Ginger Curry Venison Meatballs

When you think of hunting and the great outdoors, do you think of ginger curry with venison meatballs? How do these things spring from my brain?

I have had the benefit of living in Houston, Texas the last 10 years and Houston is home to a lot of Asian cuisine as well as hunters. I’ve always liked Thai curry and the sort of Indian-inspired curry you might find served with chips in an Irish pub.

curry meatballs
Curry meatballs served with cilantro

I never really went out of my way to get curry until I had the privilege of spending a month in Singapore. I quickly became obsessed with all the different Indian and Thai curries I could get my hands on. Some nights I would decide to eat light at dinner time, head to the hotel with a yogurt, sit quietly in the room and hear the voice of a green curry down the street calling out my name.

The curry was in a food stall stacked along an alley with a nice smattering of cuisines. The worst was the time I opted to order a Tiger beer from the bar a step from the curry stall only to remember that alcohol is almost prohibitively expensive in Singapore. Once the curry addiction was set, I found myself ordering it all the time at lunch back in Houston.

Then, a British expat friend came to visit and she made an Indian curry. Next, my boyfriend’s father remarked that eating a curry once a week is healthy. I started experimenting. The beauty is you can make it up as you go along and not go wrong. Still, I was truly inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe I bookmarked. The picture is mesmerizing due to the rich, deep orange color of the curry.

curry sauce
Using the immersion blender on the curry sauce

Now, here is the key distinction: I used ground venison to make my meatballs. Venison from deer I harvested last January. I have come to love venison because it tastes good, is satisfying without being filling, Because it is lean, you need to add more egg to bind the meat into balls.

The second departure from the recipe I recommend is using a food processor and most definitely not a blender to puree some of the initial ingredients, such as the scallions. (UPDATE: I just made this a second time and used an immersion blender in the cooking pot. See elaboration below.*) First thing first, review the ingredients and decide what you will use and need. The magazine recipe called for 2 pounds of ground beef. I wasn’t about to commit 2 lbs. of venison to an untested recipe and opted to try it with 1 lb. Thus, I needed to cut this recipe in half.

Meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled (I used the full amount)
  • 1 tablespoon (just used juice of 1 lemon)
  • ½ tablespoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. of ground venison
  • 2 eggs (I always use 2 eggs per pound of ground venison)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Curry sauce:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions (I used one red, one sweet)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • another 1 inch chunk of peeled ginger
  • 3 dried chiles de arbol (oops, I used 3 instead of 1 ½)
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tablespoon Kosher salt
Adding curry spices to onion and garlic
Adding curry spices to onion and garlic

Recognize that if you halve the recipe, that always throws off things. In other words, when you adapt a recipe, you make it your own. I used the full amount of tomatoes instead of half because what am I going to do with half a small can of tomatoes. Also, I had to add water to the first step because the ingredients did not blend. Then, I had to strain that mixture to get out the extra liquid. Toward the end, after I used the outboard motor to blend the sauce (an immersion blender), I found the taste too spicy hot and added a can of lite coconut milk. The result was an outstanding tasting curry with more volume than needed for the meatballs. The excess sauce was stored separately and eaten with toasted French bread for lunch.

*UPDATE: I just made this again, this time the full recipe with 2 lbs. of ground venison and a 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes. To better bind the meat, I used half a sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers. I also swapped out scallions for sweet onion and skipped the dried peppers. I also used Meyer lemon juice (we have a tree).

Try it!

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

Venison & Beef Burgers

This biog often extols the virtues of venison as a lean, healthy meat, but there’s one thing it cannot do alone: be a burger.

Venison-beef burgers
Venison-beef burgers

For that, you need to blend the ground venison with another meat. I have previously tried to bind ground venison into burgers using beaten eggs, but they fell apart while cooking.

Someone already took a bite of this burger
Someone already took a bite of this burger

For our first foray into mixing ground venison, we opted for ground beef chuck with a 85/15 ratio for added fat. As for the amounts of each meat, I just used 1 pound venison to 1 pound chuck. In a large mixing bowl, I combined the meats with a single beaten egg, 2 tablespoons truffle oil, a sprinkle of dried thyme and a combination of garlic salt, onion salt, Cajun seasoning and black pepper. I had wanted to add Worcestershire sauce, but did not realize it was hiding in the refrigerator.

Set aside burger toppings
Set aside burger toppings
venison beef burgers
Seasoned burger patties before grilling

To make the blending easier, whisk the egg separately, then pour over ground meat. Mix everything together with your hands. Form patties and place them on a casserole dish. Disclaimer: I cannot tell you exactly how my boyfriend grilled them to perfection because this task was performed outside while I prepared a green bean salad. As for the green bean salad, this is a classic cold salad with red wine vinegar. Trim the ends of your green beans and cook them, either by steaming in a pot or nuking them. I did the latter, and followed the instructions on the bag for the beans. You want them to be cooked, but retaining a little crisp bite. While the beans are cooking, peel and dice 2-4 cloves of garlic.

green bean salad
Getting ready to add garlic and vinegar

Once the beans are done, placed them in a covered dish with the garlic and an ample dousing of vinegar. Keep covered in fridge. This green bean salad can last for days and only gets better on day 2 and 3. Another complementary side for burgers is a classic: pasta salad. This is buttermilk bowtie pasta black bean salad offers a nice tang and is supremely simple to make.

INGREDIENTS
Half a box of mini bowtie pasta
1 can Bush’s black beans
Half a large red bell pepper
3-4 green onions
Huge handful fresh cilantro
One lemon, two limes
Cup of buttermilk
Couple tablespoons mayo
Heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
Cajun seasoning, fresh ground black pepper and pink salt

If you don't like cilantro, use parsley instead
If you don’t like cilantro, use parsley instead

Cook pasta according to box directions. Chop pepper, green onion and cilantro. Then, mix buttermilk, mayo, mustard and citrus juices and set aside. Drain cooked pasta and place bowties back in pasta pot. Drain black beans in the same colander. Put everything in the pot and stir. Season to taste.

What is best about this style of cooking, besides the amazing flavors, is how relaxing it is to prepare. After dinner, we can curl up on the couch and watch the dog watch for possums. The possums walk (or run) atop the back fence almost every night, providing entertainment for The Sage Leopard.

The Sage Leopard awaits a possum crossing
The Sage Leopard awaits a possum crossing

After all, he needed a distraction from the wafting scent of venison-beef burgers. Please enjoy the recipe and your evenings too.

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

 

Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Venison Tenderloins

Good eating is not confined to weekends. The Sage Leopard’s motto is reclaim your quality time, craft your own happiness. My happy place is sautéing garlic in olive oil on a weeknight. As the aroma wafts through me, the stress of the day melts away. Here’s a weeknight dinner that combines the tradition of meat and potatoes with refreshing salad and the bright tanginess of buttermilk. The menu is followed by the directions.

  • Twice-baked potatoes with buttermilk, butter, chives, cheese and paprika
  • Venison tenderloin: olive oil, crushed fresh garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, twine, Dutch oven
  • Tangy salad: romaine, cucumber, red onion, sliced radishes, cherry or grape tomatoes; buttermilk dressing: buttermilk, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice (1 lemon) and chopped fresh chives, salt and pepper.

The baked potatoes: Here’s where Chef Mike really is an outstanding helper. Wash off two potatoes, prick them with a fork and place in microwave. Mine actually has a setting for baking potatoes. If not, cook on high for 3 minutes, flip and cook again for 3.5 minutes. Let potatoes cool so you can hold them. Slice in half lengthwise. Slice into potato meat to make cross hatches and then scoop out middles to make potato boats, placing potato scoops into bowl. Before mashing potato, drizzle on buttermilk, a tablespoon of butter and 1/3 of cup of sour cream and/or shredded cheese. Then, mash it all together. Scoop potato mixture back into skins. Sprinkle with paprika. Put in preheated oven at 375 degrees. Warm through.

To soften up the potato before scooping, cross-hatch it with some butter.
To soften up the potato before scooping, cross-hatch it with some butter.

Salad: Clean and chop romaine leaves; Peel and chop cucumber; Thinly slice red onion; thinly slice radishes, cut tomatoes in half. Place cut veggies in a salad bowl. In a bowl or large glass measuring cup, mix one part buttermilk to one part mayo (1/4 cup each), juice of one freshly squeezed lemon and whisk. Add chopped chives, salt and pepper. Place dressing in fridge.

romaine salad
Season tomatoes before adding to rest of salad

Venison medallions: Go hunting, have your own meat in the freezer, etc. A few hours before dinner, remove previously prepared venison medallions from meat freezer and place vacuum-sealed package in sink to defrost. If you are going to be at work all day, move meat from freezer to fridge before you leave the house. Upon your return, soak meat package in hot water while you prepare other parts of the meal. Once defrosted, place meat in a mixing bowl or other deep dish with copious amounts of fresh minced garlic. Cut sprigs of rosemary from the garden (preferable to store-bought). Drizzle some olive oil over meat and massage it in with the garlic. Tie rosemary springs to meat with cooking twine. In a Dutch oven, such as a Lodge cast iron one, brown the meat on the stovetop. After browning, cover with lid and place in 375-degree oven.  and check on it in about, say, eight minutes. It depends on how thick the medallions are. You want to be careful with venison cooking time. It is very, very lean and will dry out if cooked too long. The olive oil and covered Dutch oven should help the meat retain moisture.

Venison medallions wrapped in rosemary sprigs
Venison medallions wrapped in rosemary sprigs

Once the meat it ready to eat, toss the salad with buttermilk dressing and set up dinner plates with venison and potatoes. Place plates on dinner table and set the salad bowl down in the middle. Dinner is served!

The Sage Leopard

Venison Steaks, the Real Organic Meat

IMG_7479
Venison steaks (top plate) accompanied by drunken mushrooms, baked potatoes, grilled veggies and tomatoes.

We don’t need a label on our meat to tell us it’s organic. We know it is because we shopped at nature’s grocery. We took this meat in the field. Deer hunting isn’t easy, but it is rewarding, especially when it results in a freezer full of organic, lean meat. Venison is delicious, not “gamey,” if properly prepared. The first time I tasted it many years ago, the particular dish did taste gamey to me. But, it is really all a matter of preparation that begins in the field. A clean shot ensures the deer is humanely dispatched and there is no adrenaline rush that would impact the meat flavor. A clean shot is when the hunter is 100% certain the shot will be immediately effective. A responsible hunter doesn’t take the shot if he or she is not absolutely sure it is a clean shot. This is why it is called hunting, not taking. Hunting is not easy and requires a lot of preparation and patience. Some people take offense about hunting and yet buy meat at the supermarket. If you are going to eat meat, why not bring a healthy alternative into the mix.

Sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt, drizzled with olive oil and dressed with green onion.
Sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt, drizzled with olive oil and dressed with green onion.

It’s gotten to the point that I really don’t care for beef because my palate acclimated to the taste of venison. I think now this is what meat is supposed to taste like and love that is hasn’t had antibiotics or steroids or whatever else might be in other meats. The preparation of our venison is a simple process. After field dressing, the meat is placed in ice chests packed full of ice. Over the next couple of days, the ice water is drained and ice replenished until the ice water is virtually clear. This ensures most blood is drained and that is why our meat does not taste gamey. What we ate tonight were venison steak medallions and they were out of this world. My boyfriend seasoned them with a spice rub and butter before grilling them. Venison must be kept moist when grilling and butter or sesame oil both work great at sealing in the moisture. IMG_7469For the rest of the meal, I sliced tomatoes, including the first one from our patio tomato plant, sautéed mushrooms, and baked potatoes. I also deglazed the mushrooms with red wine. For the potatoes, I added onion dip seasoning to sour cream. Finally, I added some leftover grilled veggies. The meal was complete with the company of my boyfriend, who taught me to hunt.

Cheers,
The Sage Leopard

Field to Table II: Everyday Venison Cooking

If the idea of cooking with venison makes you want to run for the hills, then you may be thinking of something other than the way I cook with this lean, delicious and versatile meat. Only once did I regret a venison preparation and it was because I used seasoning purchased in an outdoors store.

Pasta with ground venison, tomatoes and sautéed eggplant
Pasta with ground venison, tomatoes and sautéed eggplant

It certainly sounded appealing with fennel and orange, but whew, something else in that seasoning mix overpowered my meat. The only way I can describe it is it seemed like a lumberjack time traveled from the 1950s to sneak into my kitchen and give my meal a manly musk. In other words, don’t use someone else’s spice rub. I like to cook venison in Italian food (more on this below), in Asian dishes and by itself with a little olive or sesame oil and salt and pepper. It can also be marinated in buttermilk before cooking. Here is what I love about venison:

  • It tastes better than beef
  • It’s leaner than beef
  • It’s great in recipes that call for beef
  • I hunt it and therefore know where the meat came from, where it lived, what it ate and that it does not have any hormones or anything else suspect injected into it
  • Vacuum-packed venison keeps well in the freezer for a long time

My boyfriend introduced me to venison as a staple. I had no exposure to hunting before we started dating and now view it as an important perennial activity to stock our freezer. I’ve added venison chili and venison meatballs to my regular cooking repertoire. Plus, having a stash of meat gives me the freedom to experiment. When we take the deer meat into the processor, we order a mix of steaks, ground venison, tenderized meat and a variety of sausages. Well, the Hatch chile sausage was out of this world hot and I wanted to figure out a way to cool it down.

Sausage balls
Sausage balls

I thought I could make sausage balls by removing the Hatch chile meat mixture from the casings and folding in sour cream, egg and breadcrumbs. I started cooking the sausage balls and all seemed to be going well. But, even as I gently turned them, the sour cream I used to counter the spicy heat of the chiles made the sausage balls too soft and we ended up with what we called “Happy Accident Hash.”

Happy Accident Hash served with veggies and refried beans
Happy Accident Hash served with veggies and refried beans

I think I’ll make that again because it turned out to be delicious! Usually, I make meatballs with just plain ground venison mixed with egg, parsley and breadcrumbs, which are then browned before cooking through in homemade tomato sauce. To depart from that regular recipe, I recently opted to brown the ground meat in a pan where I had first sautéed eggplant. While letting the eggplant and meat drain on paper towels, I then cooked canned tomatoes in the pan and brought everything together to serve over spaghetti with freshly grated cheese. Here is a third and very simple example of a venison meal that came together very easily with the following steps:

  • Defrost venison steak
  • Prepare macaroni and cheese casserole with canned veggies
  • Chop and sauté red cabbage
These notes were taken from an old copy at my grandmother's home back in the '90s
This recipe from Southern Living was jotted down from an old copy at my grandmother’s home back in the ’90s.

My boyfriend seasoned the meat with sesame oil, salt and pepper. I had made a standby cheese casserole from an old Southern Living recipe (it’s called Jack in the Macaroni Bake from 1994, which I have hand-written out but cannot find online) and also sautéed the chopped cabbage in sesame oil.

Venison steaks with red cabbage and mac-n-cheese
Venison steaks with red cabbage and mac-n-cheese

I finished off the cabbage with liberal splashes of malt vinegar. Next thing you know, we were enjoying delicious steaks, veggies and comfort food casserole. I cannot think of an easier way to cook meat and the most satisfying thing is knowing where it came from. This is the beauty of field to table cooking.

 

Cheers, The Sage Leopard

Creative Stir-Fry for a Weeknight

It’s time to stop overthinking dinner. Stop thinking you need to follow a recipe to the letter of the law. First things first. Relax, it’s just dinner. Start with what is on hand. I had snap peas and French beans in the fridge as well as leftover steamed carrots and broccoli.

Getting started with French beans in the pan with garlic, ginger and green onions
Getting started with French beans in the pan with garlic, ginger and green onions

This veggie array was perfect for a stir fry, but peering into the pantry, I realized we don’t have any soy sauce. But, I did have Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil and Marie Sharp’s “exotic sauce,” a pepper sauce from Belize. The exotic sauce is made from green mangoes, tamarind, raisins, ginger, sugar, vinegar, onions, garlic, habanero pepper and some undisclosed spices. I figured this would take a different path than soy sauce, but paired with Worcestershire could work as a substitute. Departing from soy sauce gave me the freedom to work in other flavors, which I did with liberal sprinkling of garam masala, Madras curry and coriander. How did I pull this all together? The first thing was to finely chop a few cloves of garlic, a few sprigs of green onion, and a pinky’s length of fresh ginger root, and sauté those in a large pan with sesame oil on medium heat. Then, I piled in the veggies. I let them fry up a bit, but at this point, I wanted to add a broth and placed bouillon in a Pyrex cup with water. Next, I poured the instant broth into the pot with the veggies. Then, I got started with the powdered spices (coriander, garam masala, curry) and the Worcestershire and exotic sauces. Now, I had a pot of beautifully flavored vegetables steaming up with a hot broth.

Veggies cooking in broth with spices
Veggies and meat cooking in broth with spices

This was the perfect time to stir in meat. I had tenderized venison on hand, which I had sliced into small pieces. The meat cooked very quickly and maintained moisture with a lid on the pan. Meanwhile, I had cooked quick brown rice. The upshot is dinner came together with relative ease and in short order. The cooking was enjoyable as I smelled the aromas of the different spices, which was therapeutic. The bright colors of the vegetables were aesthetically pleasing. The approach was simple: what do I have? My quick survey ensured I had veggies, spices, meat and rice. To lay the foundation of the meal, I sautéed garlic and onion in oil (in this case, with minced ginger). Then, I added veggies and spice. Next, broth, and finally meat. That’s only a few steps to a beautiful and balanced meal. I do have a confession: I added salt when the meat was cooking.

Quick dinner with veggies, meat and rice
Quick dinner with veggies, meat and rice

In review, there are really just a few steps to making a great dinner on a weeknight:

  1. take an inventory of what you have and make a plan
  2. start anything good by sautéing garlic in oil in a pan
  3. add spices and veggies
  4. opt whether to add meat and/or rice or pasta, etc.
  5. eat, and proceed to enjoy the rest of the evening

Consider that all of this came together in less than the time it would have taken a pizza delivery to bring us something relatively unhealthy and over-priced. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional pizza.) There also is the satisfaction of knowing you can pull together a home-cooked meal with a little creativity in no time. The best part of all was this meal was absolutely delicious and provided wonderful leftovers for lunch. Before you despair that you have nothing for dinner, take a longer look in the fridge and pantry and get creative!

The Sage Leopard

Create Your Own Tacos Night

If you live in Texas, you are well aware of increasing tension in cultural tacos wars about the origins of breakfast tacos and claims over which city has the best tacos. I’m not going to touch that debate with a 10-foot cooking tong. I’m simply going to relate the satisfaction of home cooking your own tacos, as well as share a tip for cooking the soft tortillas.

Tacos make for a colorful dinner
Tacos make for a colorful dinner

We happen to have a crepe maker, which happens to be a great device for heating through store-bought tortillas.

Cooking a tortilla on a crepe maker
Cooking a tortilla on a crepe maker

(Next, I will attempt to make homemade tortillas this way, but that’s a blog for another day.) When it comes to store-bought tortillas, another good way to heat and brown them is toasting them in a non-stick skillet. Don’t microwave. Nuked tortillas are just hot, but not quite cooked. The Velata crepe maker is really well-suited to warming through and toasting the tortilla. The advantage compared to a skillet is this crepe maker is electric and automatically shuts off so you don’t need to deal with a stovetop flame or burner controls.

Another personal take on tacos night in this household is we use ground venison instead of ground beef. The meat is from deer harvested in a management hunt (a hunt held to address overpopulation in a particular area). We hunted and cleaned the deer (meticulously), and took the meat to a local processor, or butcher.

Ground venison simmering with taco seasoning and sweet onion
Ground venison simmering with taco seasoning and sweet onion

The result is a freezer full of freshly prepared meats that are locally sourced (the hunt was not far here in Texas) and free of hormones or whatever else cattle may have in them. To be sure, there is really, really high-quality boutique cattle out there and it is very expensive. Our venison supply is relatively cost-effective and versatile. Plus, venison is very lean. Moreover, venison takes well to seasoning and works well with a variety of flavors, such as tacos.

Tacos night is a fun do-it-yourself dinner tradition
Tacos night is a fun do-it-yourself dinner tradition

The rest of the ingredients are easy to assemble and set up a serving station: salsa, cheese, salsa, beans and lettuce.

The beauty of tacos is you can make them in so many different ways, just like you can make a variety of crepes with savory fillings. Thus, my idea of cooking tortillas on a crepe maker isn’t wacky at all. My favorite taco toppings include freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice, chopped onion, jalapeños, hot sauce and salsa verde.

My preference for beans are black beans, hands down. Charro beans are a classic option. Refried beans can bind other ingredients to the tortilla.

Another meat option is desebrada (or deshebrada) which is beef or pork braised and slow-roasted in tomatoes. The meat then pulls apart. There is a Mexican restaurant near the house that has such good desebrada, I order tacos with it no matter if I am having breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sometimes I feel bound and determined to make my own desebrada, but then I think I won’t be able to emulate the restaurant’s version and I slink over there for some tacos.

Of course, Texans are obsessed with breakfast tacos and they are the best way to eat eggs. Eggs and cheese, eggs and sausage, eggs and bacon, eggs and beans, etc. Habanero sauce goes very well with the eggs in this most delightful breakfast food. At the risk of entering the great Texas breakfast tacos debate, I will just say that I have had the privilege of enjoying them in different parts of the state and they are all very good. Some of my first breakfast tacos experiences were at a restaurant in Kerrville and a tacos truck at an event in Nacogdoches.

The beauty of the taco is the endless variety and that you can make them anyway you want. Finally, tacos are easy on a weeknight or anytime you want comfort food with your favorite toppings.

The Sage Leopard

 

Field to Table: Venison Chili, Camping and Fireside Chats

If you told me 10 years ago that I would celebrate my birthday by going deer hunting in Texas, I would have laughed at you. In January 2006, a career change that was in the offing was not yet on my radar as the position I would ultimately transfer to in Houston was not yet posted. By July of that year, I moved to Texas and began to explore a bunch of new things. IMG_6049In 2009, I met my boyfriend and he ultimately introduced me to hunting. I had only tasted venison once before in Washington, D.C., and thought it was terrible. In retrospect, that meat was probably not properly prepared. The first time my boyfriend served me venison, I sliced off the tiniest piece, about 0.5 cm square and delicately took that bite. Surprise: it was good. Venison is a very lean protein and versatile as well. If you are finicky about meat and where you source it, then hunting is the best way to know exactly how it was harvested, cleaned and processed. Some people process their own venison, but we take ours to a trusted processor. As our hunt approached, our freezer reserve of meat was getting low, which provided extra motivation. IMG_6072We were drawn in a state wildlife management hunt, which specified gender and number of deer allowed to be taken. Ultimately, we went home with three does. Even if we had not succeeded in the hunt, we would have deemed it a good outing. We got to sit in the peace and quiet of the woods for hours at a time over three days. IMG_6047We set up camp next to a lake and were thankful for our propane heater as the temperature was in the 40s overnight. We realized our old non-stick skillet was rusting out so it was time to recycle it as the local scrapyard. We sat by a campfire each night, chatting with another hunter, who turned out to have a really interesting job and shared our love for dogs. We exchanged recipe ideas with a hunt volunteer. We counted our blessings and stored all our memories of this trip in our grateful minds before returning to Houston. Knowing we had replenished the venison vault, I took out the last two pounds of ground venison from last February’s hunt in Laredo and browned the meat. It was time to make chili. IMG_6096Lately, I have experimented with my own spice mix before adding tomatoes, but this time I returned to the most reliable and quite delicious Carol Shelby’s chili mix. Lest I start an argument over whether to include beans, I’ll leave that to your personal preference. We enjoyed the chili and sat around our patio firepit to recreate the warmth and happiness we took in at the campsite. In the morning, I walked the Sage Leopard on the bayou so he could pretend he was hunting too.IMG_6167

