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.
2 lbs ground venison
1 lb ground pork (80% lean)
3/4-1 cup breadcrumbs
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
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.