I’m Game, How About You?

Having a hunter for a husband means a freezer full of venison. When venison is treated correctly in the field, and then in the kitchen, you get a richly flavored, lean red meat. Venison fits beautifully into a heart-healthy diet… most of the time. Once in a while, I like to thaw out a couple cube steaks and make chicken fried venison. Not something for every day, but there is no reason not to indulge occasionally!

A creamy country-style gravy made with the pan drippings and some Rustic Smashed Potatoes are the perfect accompaniment; add your favorite vegetable, and you have a hearty dinner perfect for a cool-weather evening!

Ultimate comfort food!

Ultimate comfort food!

I generally start my potatoes first as they take the longest to cook, and because they have a good “pausing point” before smashing so I can time everything to come out about the same time. (I feel that good timing is a critical part of being an excellent home cook, and it can be challenging which is part of the fun for me! Yep, I’m a cooking nerd.) I call them “rustic smashed” potatoes because I don’t peel the potatoes, and the texture is chunkier than my regular mashed potatoes.  You won’t hurt my feelings if you use another potato recipe, I promise.

To fry the steaks in the past, I’ve used canola oil, olive oil, butter, even reserved bacon fat. This time, I used rendered goose fat that I ordered online from Schiltz Goose Farm*, right here in my home state of South Dakota. I was on the website to order their insanely delicious smoked goose breast, and as I am wont to do when online, started wandering about the site. I was thrilled to discover they sell rendered goose fat in quantities that make sense for the home cook.

I render my own duck fat after making our now-traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas duck. I’ve reserved that duck fat for use in frying potatoes and root vegetables and using it in my paste rubs for meat. It’s delicious, but I’ll be honest, ducks are actually pretty small and you don’t get a lot of reserved duck fat return for your time investment. So when I found the rendered goose fat on the Schiltz website, I felt like I’d struck gold. Rich, decadent, creamy gold. (“Why not just roast a Christmas goose and render that fat”, you ask? Well, geese are pricier than ducks and this is an excellent solution! Besides, I really don’t know how many geese I’d have to roast to obtain 2.5 lbs of rendered goose fat. But if I ever roast a Christmas goose, I’ll be sure to share my roasting and rendering results!)

Goose fat is one of those fats that is actually better for you than butter or lard because it is rich in oleic acid. What this means to people who are watching their cholesterol is that it is a monounsaturated fatty acid that can actually lower blood cholesterol levels. What it means to me is that I don’t have to feel too guilty for using it to fry in! Honestly, I don’t know how much I’d worry anyway as rendered goose fat is – heavenly, ambrosial, transcendent even. Ok, that might be laying it on a little thick, but frying in duck or goose fat really does lend a depth of flavor that, well, that transcends more conventional oils for me.

I received my goose fat in a tub that fits right in my freezer. When I opened the tub, the first thing I noticed was the color. It was a creamy ivory color, definitely purer than anything I’d ever achieved with my own rendering efforts. The smell reminded me of my mom’s house as she made her famous-to-us fried chicken (maybe I wasn’t laying it on too thick when I used the word transcendent).

Now on to the cream gravy!  Making gravy used to intimidate me until I got used to making a white roux. Now, I find it pretty easy to throw together while the meat rests. After roasting or frying take your meat out of the pan to rest, add flour in equal amounts to the fat and drippings left behind, whisk until smooth. Add your room temperature liquid (cold, it takes forever to cook; too warm and you have lumps), add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk, whisk, whisk. Pretty soon you have cream gravy!

What you don't know is another ladle-full of gravy went on after the picture was taken. Ssshh.

What you don’t know is another ladle-full of gravy went on after the picture was taken. Ssshh.

*I contacted Schiltz to make sure I could use their name (I would have hated to receive my first cease and desist – I mean, what do you do with that? Surely you don’t frame it like the first dollar you ever made!), and they graciously gave their permission. I’m not receiving any compensation for talking about them whatsoever; I truly love this company and I’m so proud they’re from South Dakota too!  They have a lot of different products; their smoked goose breast is a favorite on our meat and cheese board. They also sell goose liver from geese that have never been force-fed, it that’s a concern of yours. I’ll definitely be buying some when I’m ready to try my hand at making paté! They just recently updated their website; it’s beautiful and has a wonderful FAQ section that includes great cooking tips and some interesting information about their geese!

Chicken Fried Venison with Cream Gravy

For the venison:

Ingredients

milk
4 cube steaks
1/2 cup flour
3-4 eggs
1/2 cup panko, measured out and set aside
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt, added to the panko
1/2 cup oil or fat of choice

Directions

Place the cube steaks in a gallon size ziplock and pour in enough milk so all steaks are submerged. Lay flat on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator overnight, flipping once (the lactic acid in milk works to tenderize the meat, as well as draw a lot of blood out. Normally I love the rich taste of venison, but it can be a little strong. This works to ensure there is no gamy flavor.).

A half hour before you plan on cooking, take the meat out of the milk.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature setting, usually 150-200° (my old 60’s oven goes down to 140°, so that’s what I use).

Place the flour in a pie plate or like container. Break the eggs into another pie plate and beat to incorporate the whites and yolks. Place two baking sheets and the seasoned panko within reach. Dredge a cube steak in flour, dip in the egg and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the steaks have been treated to their flour dip and egg bath. Add the panko to the flour, using a fork to stir well. Dredge the steaks one-at-a-time in the flour and panko mixture and place on a clean baking sheet.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil or fat. When it begins to shimmer, take a pinch of flour and drop it in the oil. If the oil and flour sizzle immediately, your oil should be ready.

Place a cooling rack atop another clean baking sheet (washing and drying the egg-y one, if necessary), and keep nearby. Place as many steaks as will comfortably fit in your frying pan. Do not crowd them! Fry the steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and place on the cooling rack, put the baking sheet into your pre-warmed oven to keep warm while the rest of the steaks cook. Repeat as necessary until all your steaks are golden brown!

While the steaks rest in the oven, you want to start your cream gravy.

for the gravy:

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour
3-4 cups whole milk, room temperature
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Lower the heat under your pan drippings to medium-low. Sprinkle the flour in a bit at a time, whisking constantly until you have a texture like wet sand. Continue whisking for a couple minutes to help cook out the raw flour taste. When you see the roux begin to change color, begin adding the milk slowly, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper, and continue whisking until the gravy is smooth and thickened. Add more milk if needed, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as needed.

Plate the steaks and pour or ladle the gravy over the top!

Rustic Smashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 4, with (hopefully) leftovers
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Ingredients

3 lbs of red or russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cubed (do not peel)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into pats and softened

Directions

Place the cubed potatoes in a medium stock pot, add cold water to cover by about an inch. Add the salt. Over high heat, bring the potatoes to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down until the potatoes are simmering and let them simmer for about 15 minutes. Test doneness; a fork should easily slide right through the potatoes. Continue simmering if necessary, about 5 more minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. Add back to the stock pot and place on low heat. Stir gently until dry, about a minute. Begin smashing the potatoes with a potato masher, slowly adding the milk. Stop smashing when you have reached the chunky-to-smooth ratio you like.

Spoon the potatoes into a serving dish. Make a well in the center of the potatoes with the spoon, and add the softened butter to the well.

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Meatball Subs

meatball sub5

Warm, cheesy and saucy. No, not me, the sandwich!

Tonight is “build your own sub” night at the Pants house. I had only planned on cold cuts, cheese, veggies, and condiments; and with lots to choose from, I figured I could make everyone happy. I didn’t take the chilly, rainy weather into consideration, and found myself craving something more than a cold sandwich. Hmm, warm, meaty, cheesy, maybe a little saucy? Meatball subs, it is!

meatball sub1

Tearing the cheese lets you cover the entire bun.

meatball sub2

Place under your broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and toast your bun.

See the fennel and garlic? Mmmm.

These will be really filling!

These will be really filling!

I wanted to keep this really easy, which was the point to having subs in the first place, so I decided to use the pre-made meatballs I already had in the freezer. I’m using Foster Farms Italian-style turkey meatballs; they’re really tasty, and I almost always have a bag on hand. I thaw them, and then cut them in half or thirds; I find this makes them more manageable and easier to eat.

The combination of the meatballs in a highly flavored red sauce with ooey-gooey cheese on chewy, crusty bread warms me right to my toes. This sandwich elicited thumbs-ups and a “delicious, baby”, which also warmed me to my toes!

Meatball Subs

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed or ground
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
18 frozen Italian style meatballs, thawed and cut into halves or thirds
12 slices provolone cheese
6 (6″) sub or hoagie buns, split
shredded Parmesan

Directions

Preheat broiler (or preheat oven to 400).

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and saute for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, fennel, Worcestershire, and meatballs. Stir well to incorporate. Lower heat to low and cook until the meatballs are warmed through.

