I’m violating my own idea of a gratin here. Mine is of a shallow vegetable dish with a light topping of breadcrumbs, fine breadcrumbs. Maybe cheese in the topping or sauce. Still, this venison gratin, as I’m calling it, is shallow, made in a cast iron skillet. The crumb topping, however, is rougher, more rustic, almost like those leftover stuffing toppings you make after the holidays. I think I could have kept the food processor going longer for a finer crumb, but I guess I was in a rustic mood. So, like I said in the title, do you have any leftover garlic bread? With the flavors of your garlic bread already in place—garlic, olive oil or butter, herbs, and maybe some Parmesan—you have the makings of a flavorful topping for a gratin.
torn up garlic bread
Preheat oven to 350º; if using a separate casserole dish, butter the dish. A large (12″) cast iron skillet works great because you can cook the filling in it and then pop it in the oven with the crumb topping on.
- 1 lb venison cut in 1/2″ cubes
- 1 medium onion cut in small dice
- 1-2 cups mushrooms (I used cremini) cut in small dice (so your picky eaters won’t pick them out)
- 2 large carrots cut in 1/2″ dice
- olive oil for browning meat and vegetables
- 2 cups broth (I used beef)
- beurre manié of 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons flour
- leftover garlic bread, pulsed in food processor
- olive oil or melted butter to moisten crumbs
Basically, I prepared a little stew, then topped it with the crumbs and browned it in the oven.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons oil to a hot skillet and brown the venison over medium-high heat. Remove to a platter.
- Add onions and mushrooms to the hot skillet and continue to cook until lightly browned.
- Return venison to the skillet with the carrots. Add the broth. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes.
- Over medium heat, stir in the beurre manié until distributed. Continue to stir until the broth is thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Moisten your garlic bread crumbs with olive oil or butter, just enough to lightly moisten without becoming oily.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the top all the way to the edge.
- Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
I’m just about done with last season’s pheasant supply in the freezer. Last year, I made just about every type of pheasant meatball I could think of, so I’ve tried to find some other things to do with it this year, our favorite dish of late being a pheasant version of butter chicken. Today I’m grilling skewered strips of pheasant breast, which is pretty much going to be like flash cooking, as it will only take a minute or so on each side to be done. I’m starting with a coconut milk marinade and serving it with a peanut sauce made with some of the reserved marinade. Meat on a stick seems like a good weekend meal.
Coconut Pheasant Satay
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons red curry powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste or grated garlic
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (for marinade)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or to taste ( for dipping sauce)
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- Optional additions: soy sauce and sesame oil
- Mix the first four ingredients—coconut milk, curry powder, ginger, garlic—until well combined. Pour half the mixture into a second bowl.
- To the first bowl, whisk in the tablespoon of salt, and add the pheasant strips to marinate. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Remove at least 30 minutes before grilling to skewer and to come to room temperature.
- To the second bowl, whisk in the tahini, peanut butter, and the teaspoon of salt. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. The sauce should be served at room temperature.
- Remove marinating pheasant from refrigerator and skewer strips onto soaked bamboo skewers. Allow to come to room temperature while preparing the grill.
- Set up grill for direct heat at 400° using 40-50 briquettes. Unless you are grilling something else, like a vegetable first, you will be done grilling long before the coals burn down to ash, so don’t waste them by using too many. Still you need to reach a hot temperature.
- When the grill is hot, brush the cooking grate with oil and grill each skewer for 1-2 minutes per side. Don’t overcook.
- Serve with dipping sauce.
Even though soaked, some of your skewers will probably burn up on the grill, like mine, and you could be left with stubs. It did not affect our eating them all. I think the professional cooking sites, just brown the meat with a blow torch 😉
My taco meatballs are made with venison and pork, but you could substitute your favorite meatball ingredients.
