Nov/Dec 2007Wild Fare and Wise Words: Venisonby

Anyone interested in enjoying the tempting taste of venison likely lives within a reasonable distance of places where deer can be hunted. To a greater extent perhaps than any other game animal, hunting is an imperative when it comes to managing whitetail populations. That means, in effect, that over much of the deer's range you are actually doing yourself and nature a favor by hunting deer. More to the point, in the present context, is the fact that properly dressed, handled and prepared deer is as tasty as the animal is abundant. The size of the animal ensures that it has the potential to make a major contribution to the table fare we all, as hunters, enjoy.

While a successful quest brings a real sense of accomplishment, for the sensitive and sensible hunter the decisive moment of truth is nonetheless a bittersweet one. It is precisely at that point, though, as he contemplates his kill and perhaps enjoys visions of venison dishes to come, that he should pause and ponder, full of wonder, on the finality of the ultimate act of hunting.

Don't overlook the health benefits of venison. It is often the only red meat heart patients should eat. Additionally, it has never known the inoculants, vitamin supplements, growth hormones, questionable feeding practices and crowded conditions endemic to both the beef and poultry industries. Venison has much less fat than beef (and what is present should be removed when the animal is processed), lower levels of cholesterol, and top-drawer nutritional value. In short, venison is not only good; it is good for you.

Venison Cubed Steak and Gravy

2 pounds venison cubed steaks

1 onion, sliced (optional)

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup water

¼ to ½ cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the steak into serving pieces and marinate in the buttermilk for a few minutes. Season 1½ to 2 cups flour with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven. Coat the meat with the flour and fry in the oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Pour off all but 2 to 3 tablespoons oil. Sauté the onion in the remaining oil until tender. Sift 3 tablespoons of flour over the onion and oil and cook, stirring, until the flour is brown. Remove from heat and add the meat, milk and water and mix well. Cover the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, checking often after 25 minutes and adding water if the gravy becomes too thick. Serve the meat and gravy over rice or mashed potatoes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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