Chicken-fried Venison with Cream Gravy, Sage and Bacon

A twist on the chicken-fried steak familiar throughout the South (likely first introduced to Texas as Schnitzel by German immigrants in the 1800’s) , this decidedly delicious comfort food favors lean, wild venison over cube steak and adds dried herbs, fresh  sage and bacon.  The result is surprisingly light, crispy and deeply flavorful..


Chicken-fried Venison with Cream Gravy, Sage and Bacon



Serves 2

8-10 ounces wild venison backstrap (boneless loin, similar in texture to filet mignon but much more flavorful)
2-3 strips bacon
1/4 cup (loose) fresh sage leaves
beef tallow (flavor neutral) for frying

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons organic, whole wheat flour, divided (sprouted flour preferred)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried grilling spices (thyme, rosemary, garlic, etc.), crushed

1 pastured egg
1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoons pastured butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the backstrap into equal portions of about 4-5 ounces each.  Place between pieces of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound evenly into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and allow to stand 10 minutes on an absorbent surface.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once the foam subsides, whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour and stir continuously until a thick paste is formed and the flour has lost its “raw” taste, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in chicken stock and buttermilk and bring to a boil then immediately lower to a simmer.  Whisk in cream and allow to simmer 10 minutes.  Season to taste with sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Combine 1/2 cup flour, paprika and dry spices in a bowl or on a plate large enough to hold the pounded venison.  Crack the egg into another bowl and whisk with 1/3 cup milk.

Dredge the venison in flour, shake of the excess then dip into the egg wash.  Hold over the bowl to drain for a moment, then dredge in the flour a second time.  Transfer the breaded venison to a plate and allow to stand 10 minutes.

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp then add the sage leaves and fry about 1 minute.  Transfer bacon and sage to the side to drain for a moment, then chop coarsely and keep warm.

Add enough tallow to the pan so the the melted volume is about 1/4 inch thick and heat to about 350 degrees.   Carefully lay the breaded venison in the pan and shallow fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to the side to drain for a moment, then position on a dinner plate.  Spoon gravy over the top, dress with bacon and sage and serve immediately.

The primary diet of axis deer is grass, and they will graze on new weeds and forbs.  When grass is not in sufficient quantity, they may browse.  Axis graze successfully on native Texas grasses such as curly-mesquite, Indian-grass, side oats grama, big and little bluestem.  They do well on improved grasses, such as Klein.  Seasonally, they do well on winter wheat.  Browse species include live oak and hackberry.  Mast includes acorns and mushrooms.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday!

Chili Mac for Grownups (and adventurous kids)

Chunks of local, pastured ground beef fried with yellow onions and cumin and simmered with dried chilies, garlic, Mexican oregano, halved grape tomatoes and jalapeños.  Tossed with gluten-free corn macaroni and topped with shredded cheddar, crushed yellow corn chips and fresh cilantro..

Chili Mac for Grownups (and adventurous kids)

3-4 ancho chilies, split, stemmed, seeded and toasted
2-3 New Mexico chilies, split, stemmed, seeded and toasted
filtered water as needed

1 tablespoon beef tallow or bacon drippings
1/2 pound local, pastured ground beef or bison
1/2 yellow onion cut into large dice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh jalapeño, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican oregano

1 cup corn macaroni, cooked and drained

yellow corn chips, crushed
sharp cheddar cheese, grated
fresh cilantro, torn

Toast the split chilies on a dry comal or skillet over medium heat for 20 seconds on each side. Take care not to let them scorch, or they will be bitter. Allow to cool slightly, then place in a food processor or blender and crush into a fine powder. With the motor running, slowly add cool, filtered water until a thin paste is formed. Pour into a clean container and set aside.

Pinch off 1 1/2 inch pieces of ground beef, compress lightly and season with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Allow to stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the tallow or bacon fat in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the chunks of ground beef to the hot fat, taking care not to crowd the pan. Allow to form a crisp crust on one side, then turn over and add the onions. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat and onions to a plate, leaving as much fat as possible behind.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook until they begin to fall apart, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and jalapeño and sauté briefly. Add pureed chilies, oregano, browned meat and onions, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Adjust consistency with a little water if needed, then fold in cooked macaroni and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.  Correct bitterness if present with a tiny bit of honey.

Spoon mixture into individual serving dishes, and top with shredded cheese, crushed corn chips and torn, fresh cilantro.

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Grilled Rib-eye Steak with Garlic-Lime Butter and Chili-Fried Onion Rings

Local, pastured bone-in rib-eye steak is basted with garlic-lime butter as it is grilled over a wood fire, then served with crispy chili-fried onion rings..

