There are many reasons why we choose to hunt. To name just a few, there are backstraps and tenderloins, and roasts for jerky.
Not surprisingly, these are the first cuts we reach for when we open the freezer. If they even make it to the freezer. Freshly harvested backstraps more often than not make their way on to the campfire the same day they are procured.
But we’re getting a bit far from that magical day where we loaded a couple of deer or an elk into our freezers. The best cuts are long consumed, leaving some of the… well, we hate to say it, but the less desirable meats to be finished off.
We get it, we’ve been there, ate that. Two weeks of deer chili, deer tacos, deer meatloaf, deer burgers and deer taco meatloaf burgers are not the most culinarily pleasing ways to use up that precious protein.
And the shanks. The stalwart of the stews. We always seem to have a few bundles left over when everything else is gone.
So, here are some recipes to help you clear out the freezer and make room for this fall’s harvest, when you can get back to noshing on the backstraps, tenderloins and jerky from roasts.
We always seem to have more ground venison left than we thought possible. And the usual ground suspects get old, so here’s an outside the icebox recipe for stuffed bell peppers. We don’t want to say this one’s awesome, but it has us wishing we had just a few more bags of ground left.
- 4 medium sweet bell peppers (we opt for a variety of colors)
- 1/2 pound ground venison
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons ketchup (or catsup if you’re one of those)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Slice the peppers in half the long way and scoop out the seeds.
- Brown the venison and onion in a skillet. Don’t go too brown, but make sure there is no pink left.
- Combine everything else (except the broth and cheese) into the venison/onion mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into the peppers.
- Grease up a 9x13 baking dish and place the peppers mixture side up in the dish.
- Pour the broth around the peppers.
- Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the peppers and bake until cheese is melted.
Shanks… We haven’t looked it up, but we think “shank” is Latin for “slow cooker only.” Since we’re pretty much tied to a braising method of low and slow cooking, we’re limited in what we can do with shanks. It’s stew and… Uh… Stew?
C’mon, are you gonna give up that easy? We didn’t think so. There’s plenty of creativity beyond a shank stew and here’s our favorite that combines Guinness, coffee and elk.
- 4 elk shanks (cut from hind leg)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (forget Rachael Ray, no need for EVOO here)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 1 large celery stalk, sliced
- 12-ounce Guiness stout
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups brewed black coffee
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- kosher salt
- Season the shanks generously with salt and smoke on low for 90 minutes. (This step is totally optional but adds a lot of flavor and allows us to call them Dranky Shaky Smokey Shanks with a straight face.)
- Brown the onions, carrots and celery in a heavy pot with the olive oil, about 10 minutes.
- Pour in the coffee, Guinness, chicken stock and sugar. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, then submerge your shanks. Cover and simmer for 2.5 hours.
- Once the shank meat is pull-apart tender, remove from the broth and pull apart the meat using a couple of forks. Set aside.
- Strain the broth through a fine sieve and reserve two cups of the liquid.
- Place liquid in a small saucepan over low heat.
- Add a little water to the cornstarch and whisk to combine. When fairly well blended, add this slurry and the butter to the broth. Whisk to combine.
- Return the shank meat to the broth mixture and let heat through.
- Eat it as is, or pour it over mashed potatoes, pasta, rice or (our favorite) gnocchi.
We hope these two delicious, yet simple, recipes will help you avoid the end-of-the-venison blues and give you some culinary joy from the less desirable cuts.
Now get to cooking and clear out that deep freeze. The season is just around the corner and you’re going to (hopefully) need every square inch of space.
Good luck. Good hunting. Good eating.