Open the buns and place open-face up on your broiler pan. Place 2 slices of provolone on each bun, tearing the cheese into pieces if needed to ensure all the bread is covered.

Broil until the bun is toasted, and the cheese has melted, about 2-5 minutes. If you have a faulty broiler like I do, you can also place them in a 400 degree oven for about 6 minutes. Watch them carefully, these times are all dependent on your oven!

With a slotted spoon, spoon a generous serving of your meatball mixture into each cheesy sub. Top with a generous serving of shredded Parmesan.

Bacon Corn Chowder

image (1)
Wow!  My first blog post, finally.  I’ve been in agony over what to post first, wanting it to be exactly the right thing.  I’m a perfectionist, and I wanted a perfectly written recipe, with perfect pictures of my perfect food.  Did I mention I started this blog almost three months ago?  Yep, that’s right, I’m also a terrible procrastinator.  I have a tendency to shut down if things aren’t perfectly perfect, and I have to keep reminding myself that things are rarely never completely perfect.  I started this blog as a fun outlet for my creativity and love of discovery and sharing; if I worried about perfection it wouldn’t be fun anymore and I would never post anything!

I chose this recipe as my first post because, well, because it’s the first one I’ve remembered to take pictures of!  Now, about these pictures.  Oh my.  I am taking pictures with my Samsung Galaxy S5 because that’s what I have.  And will continue to take pictures with for the foreseeable future.  I’m also woefully new to food photography, but instead of spending all my time researching “How to Take the Perfect Picture”, I’ve decided to post and learn as I go.  I promise, the food is delicious!
I just have to laugh.  It really is good, I promise.

I just have to laugh. It really is good. Really, really!

Now, on to said food.  I love soup in all forms; bisque, chili, chowder, broth, etc.,etc.  Now that Fall is finally here, I wanted to create something that was filling and delicious, and met my craving for comfort food.  Few of my recipes are perfect (there’s that word again) the first time I make them, but this one needed no tweaking as far as I was concerned.  More importantly, it needed no tweaking as far as Mr. Pants was concerned.  He is my toughest, if most reluctant, critic.  I think he figures it’s the equivalent of being asked “do these jeans make my butt look big?”.  (Not that I’ve ever asked that.  I already know what my butt looks like, and I don’t need someone confirming it, thankyouverymuch.)  He figures there is no right way to answer, but he is also learning as I go!

This chowder pairs salty, smoky bacon with sweet corn and earthy potatoes.  The smoked Gouda added at the end is completely optional, but oh-so-delicious!

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The table isn’t dirty. Really. It’s an old porcelain top on the table my great-grandmother made.

Bacon Corn Chowder

  • Servings: 6, generously
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Ingredients

12-16 oz smoked bacon, chopped
5 russet potatoes, diced (skin on or off, your preference)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups chicken stock or corn stock, or a mix of both
4 cups corn kernels (about 6 ears) (frozen kernels, thawed, can be used)
2 cups half and half*
salt and pepper, to taste

smoked Gouda, shredded (optional)

 

Directions

In a large stockpot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until bacon is done to desired crispness**.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserve.

In the bacon fat, cook potatoes for about 5 minutes, scraping the nummy bits from the bottom of the stockpot.  Add garlic, stir and cook another 3 minutes or so, still scraping bottom of stockpot.

Add flour and thyme, stir to coat all the potatoes.  Add stock, again scraping bottom of the stockpot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, using your stove’s lowest heat setting.  Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, but not completely soft.

With a slotted spoon, remove about 1/2 to 2/3 of the potatoes (depending on how many pieces you want to bite into in your chowder), and reserve.  Add 2 cups of the corn kernels to the stockpot.  With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  (You can also use a regular blender, blending the mixture in batches.  If you do this, add the mixture back to your stockpot before moving on to the next step.)

Slowly add the half and half, stirring until incorporated.

Add the reserved potatoes, the rest of the corn kernels, and the bacon (reserve some crisp bacon for garnish, if desired).  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls, garnishing with some shredded Gouda and/or crisp bacon, if desired.

 

*If you want to cut some calories, you can substitute milk, or even evaporated milk in equal amounts for the half and half.  If you want to make it decadent, you can substitute heavy cream.  Go ahead, I won’t tell.

**I only cook the bacon until a bunch of the fat is rendered out, and the bacon is still chewy; that’s how we like the texture of our bacon in soups.  Sometimes I continue to cook a little of the bacon until crisp to use as a garnish.