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The Mexico Ledger - Mexico, MO
My blog is about anything that affects my life. I started with food, but I end up sharing characters from my past and my opinions about various topics.
Dear Chef
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About this blog
By Rich McKinney

Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music ...

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mcknotes

Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music Education from Truman State. Now retired, Rich enjoyed reading, writing music and short essays. He is the director of Kirksville Community Chorus.

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DEAR CHEF



 

Just kidding!  I meant deer chef.  Here in Missouri we have access to a lot of venison.  Many people just don’t know what to do with venison.  I have some tips that might prove helpful for you.  Personally, I prefer ground venison.  It’s great to use in chili, casseroles that call for ground beef, or even meat loaf or burgers.  Chili is packed with enough other strong flavors that the taste of venison is pretty much overpowered.  I don’t think anyone can really tell that my chili is made with venison, although I would never try to trick people.  But many people think they can tell the difference without even trying.  It’s sort of like, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up.”

 

Admittedly, if you’re cooking a venison roast, it’s more difficult to camouflage the wild taste, but in a casserole with mushroom soup and cheese and various other flavorful ingredients, it becomes more a matter of balance.  With a roast, I’ve been told that lots of garlic is good for hiding the gamey taste of the venison, but for me, that’s not the same as balance. 

 

With meat loaf, I generally use half venison and half sausage or ground turkey.  Once the celery, onion and bread crumbs are added, and then the whole dish topped with catsup or barbeque sauce, again, there is a balance of flavors that just kind of neutralizes the wild taste.  Burgers, too, can be a mixture of bread crumbs, and egg, and even some barbeque sauce to help the meat stick together.

 

Venison is very lean meat.  There’s not nearly the fat that one finds in some other red meats. I know an Italian restaurant in Honolulu that serves venison ragú over broad noodles.  Ragú is basically just a Bolognese sauce, but has become a brand name that is even more recognizable.  Think venison Stroganoff, and you’ve got another good way to use ground venison.

 

A venison roast can be prepared just like any beef pot roast.  There are also venison steaks.  Smother them in onions with garlic and a bit of wine sauce and you’ve got another tasty dish.  I don’t think anyone wants to have venison for every meal, but there’s a huge harvest of venison in Missouri.

 

In fact the Midwest is a great place for hunting venison.  In 2011, Missouri hunters harvested over one hundred and ninety thousand deer.  My grandmother and grandfather both managed to harvest a dear every hunting season.  They were poor farmers in southeastern Illinois.  My grandfather used to grow popcorn, which I think probably served to feed more than a few deer.  In weather like we’re having lately, he would have told the story of the summer it got so hot all the corn popped right in the field.  His mule saw it and thought it was snow and froze to death.  But I digress.

 

My point is that some people just don’t know what to do with venison.  I treat it like beef and use it year round.  I haven’t made my chili with beef for a very long time.

 

There are other foods in Missouri that are available if you’re willing to do the work.  Get a fishing pole and find a place you can fish.  Missouri has plenty of fresh water fish that are easy to fix.  We kind of think of fish as something to fry, but for a healthier option, try fixing fish in the microwave with butter and lemon juice.  You can also cook it in the oven. 

 

For me, variety is really important, so I appreciate options.  I’ve had ostrich steaks and they’re wonderful eating, but not easy to attain.  At Thanksgiving, I like to serve wild turkey.  Hats off to Shag Grossnickel, who is in large part responsible for an abundance of wild turkeys in Northeast Missouri.  Again, some people complain that wild turkey tastes gamey.  The trick is to brine the turkey for at least 24 hours in apple cider with a cup of salt, a cup of sugar, a quartered onion and some other herbs and vegetables.  Check the Internet for brining recipes.  Some of them are extremely fussy.  Just because an ingredient is listed in a recipe, that doesn’t mean it’s required.  Cooking is largely common sense.  I like to read three or four recipes and then wing it.

 

Sincerely yours,

The Happy Cooker





 

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