I’ve never been hunting in my life, not ever. (Once, I had my shotgun out to clean it and a turkey pretty much walked right by me into the woods, so I went after it. He got away before I could get near him again- I’m pretty sure he got spooked by my pink hoodie and big silver earrings.) My lack of experience isn’t out of reluctance to go, but rather that I know so many hunters already that we have a fully stocked freezer of overflow meat from other people’s freezers. It seems ridiculous to kill anything else when we already have plenty of meat to eat.
This post is going to be the first in a series called Freezer Space, designed to get that meat out of the freezer and onto plates. Both wild and farm-raised meats can sometimes be intimidating to cook with since they may look and taste so much different from their shrink-wrapped grocery store counterparts. With the right cooking techniques, however, they are much more delicious and rewarding to cook. My other goal is to win over the picky eaters (mom, I mean you here) who see a frozen package of venison and squirm with disgust, opting instead for a bland looking, shrink-wrapped package of chicken breasts from the grocery store.
If you don’t have wild game in your freezer and want to get some, try bartering. (“Hey, I know you go hunting all the time, is there any way I could trade you a jar of marmalade for some stew meat?”)
Marinade It: Venison Backstrap Spiedies
Cooking wild game is never the time to be lazy with your cooking techniques. The different flavors and textures may taste unusual, but if you take extra care to treat the meat really well, these flavors will elevate your dish instead of detract from it. If you’ve never tried it before, venison is quite lean and tastes similar to beef. Since the animals run wild, though, it can be hard to predict exactly what the meat will be like before you cook it. Take the extra time to marinade your venison and it will be moist, juicy, tender and packed with flavor.
Spiedies are kebabs made with lamb, pork, and less often beef or venison. It’s one of those strange regional foods that most people have never heard of, but if you’ve spent time anywhere around Binghamton, NY, you know how delicious they are. The tangy vinegar marinade makes the meat explode with this wonderful addictive bright flavor, the perfect counterpart to richer meats like lamb or venison. Usually the meat is cubed, cooked on skewers and served on soft Italian bread, but I left sliced the venison into steaks and left them whole.
There are two different possible options for making spiedies. Saveur has a great recipe for the marinade here. If you want to splurge and be lazy, this is one of the few times I would actually recommend buying the pre-made marinade right from the famous Lupo’s Spiedies website since they’re the people that do it the best. If you have a freezer full of venison, I would highly recommend ordering a few bottles to keep in your pantry. The spiedies are delicious hot off the grill and also make amazing leftovers for sandwiches, and will win over pretty much everyone. One of my friends tried these when J. and I made them, and the conversation went like this:
“This is really venison?”
“Is it farm-raised?”
“Nope, a dude down the road shot it.”
Cook Time: to marinade: between 4 hours and 4 days, to grill: around an hour, including preheating the grill
Serves: 4-6 depending on portion sizes
- 1 1/2 lbs. venison (I used backstrap, a high quality cut similar to filet mignon, but really any venison would be fine)
- 1 16-oz bottle of spiedie marinade, (or from scratch)
Trim any excess fat or gristle off your meat. Cut into the desired size steaks or cubes. If you’re using really tender cuts of venison such as backstrap, you can get away with marinading the meat for just a few hours. For tougher cuts, I would recommend cutting the meat into cubes and leaving it to marinate in the fridge for 3-4 days, then cooking it on skewers.
Preheat a weber grill to medium-high heat and add few pieces of hickory wood to the charcoal briquettes for a mild smoky flavor. Grill the venison steaks until they’re cooked to around medium, just a few minutes on each side (the cooking time depends on the thickness, obviously).
Serve with italian bread and whichever bbq sides make you happy: corn on the cob, pasta salad, greens, baked beans…