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The Beginner’s Guide to Gourmet Wild Game

Give these tips a try and start making gourmet wild game meals tonight.

We all can fall in a rut when it comes to cooking wild game. The biggest mistake that home cooks make is just throwing some venison steaks on pan, turning up the heat, throwing in a can of cream of mushroom soup, and calling it a meal. However, there are a few secrets that I have found over the years than can turn the same old venison, or other game meals, into gourmet wild game on the first try.

Pan Searing 

If you are going to cook a venison steak, do not coat it in flour and eggs and fry it in oil. That may be alright once in a while, but not all the time.Instead, thaw out your venison steaks, pat them dry, and coat both sides in salt and pepper. Pour one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and turn the heat up high. When the oil is simmering, place the steaks, one or two at a time, in the hot pan, searing the outside. After about one minute, flip the steaks and sear the other side. Venison cooks fast so be careful not to overcook.

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Pan Sauces 

If you are going to learn to perform a proper pan sear, then you need to know how to create a great pan sauce. After a pan sear, there are normally brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is exactly what you want. After the venison is removed, keep the heat high and add in a few tablespoons of butter to the pan.

From here, toss in some white onions, garlic, mushrooms, bacon, or any combination you would like. After the aromatics are cooked, pour in a liquid of some kind. Normally beer, bourbon, apple juice, or even broths work well. Pour in about one cup of liquid and stir up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. As the liquid boils, allow it to reduce until it starts to thicken. You can even use fruit juices here, too.

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Braising

If you don’t have a braising pot, you are really missing the boat when it comes to cooking venison. If you do have a braising pot, use it!

If you have a nice shoulder roast, break out the braising pot and pour in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Heat the oil until it is simmering, brown the roast on all sides in the pot, and remove. From there, add in vegetables like onions, garlic, or shallots. Also, pour in a can of beef broth, or beer, and bring to a boil. Place the venison roast in the pot with enough liquid to cover about half of the roast. Place it covered in the braising pot in your oven for about four hours at 325. When done, remove the venison and reduce the liquid down to about 1 cup, and serve it as a gravy over the roast.

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Fish

Cooking fish can be tricky. It can turn out mushy or it can turn out overcooked. However, once you get the hang of properly cooking fish, it comes out great just about every time.

For a simple pan sear, pat both sides of the fish dry and sprinkle in salt, pepper, and sugar. Make sure you don’t go easy on the sugar. When the fish touches the hot pan, the sugar caramelizes and creates a delicious brown crust. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and turn the heat up to medium high. Once hot, place the fish two at a time on the pan and sear for about three minutes, or less depending on thickness. Flip the fish gently and repeat. Fish will actually continue to cook after it has been removed from the pan, so if you remove it before it is fully done, you removed it at the right time.

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Spices

Spices go a long way when it comes to gourmet wild game. For example, if you are just cooking plain venison steaks, at the very end of the cooking process, toss in shredded parsley on top of the steaks and cover for about 30 seconds. Parsley pairs with venison very well. The earthy taste of parsley mixed with the natural flavors of venison creates something very unique.

If you don’t really care for parsley, try fresh basil. Basil can lose its favor very quickly if you add too much heat. Like parsley, don’t add basil to the cooking process until the very end, even to the point when you turn the heat off. Basil always goes hand-in-hand with tomato dishes as well. Just remember, any time you serve venison with any tomato base, add basil.

Garlic also goes great with venison. However, garlic can be very delicate. When you add garlic to a pan sauce, or braise, only keep it under heat until you smell it. After too long under heat, garlic can break down and the whole point of adding it to the dish is a wasted effort.

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Cooking gourmet wild game meals is an adventure every time you walk into the kitchen and start thawing out the main course from the freezer. Just remember to come back to this article again when you get stuck in a rut trying to come up with different ideas to jazz up old meals.

All images by Brad Smith

The Beginner’s Guide to Gourmet Wild Game