Grilled Rib-eye Steak with Garlic-Lime Butter and Chili-Fried Onion Rings

For the Compound Butter

1/4 cup pastured butter, softened
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white onions, finely diced and rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
sea salt and smoked black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

For the Onion Rings

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
1 cup fresh milk
1 cup sprouted wheat flour
2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
beef tallow for frying

Soak the onion rings in the milk for 30 minutes.  Combine flour and seasonings in a bowl and set aside.  Heat tallow in a heavy, high-walled skillet over medium heat just until a wisp of smoke appears, then quickly drain the onions and toss in the seasoned flour.  Working in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan, fry the onions until golden brown.  Drain briefly on a clean kitchen cloth before serving hot.

For the Steaks

Lightly oil the steaks with peanut oil and season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour while the fire is prepared.  Grill the steaks on the hottest part of the grill for 3 minutes without moving them, then turn 90 degrees and grill 2 minutes more. Turn the steaks over, move them to the cooler side of the grill and cook to the desired degree of doneness (approximately 8 minutes for medium-rare, depending on thickness), basting frequently with compound butter.

Remove from grill, baste again and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving topped with onion rings.

Mesquite Grilled Beef Heart Burrito

Be sure to read Millie’s post about the nutrient value of traditional foods!

Grass-fed beef heart is marinated  and grilled over a mesquite fire before being simmered with tomatoes, garlic and smoky chipotles en adobo..

Mesquite Grilled Beef Heart Burrito


For the Chile con Queso Asadero

1 cup fresh whole milk
2 cups grated Asadero cheese (substitute Monterrey jack)
2 fresh Serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1 fresh red jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper

Heat milk and chiles over a double boiler, stirring frequently until small bubbles begin to break the surface.  Slowly whisk in grated cheese and stir until thick and creamy.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, reduce heat and keep warm.

For the Burritos (serves 4)

1 fresh grass-fed beef heart
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
1/2 Spanish onion, diced
juice of 1 fresh lime
1/3 cup melted beef tallow (substitute leaf lard or rendered bacon fat)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons roasted paprika
2 chipotles en adobo
sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper
4 large flour tortillas

Trim fresh beef heart of any sinew and gristle, rinse with fresh water, cut into 3-inch chunks and place in a colander set over a sink and allow to drain 20 minutes.  Transfer heart to a non-reactive bowl and marinate in melted tallow, garlic and lime juice while you prepare the grill.

Transfer marinated beef heart to a medium-hot mesquite fire and grill to medium rare as you would a steak.  Transfer grilled heart to a cutting board and allow to cool enough to handle, then chop roughly.  Kill the fire, but leave grill covered to retain heat.

Place 2 tablespoons of the tallow marinade in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  As soon as the fat begins to shimmer, add the onions, garlic and chopped beef heart and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat and add tomatoes, oregano, paprika and chipotles en adobo. Add 1/4 cup water, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, partially cover and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.

To assemble, heat fresh tortillas on the grill or on a comal then heap filling in the center.  Spoon a little cheese sauce over the filling, then fold envelope-style.  Place burritos back on the grill, cover and heat 5 minutes.  Transfer burritos to plates and spoon cheese sauce over the top.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with pickled cabbage or pickled red onions for a nice contrast to the richness of the burritos.


This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays!

Beef Heart Chili

I’ve been making and eating chili for a very long time now (some examples here and here), but I can honestly say that this is the most intensely-flavored, beefytasting pot I’ve ever had.  The secret?  Well, there are a couple.

Beef Heart Chili

Beef Heart Chili

Let’s look at the ingredients..

Chili Ingredients

its all about the ingredients

This is a fairly mild chili, but you can certainly increase the heat with jalapeño or Serrano peppers if you desire.

Clockwise from the bottom-left, we have 70% lean coarse-ground grass-fed beef, chiles Chipotle Dorado, New Mexico and Ancho, beef tallow, white onion, ripe plum tomato, Mexican Oregano, annatto seeds, cumin seed, sea salt, black pepper, long-neck garlic, coarse corn flour and freshly-ground beef heart.

Start by splitting the chiles with a scissors and removing the stems and seed clusters.  Its a good idea to wear gloves while doing this- I keep of box of recyclable medical gloves for this purpose.

Lay the split chiles out flat on a dry comal or heavy skillet along with some whole cumin seeds and toast over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 8 minutes.  Don’t let anything burn or it will be bitter.

Transfer the toasted chiles, cumin and annatto seeds to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a semi-fine powder.  Set aside.

Melt beef tallow in a heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking.  Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add ground beef and heart and sear until well browned.  Transfer meat to a Dutch oven, then sauté onions and garlic in the same pan.

Add the onions, garlic, oregano and diced tomato to the meat along with about 2 cups of filtered water for each 1 1/2 pounds of meat.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the corn flour and simmer another 15 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if necessary and serve garnished with finely minced tomato, white onion and cilantro.  Offer beans and/or tortillas on the side if you wish.

Beef heart is very high in iron, riboflavin, selenium and vitamin B12 and high in niacin, phosphorus and zinc, and has an extraordinary amount of cancer-fighting CoQ10.  The appearance, texture and taste are indistinguishable from that of high-quality ground beef, except that it has a beefier flavor than hamburger.