In rural, western Pennsylvania, I grew up eating venison. It is what most families in our "neck of the woods" waited all year for. Most of the men were hunters or sportsmen and waited for deer season to arrive. My father was no different. He could not wait for the fall (and not just cause he was a freckled, redhead who hates the sun.) The changing colors of leaves, the crisp fall air and being able to see your breathe when you went outside, meant deer season was right around the corner. My Dad was always an avid archer; which takes a lot of skill and practice. And over the years, he has brought many deer home using this method.
When my Dad had one of his hunting days, us girls would go shopping or do other girl-centric activities but we were always home when Dad got home. We would wait at home to see if he had struck big that day and brought us a deer. It was always an exciting time for him when he brought a deer home. It was exciting for us all. And when I say all, I mean the whole neighborhood. It seemed back in those days, everyone was looking out their windows for the hunters to come home. If there seemed to be an unusual amount of activity as the trucks pulled in, the whole neighborhood would convene in that persons driveway. It became our little neighborhood tradition.
Some might say that this is an unusual or cruel event but it is the gathering of food. Food brought home to feed a family. Food that we had a pretty good idea of where it was raised and how it was killed and we were thankful that our area was so abundant in this food source. As my Dad always told us, when he killed a deer it was exciting and an accomplishment. It was the culmination of a lot of practice, anticipation and time, but he quickly felt thankful and appreciative of what the animal would give us. And there was also a slight sadness and desire to give the animal back to life. This shows great reverence! He taught us all that this thought process is what makes a great hunter!
Because of what he taught us about respect, when my Dad brought a deer home his girls were proud of him. We still are! Even though I live far, far away I still get a phone call when Dad brings a deer home. It takes me back to being a kid in that little town in rural Pennsylvania.
Venison Portobello Shepherd's PieSo, living in Pennsylvania we never had venison dishes that were this fancy but then again I never chose any ice cream flavor then vanilla till I was 15. LOL!We were a basic family. Now with all the opportunity for great ingredients, it is a blessing to be able to branch out and try new things. This is a recipe that I will make over and over again. It is bursting with flavor and should be a venison meal almost everyone can eat. The addition of bacon and pork definitely take away the gaminess that a lot of newbies complain about.
2 large Idaho potatoes, about 1¾ pounds, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup half and half or milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
1¾ cup beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 ounces bacon, sliced into ¼-inch slices
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 ounces portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
¼ pound ground lean pork
1 pound ground venison
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2-3 Tbsp red wine
¼ pound cheddar, grated
Add the potatoes, garlic, water and 2 tablespoons salt to a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer until potatoes are knife tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and discard water from the potatoes. Mash together potatoes and garlic with a potato masher until completely broken up. Stir in the butter,milk, and white pepper. Set mashed potatoes aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Set a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring as needed until fat is rendered and bacon begins to crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and thyme to the pan and cook, continuing to stir, until vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground pork and venison to the center of the pan and brown. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and add the remaining teaspoon of salt and black pepper. Whisk in the broth and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a 6-cup baking dish using a large slotted spoon, leaving the liquid in the pan. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
Add the red wine to the pan. Continue to reduce the liquid remaining in the pan until it is thickened and bubbly over the entire surface, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Pour the liquid into the baking dish. Using a flexible spatula, dollop and smooth the mashed potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with cheddar. Set the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until bubbly for 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to broil and cook until cheese is browned, 3 minutes. Remove Shepherd's Pie from the oven and set aside to cool 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse