Wild Venison Osso Bucco with Italian Farro

Thick cuts of wild Texas fallow deer hind shank are marinated overnight in a mixture of Lambrusco, juniper berries, fresh rosemary, garlic, cracked pepper and bay.  The next day, the meat is salted and air-dried before being browned in olive oil in a Dutch oven.

Caramelized onions, chopped Roma tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, homemade stock and reduced marinade are added to the pot and gently simmered until the meat is tender (about 1-1/2 hours).

The meat is removed from the pot and allowed to rest while the cooking liquid is reduced and thickened.  The osso bucco (Italian for “bone with a hole”) is added back to the pot just long enough to heat through, then plated atop Italian farro, dressed with sauce and served..

Venison Osso Bucco with Italian Farro

“Fallow deer originated in ancient Persia. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, they have spread throughout the European continent and to the British Isles. In recent times, they have been introduced into New Zealand, Australia, and the North America where they have become one of the favored species for domestication and deer farming.

There are several thousand fallow deer here in Texas on deer farms, and many thousands more ranging wild on Texas ranches. Farmed fallow have a very mild flavor. Free-range fallow have a more natural venison flavor but are not as readily available. We harvest free-ranging fallow deer.

The fallow deer is about 5 feet long and weighs about 120 to 150 pounds. It is the only deer sporting a wide variety of colors – From solid dark brown (chocolate) to solid white, with over 40 variations in between. Many fallow deer have spotted coats of various colors.

The antlers are also unique. They are often quite large and have flattened spade-like ends. Fallow deer are primarily grazers, preferring grass and forbs, but may also eat twigs and evergreen needles in winter. One particularly interesting phenomenon is an “addiction” that a few fallow deer in Texas exhibit to the consumption of prickly pear cactus. Even when other food is readily available, some fallow deer eat prickly pear cactus and often succumb to massive ingestion of the cactus needles.

Fallow venison is highly valued for its tender texture and beef-like flavor.”  –Broken Arrow Ranch

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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!

Pan-seared Venison Loin with Roasted Root Vegetables and Cranberry Port Reduction

The term ‘foodshed’ is similar to the concept of a watershed: while watersheds outline the flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table and everything in between.  –foodroutes.org

Our foodshed, the Edwards Plateau of central Texas, offers an amazing abundance of food from deer, rabbit and feral hog to freshwater crayfish, bass and catfish and every manner of fruit and vegetable.

This local dish features whitetail deer, smoked bacon, sage, cranberries, sweet potatoes, parsnips and green garlic..

Pan-seared Venison Loin with Roasted Root Vegetables and Cranberry Port Reduction

For the Reduction

1/2 cup fresh  cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon clarified butter
1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed Mayer lemon juice
1 teaspoon more-or-less guajillo honey
1 teaspoon shallot, minced
1 tablespoon port wine
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add cranberries and water and simmer until cranberries pop and begin to soften.  Add port wine and simmer until reduced in volume by about half. Stir in lemon, season to taste with salt and pepper and add just enough honey to smooth out the tartness (the sauce should be balanced rather than sweet).  Keep warm.

For the Vegetables

A seasonal variety of root vegetables, perhaps including sweet potatoes, green garlic, carrots and parsnips, cut in smallish pieces
1 teaspoon pastured butter, melted
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Toss vegetables in melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then remove and set aside.  Vegetables will be underdone at this point.

For the Venison (serves 2)

12 oz fresh, unsliced venison loin (backstrap)
2 pieces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons sage, crumbled
1 tablespoon pastured butter
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Fry bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and all the fat has rendered.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and sage to a side dish, leaving the hot bacon fat behind.  Rinse the venison, pat dry and season with salt and pepper.  Increase heat to medium and add butter to bacon fat fat.  Once shimmering, add the venison and sear until well browned, about 3 minutes per side.  Add par-roasted vegetables to the pan and place in a 400 degree oven until the venison is about 125-130 degrees at the thickest part (use a thermometer).  Remove from oven and allow to stand at least 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon cranberry reduction onto the center of a serving plate.  Slice venison into 3/4 inch-thick medallions and arrange around the plate along with roasted vegetables.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and sage and dress with a spoonful of pan juices.  Offer coarse salt on the side.

Carne de Venado Incrustada de Cacao y Cafe con Crèma de Comino Tostado

Cocoa & Coffee Crusted Venison w/Toasted Cumin Crèma

Make a dry rub of annatto seeds, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, cocoa, corriander and cinnamon. For best flavor, use whole spices toasted in a dry skillet before grinding.  Coat the venison with the spice rub and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Gather the rest of the ingredients: pumpkins seeds, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, cloves, reserved dry rub, tomato puree, achiote paste, deied peppers, jalapeno, dark chocolate, onion and tomatoes.

Split the dried peppers and steep in hot water for a few minutes to soften.

Sautee the onion, jalapeno and rehydrated peppers in a little oil until softened.

Add chopped tomatoes, crushed toasted pumpkin seeds, achiote paste and a spoonful of the dry rub mix. Cook until tomatoes release all their liquid, about 10 minutes.

Add tomato puree, orange juice, fresh thyme and chocolate and simmer for 10 minutes.

Sweeten with enough agave or honey to provide a nice balance with the heat of the peppers.

Sear the venison in olive oil as you would a pan-fried steak.  Deer that was properly field dressed, chilled and processed is generally as tender and flavorful as pastured beef.

Thicken the sauce with toasted bread cubes.  Place thick-sliced venison over sauce and top with toasted pumpkin seeds and Mexican crema flavored with toasted cumin and S&P.  Polenta fried in butter with cilantro makes a nice side.

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