First of all, I should tell you about my featured photo, which has little to do with my story today. The community in which I live hosts a wide cross-section of refugees and other immigrants, so I like to visit their markets. Keep in mind that my county is 40,000 people, and the city where I live has about 26,000 inhabitants. Today, I visited the Burmese, the African (I’ve told you about their delicious tea-making), and the El Salvador markets. From each store, I purchase a variety of cooking ingredients.
Pictured here is the betel nut, which comes from the areca palm (Areca catechu). The nuts are known their stimulant properties much like coffee and tobacco. In fact, those who make a regular practice of chewing these nuts expose themselves to a variety of ill-health conditions such as rotting teeth and mouth cancers. I purchased the half nut that you see here. I like the patterns. The convolutions remind me of the brain.
I really want to talk about cooking with wild game today. I am a deer hunter, because I love the taste of venison. I hunt white tailed deer. They are a beautiful animal: graceful and lithe. Part of me rather mourns before I take the shot, and even more when the animal goes down. I always thank the creature for giving his or her life so that I have a bountiful table.
Today, I made a wonderful marinara sauce for topping a plate of pasta. My ingredient list:
- I pound (.45 kg) of ground venison
- 5 cloves smashed garlic
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 large bunch fresh basil (chopped)
- 1 spoonful of OGB (my mixture of olive oil, garlic, and basil). Venison is super lean and needs some oil
- 4 Tablespoons (56.7 g) tomato paste (I like to purchase large jars of tomato paste at the African Store. It comes from Instanbul)
- 1/2 Cup (113.4 g) red wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Usually, I add mushrooms, but in the absence of the tasty fungi, I used my dehydrated mix of onions, mushrooms, and celery.
Let simmer on stove top until all ingredients are blended. I like to prepare my sauce in the morning. Then I place it in the refrigerator. At noon, we come home and prepare the pasta and re-heat the marinara. Here’s my sauce:
If I would have remembered to take the picture of sauce on the pasta, it would have made more sense.
When cooking with wild game, the flesh often takes on the flavors of what the animal eats. In Colorado, where I grew up, the high snowfall hinders access to grains, leaves, and other browse. Consumers of that meat will say, “That’s really gamey!” My grandmothers used juniper berries to neutralize the strong flavors, which worked beautifully. It works wonders for mutton, too. My grandmothers fed us mutton all my years growing up, and I never noticed the strong flavors, thanks to juniper berries (Rocky Mountain or Utah junipers).
In Kansas, where I live and hunt, the deer enjoy farm fields of sorghum and corn, much to the chagrin of local crop producers. Kansas venison tastes quite delicious! I hope you get to try it sometime.
Last summer, my friend Bob, when rabbit hunting. When he returned, he called to ask if I would/could make something out of rabbit. I said, how about rabbit cacciatore, hunter’s style rabbit? I use passata (rich, strained tomatoes), garlic, fresh rosemary and basil, mushrooms, and white wine. I cut the rabbit in pieces as one would with chicken. Simmer until all ingredients are well blended and the liquids are thickened. Serve with pasta, white wine, and lots of crusty bread to sop up the rich juices. Here I am with a skinned rabbit. My friend, Adrian, is married to the rabbit hunter, Bob.
Hopefully, I have frightened you with this talk of eating beasts, large and small.
Thank you for reading.