Wild Cheff Best Practice Article09

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Wild Cheff Best Practice Article09

  1. 1. A “Best Practice” Approach to Your Wild Game What is Best Practice? A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has been proven to reliably lead to a desired result. To the best of my knowledge (which stems from over 25 years as a wild game chef) I have never seen or heard of anyone even attempt to create a “best practice” approach for cooking wild game. While there are no rules in my opinion when it comes to cooking, there can be various methodologies that are heavily influenced by where you live; some infuse your ethnicity or what you have personally experienced, while other practices are tied to what you know to this point in your life and tend to define your cooking style. There are in fact techniques that when put into practice, yield tremendous consistency concerning the preparation and outcome of your wild game. The goal of WildCheff has always been and will continue to be – to educate and inspire sportsmen and game enthusiasts on how to master the basics of game cooking, and to help you develop creativity so you can fully comprehend and appreciate the diversity that wild game offers. Although many of us love all types of game, the majority of hunters that go afield every year for some type of venison variety; deer being the most sought after North American game animal - so, my initial focus in this column will be in helping you address learning some of the basic fundamentals of cooking venison in general. There are many ad-hock game cooks out there that simply get by with whatever method comes to mind at the moment. Some cooks throw a pat of butter in a pan and a bit of whatever seasoning is on hand; in many cases the seasoning is severely outdated and has been in the cupboard for a number of years, while others are of the belief that if they just throw some marinade, salad dressing or creamed soup over it, that it will at least it add some missing flavor they seek, or tame what they may consider the gaminess of the meat. Others like to use ingredients like salt pork to cook their game with; which is fine so long as you understand that it may adversely affect your health someday. I have to admit that I cannot make a quality pot of beans without it.
  2. 2. Who is right, and who is wrong???! The best way to answer that question is to first ponder what a proper cooking method is vs. no established method at all. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I think we would all agree that in most cases some type of fat content needs to be added; this will ensure that your game stays moist; it also enhances the flavor which will make for a better recipe; bacon, olive oil and butter being the most predominant three choices. If you consider learning any subject, hands-on experience and repetition is the best teacher. The more you cook and try different methods, the more you will find out what works best and what doesn’t work at all. It is even better when you can shortcut the learning curve by gaining knowledge from somebody who has already made all the mistakes. Benjamin Franklin once made a statement that in order for him to invent electricity it took him over 1000 times of trial and error to find what method worked. I’m sure you won’t have to cook your game 1,000 ways to get it right, but I would make some suggestions, that if taken will yield you a consistency in your game cooking. Recently, a gentleman reached out to me as he was having severe challenges with cooking sea ducks (Eiders). He loved to hunt them, but stated that when attempting to cook them, he could not choke them down and he was ready to hang up the shotgun. I explained to him that you have to remember that you are what you eat, and you have to consider that game animals are subject to the environment that they live in. Sea ducks are one of the rare exceptions where marinating does help produce a better flavor so that they can be enjoyed. I prescribed a couple of marinades that are made with fruit juices, olive oil and the right herbs and he is now off and running again. My whole thought process for creating WildCheff Spice Blends was largely due to the fact that there has never been a series of products that I’ve known to exist in my 27 years of hunting that can help the novice or experienced game cook to produce consistent and diverse game dishes and flavor combinations that are of high quality. Yes, you can purchase the all-in-one powdered seasonings out there, but they are cheap and do not truly let your game shine. As with all things, you get what you pay for. My goal is to provide hunters and game enthusiasts with fresh herbs and spices, and a means to cook anything they could imagine with your game; by supplying you with customized herb blends that offer you clear direction based on the style of game dishes you’d like to enjoy; whether it be Tex/Mex or Southwestern, BBQ, rustic styled, stir-fried or any ethnic dish you can imagine – French, Irish, Italian/Tuscan, German, Swedish, etc. In my WildCheff – Wild Game Cooking Clinics I teach that venison is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in multitudes of ways. It can be sautéed, broiled, grilled, roasted, stir-fried and stewed. It has a distinct and wonderful flavor that makes you yearn for more. Conversations tend to always focus on the tenderloin or back-straps, but you have to look at all venison cuts as worthy for some type of sumptuous recipe. When you
  3. 3. feel challenged with the less desirable cuts, don’t get frustrated. Take the less tender cuts and make burger with them, which can be used in a host of recipes from gourmet burgers to meatballs, stuffed peppers, shepherd’s pie, stuffed cabbage, in Tex/Mex dishes, chili and in red sauce for lasagna and pasta dishes, as well as for making sausage, which can be enjoyed morning, noon and night in countless recipes. Lower end cuts of venison can be used to make great stews and braised dishes. When cooking venison steak, tenderloin and back-straps the key is to cook until it is medium rare or just a hair beyond and then pull it from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it. This lets the juice redistribute throughout the meat so you end up with extremely tender and delicious venison. Never drown your venison in marinades, canned soup or things like Italian dressing. You can enhance the flavor of your game with wine, beer, and various brandy’s. Dried fruits like cranberry, cherry and blueberry can help add another dimension to your dishes. Fresh earthy veggies like onions, shallots and mushrooms, and aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and garlic can also be of tremendous benefit to your recipes. It’s all about exercising some creativity. The key to remember is that you want to accent your game with flavors that help it to excel; but don’t replace the flavor of the game – your game should always be the star of your recipe! There is an old story of a woman whose husband asked her why she cut the end of her roast every time she cooked one. She stated to her husband that when she watched her mother do it over the years so she followed suit. They went to her mother and asked why she did it and the mother stated that was how her mother always did it. So, they went to the grandmother and asked her why she always cut the end of her roast off before placing it in the pan and the grandmother replied - “Because my pan wasn’t big enough!” When you are done laughing, you will get the point. Don’t just pour something over you game because that is all you have ever done or seen others do. Pouring things over your game is simply a way to get out of implementing methods and/or techniques that will make your game taste incredible vs. average. The bottom line is that you did not put in all that effort in harvesting an animal to not enjoy the taste of it. There will always be a segment of hunters that just like it plain and simple, and that’s o.k. – but many hunters and game enthusiasts desire to create food experiences that help them to discover new and exciting ways to enjoy their game.
  4. 4. How do you eat an elephant??? One bite at a time! The next time you feel compelled to marinate your game steaks, medallions or loins - drizzle some olive oil over it and coat it with fresh herbs and spices that will accent it and not mask the true flavor of it. Let it sit in the marinade for 30 minutes to 4 hours and then set it on the counter and bringing it to room temperature before preparing it the way you like. Make sure it is always pink in the middle when you eat it and enjoy some great tasteful memories!!! Bon appétit and happy hunting, Denny Corriveau Master Game Chef/Instructor National Pro-Staff Game Chef WildCheff Enterprises, LLC Amesbury, MA / Sebago Lake, ME 978-388-8868 info@wildcheff.com http://www.wildcheff.com/ “I’m Game if You Are!” Member: NRA, Professional Outdoor Media Association, New England Outdoor Writer’s Association, Professional Outdoor Speakers Bureau, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine

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