Venison Meatballs

Here in Kansas, deer season can result in some pretty tasty venison, if you happen to know someone who hunts.  Luckily, we do.  While Chris grew up eating venison (although mostly in summer sausage or chili form), I came to venison eating later in life and quite enjoy it.  As with any game meat, it can vary in flavor and intensity depending on the specific animal, but the meat we used for this recipe was quite mild.  If you’re sensitive to gamy flavors, you have a couple of options.  You can either try to cover up the meat flavor with spices, at which point you might as well just skip the venison and use beef, or you can use intensely savory flavors for the sauce (as we did here) that actually pair well with a slightly gamy flavor.  The seasoning options presented here are only a guideline-take this any direction that suits you. They would play equally well as a Swedish meatball, or as a standard red-checkered tablecloth spaghetti and meatball.

image

 

Ingredients

2 lbs ground venison

1 lb ground pork (80% lean)

3/4-1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

2/3 cup parmesan (in the can, yes I know. Shameful, but it’s the best for meatballs. I’ve tried putting the good stuff in there instead, but it just doesn’t work as well.  Must be the cellulose).

1 tbsp Italian seasoning (use your favorite-we used a bread dipping mix I grabbed at a local spice shop)

1 tbsp steak seasoning or season salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt

Dash Worcestershire sauce

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients by hand until well mixed.  If the mixture is too sticky, add more breadcrumbs until the meat mixture sticks to itself, not to you.  On an oiled baking sheet, roll out your desired size of meatball.  I like the 2-3 tbsp size range, so I ended up with about 50 meatballs from this mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes. At this point you can either use them in a dish, or cool, then stash in a freezer safe bag until you have a hankering for more venison.

For the red wine mushroom sauce in the picture, I’m afraid I don’t have an exact recipe for it, but I can provide some general guidelines.  We used our standard roux based sauce method, where we make a roux, when it starts to darken, add the veggies (onion and mushrooms here).  Sauté off for a few minutes, then deglaze with some booze (we started with marsala, but ran out.  oops).  2-3 cups of mixed meat broth then goes in, along with garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  We let it simmer covered for a few minutes to let the mushrooms give up their juice, and then added some Shiraz we had open (along with a shot of brandy, because at this point, why not?).  Meatballs went in, and we simmered it for another few minutes to warm the meatballs up again, and to let that flavor mix with the sauce a bit.  I wasn’t really keeping track of the amounts of anything we used, but that’s the joy of cooking for fun.

Mushrooms on Toast

Several years ago, Chris and I would trawl youtube for the British episodes of Kitchen Nightmares (this was before the American version existed).  One of the restaurants featured was a cute little vegetarian cafe in Paris that had some major issues (obviously), but what really stuck out to us was the gorgeous mushrooms on toast that Gordon Ramsay (or his helper chef, I can’t remember at the moment) made.  It had huge, beautiful mushrooms on a generous piece of toasted brioche.  It looked like mushroomy joy on a plate. Since then, every once in a while we’ll remember that mushrooms on toast exist, and make some.   Because this was for dinner, I cooked a couple of eggs over medium (because runny yolk makes everything better), and added a little bit of Swiss cheese to the toasts.

Mushrooms on toast.

Mushrooms on toast. So much mushroom.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (a mixture is good-we used some oyster, cremini and button mushrooms)

1 tbsp butter

2 shallots, diced

1 clove of garlic (or roasted garlic paste, if you have it)

1/2 cup white wine

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and chives, but parsley would be a nice addition as well)

1-2 tbsp heavy cream

4 slices of french bread, no more than 1″ thick (if you’re using a baguette, you’ll want 6 slices of bread)

2-3 slices of Swiss cheese (or gouda) (optional)

3-4 eggs, cooked as desired (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and when it starts to brown, add your shallots. Sauté for a couple of minutes until those start to brown, then add your garlic and herbs.  Sauté another 30 seconds or so and dump in your mushrooms.  I recommend adding some salt at this point, and sauté until the mushrooms start to brown slightly and soften, another couple of minutes.  Add your white wine, stir, then lower the heat and cover for another 5-10 minutes.  When the mushrooms are cooked through, remove the lid and add your cream.  Bring back to a gentle simmer to reduce the sauce.  Adjust your seasoning, and if you want to, refresh your herbs.

For the toast, I recommend preparing them in the oven with the broiler. I lightly brushed one side with butter, toasted it, then flipped the bread over and put just enough Swiss cheese to cover the toast.  I put it back under the broiler until melted.

To serve, put the toasts on the plate, dump half of the mushroom mixture over it, then top with your eggs (if desired).  It makes a ridiculously quick and filling weeknight meal, and can be scaled very easily if you’re serving more people. It is also very flexible on the liquid used.  If you don’t have a bottle of white wine open, you could use your favorite stock (especially with a tablespoon or so of brandy).

Poblano peppers with shrimp and cheese

As the next addition to our continuing repertoire of Mexican dishes, I would like to present poblanos with shrimp and cheese. This is another one of those quick weeknight meals that gives you fantastic bang for your buck (both in terms of time and money).  It can be scaled easily, and is a great lower carb options for anyone who would like some Mexican without a zillion tortillas.

Poblano with shrimp, avocado and rice

A (slightly overfilled) poblano with shrimp, avocado and rice

 

Ingredients (makes 4 peppers)

4 poblano peppers, grilled, peeled and seeded

1 lb shrimp, raw, peeled and de-veined

1/2 jumbo onion, chopped

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup crema

2/3 cup shredded cheese (we use the queso quesedilla from Kroger)

1 lime

Salt, pepper, garlic powder

Method

Grill your poblanos, then place them in a plastic bag to steam.  Peel off the skins, and pull out the seeds and any light or white seed membrane that remains, but leave the stem intact if possible.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent and starting to turn slightly golden, and add the shrimp.  Continue to cook, several minutes until shrimp are almost done (when they are nearly entirely opaque). While the shrimp are cooking, add some salt and pepper, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or more to taste (oregano could be nice here too).  Add the juice of half to one lime (depending on how juicy your lime is), and stir in the crema and cheese.  Let cheese melt, and it should pull together into a lovely thick sauce within a few minutes.  Fill your poblanos with the shrimp mixture, and serve immediately.  This is really nice with rice and avocado (as you can see in the image).  If you’re nervous about pepper heat, by the times the poblanos are grilled and seeded, there is very little spicy zip is left, but it certainly could be made with a more mild type of pepper.  I would just recommend you try it once with poblano first.  It’s really hard to beat that smokey pepper flavor poblanos can get.