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  • Heat the vegetable oil or butter in a Dutch oven (or other ovenproof pan that will fit all the shanks), and brown the shanks on every side but the one with the “shin,” where the bone shows clearly—if you brown this part, the shank is more likely to fall apart before you want it to. Remove the shanks as they brown, and set aside.
  • While the shanks are browning, peel the garlic. Think it’s hard to peel 4 heads of garlic? Try this trick: Separate the cloves and put them in a metal bowl. Cover the bowl with another bowl of the same size and shake them vigorously for about 10 seconds. All the cloves will be peeled.
  • Put the garlic in the pot and brown just a little. Pour in the white wine, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring this to a boil, then add the chicken stock, thyme, rosemary, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, and add salt to taste. Return the shanks to the pot, and arrange “shin” side up with the garlic all around them. Cover the pot, and cook in the oven until the meat wants to fall off the bone, anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Carefully remove the shanks, and arrange on a baking sheet or small roasting pan. Turn the oven to 400F. Remove about 12 of the nicest garlic cloves and set aside.
  • Puree the sauce in a blender, swirl in the unsalted butter, and pour the sauce into a small pot to keep warm.
  • Paint the shanks with some of the sauce, and put them in the oven. Paint with sauce every 5 minutes for 15 minutes, or until there is a nice glaze on the shanks. To serve, give everyone some mashed potatoes or polenta and a shank. Pour some sauce over everything, and garnish with the roasted garlic cloves and rosemary.

The words and photo above were taken directly from Shaw’s book. Buck, Buck, Moose sells online for $22.30.

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about the author

Justin Park

Justin is a Breckenridge, Colorado-based videographer and writer with strong roots back home in Upstate New York. His passions alternate between the shamelessly frivolous and the ruthlessly practical. There’s backcountry skiing and mountain biking for the sheer thrill of it. There’s hunting, foraging, spearfishing and cooking to put food on the table.

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