It all started with a box of black bean spaghetti, which is made with nothing but black beans. I’m always looking for ways to avoid the high-glycemic white flour pastas when I can, and this seemed like another interesting way to do that. Then I was trying to figure out how to complement such a pasta, so I started thinking about what we usually eat with black beans. I always cook them with cumin, oregano, and garlic, and serve them alongside a variety of Mexican dishes, so I started thinking in that direction.
On the other hand, we often have some kind of meatball with pasta—thus the taco meatball idea was born. To keep it on the Mexican side, I took a tomato-based sauce idea, but added poblano peppers instead of bell peppers, and that pretty much instantly turned it into a Mexican sauce.
I also had two crispy corn taco shells in the cupboard waiting for a purpose, so I crushed them in the food processor to substitute for breadcrumbs in the meatballs. It gave them just a little corn flavor to add to the taco idea. For the taco seasoning, I made a variation of this one.
Taco shells for meatball filling
Sauce looks a lot like salsa
Taco Meatballs and Black Bean Spaghetti
Taco Pasta Sauce
- 1 large can peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained (reserve juice in can if you want to thin the sauce later)
- 4-6 roasted poblano peppers, peeled and seeded
- 1 large onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor. Process until uniformly small, but still with visible pieces of all the elements. I think it ends up looking like salsa.
- Pour into large skillet and heat over medium-low heat while you make the meatballs.
- 1 lb ground venison
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/2 cup ground tortilla shells (you could use flavored corn chips, but you might need to alter your seasoning)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced or roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons taco seasoning:
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground California chiles
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients well—I used my stand mixer.
- Form into small meatballs of about 2 teaspoons each and drop into the sauce as it is heating. If it starts to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovering the skillet during the last ten minutes to cook down any excess liquid from the vegetables. Remember that the onion and pepper in this recipe are not sauteed first, so they can water down the sauce on cooking, even though the tomato paste helps to thicken the sauce.
Serve over black bean spaghetti, cooked according to package directions. It cooks very quickly, about 6-8 minutes. This pasta has an interesting taste and texture that complements the taco flavors.
Even though we still occasionally eat cheese, with the help of those lactase pills, I don’t use it as much anymore, looking for ways to eat the kinds of things we like without it. I had some venison chorizo in the freezer from the day I made that frittata, and these tacos seemed like a good follow-up use for it.
I’m going to cooked the diced potatoes in a cast iron skillet without boiling them first. Kind of like how I cook raw fried potatoes, only those are sliced. I want both the chorizo and the potatoes to have some crispiness, although I will mash a little of the potatoes into the meat to get those chorizo spices into the potatoes, too. I still have some roasted poblano peppers in the freezer from last summer’s garden, so a few of those will go in as well. In place of crema to cool it down, I’m using some ready-made guacamole and mild salsa.
I’m still thinking whether to use white corn tortillas (my preference) or flour tortillas; I have both, so I guess it will be a mealtime decision, or it will be a to each his own meal.
Tonight, we both had white corn tortillas; tomorrow, whole wheat flour tortillas (because, of course, I made too much).
Mexican Venison Chorizo and Potato Tacos
- 1 lb venison-pork chorizo (recipe) or any Mexican chorizo
- 2 roasted poblano peppers, diced
- 1 lb potatoes, diced (I used red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled)
- 1 medium to large yellow or white onion, chopped
- oil and butter, as needed
- salt & pepper to taste
- taco-sized tortillas, corn or flour
- toppings: avocado or guacamole, salsa, crema, lettuce or fresh cilantro
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, depending on the fat content of your chorizo. Mine is very lean. When the pan and oil are hot, brown the chorizo, breaking it up with a fork or wooden spoon. Stir in chopped poblanos and let cook until the meat is browned well and any moisture is evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove chorizo to a platter.
- Lower the heat to medium and add another two tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of butter until the butter is melted. Add diced potatoes and onions to the pan, spreading out to a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and turn potatoes over to brown other side. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes or until potatoes are done and lightly browned.
- Return chorizo to pan and stir in, scraping up any browned bits of potato and meat, mashing some of the potato with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings.