Natural game birds and meats could be turning up on a variety of menus. From chili made with bison or buffalo to venison (from the sport hunter) to entrees inspired by gourmet chefs, there are plenty of game dishes.
In the December-January issue, notable chefs from across the country shared recipes with Field & Stream magazine to salute "America's meat," venison, with seasonal recipes. Among the contributors was John Besh, chef-owner of August in New Orleans.
Winter is the time when area chefs showcase their creativity with game meats. Game birds such as squab, quail, duck, pheasant, and game hens are better known to the home cook. Larger game animals are more difficult to procure; look for specialty markets and online sources.
"Cooking game is a nice change," said Erika Rapp, executive chef at the Toledo Museum of Art, when she prepared a seven-course menu featuring wild game for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, Toledo Bailliage this month.
Following an amuse-bouche featuring smoked sturgeon on tiny toasts, a smoked squab and quince salad was served. The squab was ordered rather than purchased locally. "Most local farmers don't raise game in the winter because it's too hard to keep over the winter," she said. For the dish, she hot-smoked the squab on the stove. It was semi-boned similar to quail.
The next course of duck ravioli with forest mushrooms and dandelion greens in a blond miso broth with English thyme was delicious, according to Kathleen Reed, a member of the Chaine. The duck was made from scratch: confit duck legs were used as a filling in the pastry.
Lavender Scented Rabbit with Whole-grain Mustard Nage was braised and then arranged on the plate with a ragout of butter-basted root vegetables. "These are two-to-three-ounce foreshanks and hind shanks," said Chef Rapp. "I like rabbit. It's a bit sweeter than chicken. It's not gamey."
Next came the bigger meats, which are often very lean. "Introduce a rich sauce to counteract a lean meat," the chef advises. Slow Roasted Wild Boar Loin was cooked with Southwest spices and served with mole and stewed hominy. This introduced more Latin flavors, she said of the global menu.
Originally she planned on confit venison shanks with cinnamon and prunes served with Minnesota wild rice and toasted almonds, but then opted for elk shank. While the two game meats can be interchangeable, she said the elk is not as musky in flavor as venison. "It is more feminine in flavor," she said. Domestic artisan cheeses were served for dessert with preserved black walnuts.
A game menu for February is being planned at the Toledo Club by executive chef Mike Rosendaul. "The dinner is a big [event]," said the chef, with about 250 members and guests expected to attend.
He begins with an extensive menu of hors d'oeurves, including a whole roasted boar and a leg of antelope. "The boar is brined 24 hours and wrapped in bacon and slow-roasted six to eight hours," he said. Diners pull the meat from the roasted game and put it on rolls for little sandwiches during the cocktail hour. He also uses pheasant with slices on skewers like a sate, served with a lime sauce or a milk peanut sauce, "but not too spicy," he added.
Here's a great idea from Chef Rosendaul: venison pastrami is served with rye toast points, pickled red cabbage, and shaved Parmesan. "It's a twist on a Reuben
[sandwich]," he said.
For the four-course dinner, a dandelion green salad will be served with wild boar bacon and walnuts and a camembert crouton with pomegranate cider vinaigrette. The first course is sesame-roasted rabbit loin with daikon radishes and golden beets.
The entree is a trio of meats: roasted rack of elk, seared kangeroo loin, and braised bison short ribs. A coffee bourbon pepper glaze will complement all three.
"The elk is similar to venison and should be cooked to medium rare," said the chef, who gets the game from a farm in Texas.
"You can't overcook it or it becomes dry and pasty. Kangaroo has a great beef-like flavor. You can't overcook it, either." But the bison short ribs which is like a beef short rib can cook longer, about six to eight hours.
Game meats are available either by mail order or through a specialty butcher. Or, hunters may have venison in the freezer.
Local meat markets are also a source for game. At House of Meats, frozen buffalo patties, steaks, stew meat, and roasts are sold. Imported rabbit, frozen whole and skinless, and frozen ground elk are available. Special-order pheasant, duck, and geese.
Mail order sources include Pacific Northwest game purveyor Nicky USA, which is a source of Pacific Northwest quail, rabbit, elk, buffalo, and specialty sausages. Call 800-469-4162.
Whatever your source, you can substitute buffalo or bison for beef in recipes such as chili, burgers, sloppy joes, or casseroles. Beef (Buffalo) Chili is a recipe from the Structure House weight loss program.
Contact Kathie Smith at: