Home for the Holidays – Easy Venison Dishes

Scott Leysath |

leysath_wow_12-16-16_pic2It’s a given, at least with the people I hang out with, that I’ll see plenty of venison and duck poppers this holiday season. There will be those folks who will proclaim, “These are great! You can’t taste any gamey flavor at all.” There will also be large vats of venison chili, which is usually pretty good. Considering how many of us grind entirely too much of our antlered game, we’ve got to do something to use up the inventory. Venison, when properly handled, is a great substitute for any traditional holiday snack that is usually made with beef or pork.

Because it is so lean, cooked venison doesn’t travel well. Unlike fatty beef or pork, it tends to get dry and chewy if you prepare it too far in advance. The obvious exceptions are chilis and stews since the meat is slowly cooked in a liquid, stock or broth until it is tender and moist. If you try cooking marinated venison skewers an hour or so before the big party, they’re going to be tough be the time the guests arrive. Any whole muscle meat should be cooked as close to serving time as possible. Venison skewers only take a few minutes to cook anyway.

One of my favorite ways to serve venison to large groups is to cook whole loins, slice it thinly and serve it cold like roast beef. Rub the meat with olive oil and give it a liberal coating of your favorite rub. I’ll often add coffee grounds to the rub to give it a little different flavor profile and it also helps to give the outside a deeper, richer color when grilled. Arrange the sliced meat on a platter with rolls and a creamy horseradish sauce. I know, that does sound good.

Here are a few other ways to include venison in your holiday bash:

– Nachos. Brown seasoned ground venison along with onions, peppers and garlic. Once browned, add canned diced tomatoes, cilantro and taco seasoning. Let it simmer for a while to let the meat absorb the juices of the tomatoes. Build a giant pile of chips, cheese, black olives and whatever else you put on your nachos and top it all off with the ground venison.

– Sliders. Make a mess of 2-ounce venison patties, but make them interesting. Add other ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, onions, cheeses and peppers to the mix. Cook them quickly on a grill or in a skillet and serve in slider rolls topped with spicy mayonnaise.

leysath_wow_12-16-16_pic3– Meatballs. The meatballs that I see at Christmas parties are usually bland store-bought previously frozen golf balls that really don’t have much flavor other than salt and often seem like they’ve got more breading than meat.

– Skewers. Chunks or strips. It’s your call. I prefer thin ribbons of venison that I can cook in just a minute or two. They’re also easier to eat standing up than a skewer loaded with hunks of venison and vegetables.

– Taco Bar. Using the same idea as with the ground venison for nachos, lay out the smallest corn and/or flour tortillas you can find and serve them with warm ground venison, salsa, cheese and a squirt bottle loaded with a mixture of sour cream, lime juice and hot sauce.

By the way, if you are looking for ways to make your poppers more interesting, HERE are a several great suggestions from David Draper. If cooking fish and game is your thing, I’d highly recommend his Field and Stream “Wild Chef” blog.


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