Lasagna, wine and politics

Here I go again with the Italian food centered around meat cooked on the raclette grill.

lasagna for president 2016
Lasagna for President 2016

Well, it is so much better than cooking the meat on the stove. There simply is not any greasy, smoky, meaty, lingering aroma in the house. The meat cooks, it does not burn on our raclette grill. Moreover, the grill cleans in a jiffy. Usually, when I make lasagna, it is an elaborate process, starting with making an extra large vat of homemade tomato sauce. Meanwhile, I’m browning meat in a Dutch oven. Plus, there is the boiling water in the pasta pot for the lasagna. I just don’t have time for that, at least not on a weeknight. Tonight, I broke it down into a much simpler process, starting with the sauce. Lasagna takes a lot of sauce. The past couple of months, every time I cooked tomato sauce I made more than needed for that night, and poured the extra into a container for the freezer. The three containers of frozen homemade sauce became the inspiration for lasagna.

I also have meat on hand in the venison freezer, specifically Italian sausage. All I needed was a package of oven-ready lasagna (no boiling needed), ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella and bagged spinach. Oh, and red wine. I set out the tomato sauce and venison sausage to defrost. I went Christmas shopping and bought the spinach and cheeses.

Three containers of homemade tomato sauce were liberated from the freezer for this meal
Three containers of homemade tomato sauce were liberated from the freezer for this meal
ricotta ready
smooth out the ricotta with an egg and water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once home, I took the sausage out of the casing and placed the meat on the raclette grill. Then, I set about further defrosting the tomato sauces in the microwave. For the ricotta filling, stir the cheese with an egg and water until smooth. Soon enough, it was time to assemble the lasagna. Coat a baking dish with olive oil spray and ladle in some tomato sauce before starting the layering: lasagna sheet, ricotta, meat crumbles, torn spinach leaves, mozzarella, and commence a new layer. Once assembled, I baked it in an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, I kicked back. Now, I am ready to enjoy this easy lasagna, watch a political debate and work on the Christmas cards. The grill made this assembled casserole dish very approachable and easy on a busy weeknight. P.S. The red wine is for drinking with the meal and political debate.

Sunday news, pancakes & grilled venison sausage

Our meal for the Sunday morning news talk shows
Our meal for the Sunday morning news talk shows

I’ll get right to revealing the family secret to pancakes. Add vanilla extract. This rainy Sunday morning, pancakes and sausage seemed like a perfect idea. I used to find it somewhat aggravating when my boyfriend cooked up venison breakfast sausage in a pan. I usually clean on weekends and then the whole house would be filled with sausage aroma all day and maybe the next day. The tradeoff was the sausage tasted pretty good. Now, with a raclette grill, there is no tradeoff.

grilling individual sausage patties in a raclette pan keeps them from getting overcooked
grilling individual sausage patties in a raclette pan keeps them from getting overcooked

The sausage tastes much better and there is no aroma permeation throughout the house. Since embarking on the raclette grill experiment, I’ve been very pleased with the resulting taste and quality of the grilling. Nothing overdone, nothing burned. The meat remains juicy and there is a subtle seal on the outside.

fluffy pancakes and no burn
fluffy pancakes and no burn

And, the house still smells clean. The grill top itself is easy to wipe clean in the sink. Voila, back to the Sunday news shows. The discussions on the Sunday talk shows have been difficult of late, but nothing could dampen my enjoyment of the pancakes and sausage.

His and hers hunting memories
His and hers hunting memories

Did I mention the Vermont maple syrup? My family lives in Vermont and I plan to soon pick up a new jug. In addition, at this rate, we need to get more venison this winter.