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.
Lots of substitutions can be made to make this recipe your own. Oven-roasted plum tomatoes from last summer’s garden were the highlight in my sauce. They keep well in the freezer and, when thawed, are still moist and lightly coated with olive oil. I ate one, of course, and it still had that fresh tomato taste, concentrated from the roasting.
This sauce is thicker and has a more concentrated tomato flavor than the Quick, Light Pizza Sauce I made a year ago.
Quick Blender Pizza Sauce
- 1 cup oven roasted or sun-dried plum tomatoes ( I used 15 tomato halves)
- 5-6 cloves or about 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 3 -4 canned peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup juice from tomato can—enough to bring to consistency of a thick sauce
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, adding more tomato juice as needed.
I used the sauce on this pizza: Pizza Day One and Day Two—following the directions for the dough, but using red sauce instead of white. Since I wrote those posts, I acquired cast iron skillets (12″ and 8″) and have been happily making my pizzas in them.
The first dish from the buck my husband harvested this fall.
This lasagna is a tale of two sauces—a bolognese ragù and béchamel. Neither sauce is difficult to make and the ragù in particular can be made the day or evening before to simplify the final dish preparation. This lasagna doesn’t require all the cheese (ricotta and mozzarella) of typical lasagna recipes, just finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano on each layer, so that the result is a lasagna that is not quite as filling—and by filling, I mean overfilling. You can certainly use the ragù in a typical cheesy lasagna, but I think the béchamel would be overpowered by all that cheese. Ordinarily, I would add cream and butter to a bolognese ragù after the long simmer, but felt that the layers of béchamel provided the necessary creaminess to the dish.
Two things I did differently:
- In addition to using venison instead of lean beef or veal, I used ground, smoked, thick-sliced bacon instead of the traditional pancetta, which is not smoked. The smoky bacon adds another layer of flavor, and the venison can handle it. The bacon happens to be from a local company that provides the hot dogs and kielbasa to Heinz Field, Smith Provision, and it’s a really flavorful bacon.
- I used some of my frozen tomato sauce made from our summer garden tomatoes. It’s a thick sauce made from roasting tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion, so it is already flavored with some of the final sauce ingredients, but since my sauce has been blended, you still need the chopped vegetables in this ragù.
I used fresh pasta sheets available at my grocery to construct the lasagna; you don’t need to boil them first as they cook in the casserole to just the right tenderness—just make sure you have plenty of sauce to cover.
Ragù, béchamel, parmesan
Venison Lasagna Bolognese
Note about salt: There are lots of ways to get too much salt into this dish. There is salt in each sauce, your chicken stock may be salted, the bacon may be salty, and authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is salty. Personally, I would leave out any extra salt in the ragù. Taste as you go along.
Preheat oven to 375° when ready to construct the dish.
Bolognese Ragù Sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or more)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- about 1 cup celery heart, center ribs with leaves, finely chopped
- about 1 cup finely chopped carrot
- about 1 cup medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 pound smoked bacon, coarsely ground
- 1 pound ground venison
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 cups thick tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes or tomato paste with more chicken stock)
- salt & pepper to taste (careful with the salt—see the note above)
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 cups milk (I used lactose-free whole milk)
- fresh pasta sheets to make at least 5 layers in a 13″ x 9″ dish
- about 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Prepare the meat sauce, which needs to simmer for about two hours.
- In a large straight-sided skillet (often called a chicken fryer) sauté the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until the vegetables are translucent. Remove vegetables to a dish while browning the meats, which you can’t do well in a pan of vegetables.
- In the same pan, using more olive oil if needed, brown the ground bacon. Add the ground venison and ground pork, breaking it all up and cooking until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Return the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Stir in the parsley, chicken stock, red wine, and tomato sauce (or whatever tomato product you are using).
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I’m sure this is a sauce that could be made in a slow cooker, too.
- When the meat sauce is about done, make the béchamel sauce.
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Stir in the flour and seasoning, stirring until all the flour is combined with the butter and there are no lumps.
- Slowly stir in the milk, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon or whisk. Some people like to scald the milk first in the microwave, but I find that unnecessary—maybe it quickens the thickening. Continue stirring over medium heat until thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat.
- Construct the lasagna. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
- Using a large ladle, lightly cover the bottom of the dish with béchamel sauce.
- Arrange your uncooked pasta sheets over the béchamel. You don’t need to cover every inch of the pan, as the pasta will swell a little on absorbing the sauces. I trimmed my sheets to fit in two large squares on each layer, but your sheets may be more narrow than mine.
- Top each layer of pasta with enough meat sauce to cover all the edges. Then add a layer of béchamel. Finish with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
- Repeat until you reach the top of the dish, ending with the sauces and cheese. Mine came all the way to the top with 5 layers, and while a little bubbled over, most of it was absorbed by the pasta.
- Bake at 375° for about 40 minutes. Place a sheet pan on a lower oven rack to catch any spills. The finished lasagna should be browned and bubbly.
- Let rest a little before cutting into large squares.