The Venison Dinner

1 02 2007

Last Saturday night, I hosted a feast for some of my more curious, adventurous, or perhaps I should say, devoted friends using venison as an Iron Chef ingredient. My Dad is the penultimate hunter, spending much of October through January tracking the wary beasts through “Penn’s woods” in both Potter and Lehigh counties. The result is that my parents’ freezer and, usually, mine are never empty!  

My dad processes the venison himself, a tedious and exhausting task. Thank goodness he’s usually so pumped from a successful hunt that there’s adrenaline to spare to carry him through this activity.

Depending on the size of the deer and the location of the gunshot or arrowhead, we enjoy many cuts of 100% organic, lean red meat. My dad uses an old family recipe to make his country breakfast sausage.  He has a local butcher cure the hindquarters into a prosciutto-like delicacy that Pennsylvania Germans call dried “beef”, and sometimes he has them season, cure, and smoke a blend of venison and pork into a sweet, tangy summer sausage. Everything else he cuts himself…roasts, steaks, cubes, “hamburger,” chipped steak, ribs, and the pièce de résistance – tenderloin – the filet mignon of the deer. 

This year my friends, Frances and Grant, and I added to the mix. With Grant’s insatiable desire for accumulating all manner of kitchen gadgets, Frances’ extraordinary cooking skills, and our mutual addiction to experimenting with all kinds of cuisines and all types of ingredients, the three of us, accompanied by our sometimes, non-plussed boys,  have been on an endless culinary journey for the past 13+ years.  

So one cold and gray December Sunday, we experimented with Grant’s newest and most exciting appliances – a commercial grade grinder, a sausage press and a smoker. We managed to transform some ground venison into a lovely sausage subtly flavored with dried cherries, a traditional breakfast sausage, Italian sausage with fennel seeds, and our own first attempt at smoked summer sausage.  

Working from this stockpile of frozen delights I set to work. We started off with thin slices of dried beef wrapped around slivers of kiwi, cold summer sausage accompanied with honey mustard dressing, gruyere cheese, and my specialty, homemade baguettes and walnut bread. I pan-fried all 4 types of sausage, serving the cherry sausage cold with slices of pear, the Italian sausage with green peppers, tomatoes, and onions, the breakfast sausage with baby potatoes, and my dad’s country sausage with a warm horseradish sauce.  

The next course included fall-off-the-bone ribs which I roasted with a homemade tangy barbecue sauce. Grant contributed smoked scallops and shrimp for variety and to cover those among us who might have been questioning the wisdom of accepting this dinner invitation.  

Then it was time for the main attractions…tenderloin medallions served medium-rare with a fruity, rosemary, red wine reduction and a garlic roast with a jus prepared from venison stock. I added sides of wild rice and a dried corn casserole to complement this “wild” meal.  

And, we ate and ate and ate and ate.  I don’t think anyone went home hungry.  

I just want to thank all my brave dinner guests for hanging in there with me. Some, like my parents and Frances and Grant, have come to expect that every meal at my house is something of an adventure. But the rest of you guys – surprise, surprise, surprise and thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Originally posted here.




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