Chris Ellis: Savor some of nature’s bounty at the holidays
With college bowl games a plenty and the holidays right around the corner, now is the perfect time to share nature’s wonderful bounties with the ones you love. With a freezer full of organic meat around, it’s time to share with others your hard work and determination to become the absolute best wildlife conservation active participant you can be.
Sharing a table with someone or a meal that you have prepared is a special occasion. Taking the time to prepare a field-to-table meal is even more special. Not only is it delicious and very healthy, wild game provides a low-fat, high-protein alternative to beef or other commercial meats. For example, white-tailed deer (venison) contains fewer calories and approximately five times less fat than the equivalent serving of beef.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good bowl of deer chili as much as the next guy and yes, I am a foodie, so the thought of butter roasted venison with gin and juniper blueberry sauce sounds delightful. But if the crew you spend the holidays with is anything like what darkens my door during the holidays, they will enjoy some dishes somewhere in between.
Let’s take a look at some simple, done right, meals that are perfect crowd pleasers and maybe, just, maybe we as hunters and sportsmen and women can not only share nature’s bounties, but we can introduce someone new to the lifestyle of actively participating in the harvesting of food.
• One of the easiest and tried and true recipes is a simple dish that is perfect for a crowd on a cold, winter’s day — meatloaf.Replace the fatty ground beef with ground venison and follow any meatloaf recipe of your choice. If you don’t have a favorite recipe, go to your local store and pick up a can of Hunt’s Seasoned Tomato Sauce for Meatloaf and follow their recipe. I won’t tell a soul — your secret is safe with me. I learned this secret at a church pot-luck dinner when I announced proudly that meatloaf prepared there was the best I have ever eaten. The cook told me years later that is was recipe found on the back of a can. Lesson learned — don’t mess with tried and true recipes.
• Another simple yet crowd pleaser for any holiday party are sweet and sour cocktail meatballs. Venison is probably my favorite meat for a meatball because the flavor and texture lend itself perfectly. If you have any ground bear meat, it works well as well. Plus, how cool is it to show up at a holiday party with bear meatballs? That is dish worthy of a great story and one Aunt Kathy won’t soon forget.
Simply follow any meatball recipe and then add chili sauce and grape jelly and let them soak nicely in a slow cooker to keep warm until the eggnog is poured. Delicious. And don’t forget the fancy toothpicks for serving them.
• If the folks you will be preparing a meal for this holiday season have been especially good — they might even say they have been on Santa’s nice list — then bring out the real-deal, venison meal. The backstrap or “filet mignon” cut of a deer, is the most tender, flavorful and prized cut of meat on the deer.
If the occasion calls for a very special meal, break out the big guns. You really can’t go wrong anyway you decide to fix it, but may I suggest searing it whole on the grill or stovetop griddle and finishing it in the oven until the internal temperature reaches your desired state of rare.
A simple High Mountain, McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning or any other of your favorite seasons will work perfectly with the sear and don’t forget to let the steak rest on the counter before slicing it into one-inch thick medallions. My favorite.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday and your team crushes it in their bowl game. Either way, the food will be awesome.
Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, owns Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at email@example.com.