Tag Archives: Jimmy Dean sausage

Venison Shepherd’s Pie

Technically not shepherd’s pie, unless I sacrifice one of my lambs for the filling—if I were a shepherd. I’m a hunter, so am using a pound of ground venison from the fall muzzleloader season deer in the freezer. Maybe I should have called it Hunter’s Pie.

We had a scare that we might lose all the venison, pheasants, and grouse in the freezer because of a big power outage just after Christmas. After driving 8 hours home on the Monday after Christmas, we unpacked and settled in for a needed rest. At about midnight, while we were sleeping, a neighbor’s tree fell on the electrical wires and pulled over the attached pole, knocking out power to the whole street. By morning, the refrigerators had already begun to warm up a little, so we got bags of ice to pack in the freezers, but it was obvious that it wouldn’t really be cold enough to keep it all frozen. Would it stay cold enough to be re-frozen when the power came back on? When would it come back on? After it was clear the power would be off for a few days, we had to come up with another plan. My husband is a biology professor with access to a bunch of laboratory freezers, so we loaded it all in coolers and took it up to school. What a relief that was, because all that game represented not only a lot of work by our dog flushing out birds—do the math for 56 pheasants at 2 a day—but it represented all the lives we took during the seasons. So, it seemed right to have this first post after my holiday hiatus be a game dish.

Shepherd’s Pie is all about the savory filling, which is traditionally made with lamb, but can be made with any red meat. I used 1 pound of ground venison (that dark red pile in the photo) and 1 pound of sage country sausage. The sausage did a lot of the flavoring in the dish, so that I didn’t have to create an herb combination; then the onion, garlic, carrots, tomato paste, and beef broth did the rest. I took the approach of a long slow cooking of the filling, as I would with the classic ragù meat sauce, which results in a very tender meat and a deeply rich sauce. Cooks often forget that ground meat benefits from a long simmer, just like other cuts. I simmered this filling for an hour before thickening it, and then simmered it for another half hour.

The rest is just a matter of making mashed potatoes and covering the filling up to the dish edges. My dish could have been a little bigger (or I could have left out a little of the filling), because it bubbled up at two corners, but I luckily had put the casserole on a half-sheet pan, so there was no oven mess. What a terrifically rich and comforting dish in this winter that has finally arrived.

Venison Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 lb country sausage, sage or other flavor sausage
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon oil for browning meats
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock or broth, canned or made from beef base
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter (for thickening filling)
  • 4 tablespoons flour (for thickening filling)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, boiled, then mashed
  • 4 tablespoons butter (for potatoes)
  • 1/2-1 cup half and half (for potatoes)

Preparation

  1. Brown meats in large skillet over medium heat. We process our venison without any fat, and the sausage I used has very little, so I needed the oil for browning.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots, continuing to cook and stir until the onions are translucent, maybe 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that the sausage is seasoned and your beef stock may be, too.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, then the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Make a beurre manié of the butter and flour. I just combine them at room temperature with the back of a large spoon until all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Stir the roux into the simmering filling until combined and beginning to thicken. Cover and simmer for another half hour, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  6. Pour or spoon the filling into a 3 quart casserole dish (mine was a little smaller, probably too small) and set aside while preparing the potatoes. If you have too much gravy in the filling, the potatoes will try to sink in a little, making it difficult to spread them out. You can strain out some of the liquid before putting the filling in the dish and reserve it for the table, if necessary.
  7. Boil the potatoes just before the filling is ready. Mash with the butter and half and half. try for a spreadable consistency.
  8. Carefully spoon the potatoes around the edge of the filling, then into the center. Seal the edges with the potatoes and cover all the filling, using the back of a spoon or a spatula or fork tines for a decorative top.
  9. Place the casserole on a sheet pan, because it will probably bubble over if filled to the top. Bake at 400° for about 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown.

*I should have noted that I can’t stand the idea of peas in the pie, so we had them on the side.

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Turkey Roll with Cranberry, Walnut, Sausage Stuffing

If you’ve been reading my posts recently, you knew this was coming. I did debone a 15 lb turkey and successfully rolled and roasted it. Very pleasantly surprised, especially since my oven has ruined several recent holidays by refusing to cook a whole turkey all the way through. It was a great meal, but much of it will have to go in the freezer, because the two of us just can’t eat like we used to.

There were a few things different, though, about deboning a turkey compared to a chicken:

  • It was bigger than a chicken, obviously, so that might have been the easier part, since all the parts were bigger.
  • The wing and leg bones seemed harder to remove for reasons I can’t quite explain. Anyway, I got them out and only sliced one thumb, requiring a slight break in the activity while I cleaned up. Remember to keep alcohol and bandages around when working with sharp knives.
  • Then there were the bone-like leg tendons. I was not strong enough to pull them out with needle-nose pliers as all the video chefs do. The best I could do was hold one end with the pliers and scrape them out with the knife edge.
  • The dark meat end was a hot mess, but I just kept sticking in the ends and bits I could and didn’t worry about the ones that refused to go. I’ll figure that out next year.
  • It sliced much better than the chickens; not sure why.

The stuffing was delightful. I used about a cup of my oven-dried cranberries in the stuffing, with some chopped walnuts and a country-style sage sausage. I think I will always use fruit and nuts in future stuffings, and sausage when I want a savory sweetness. For a change, and to save me more work, I used packaged stuffing cubes for the base.

There really isn’t a recipe for the turkey that’s different from the videos I’ve shown in this previous post, but here are the roasting details for my 15 lb turkey:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°; lightly oil a large roasting pan (I wish I had a heavy stainless steel roaster, Santa).
  2. Place stuffed, rolled, and trussed turkey in pan. Rub the roll with oil and season with lots of salt and pepper.
  3. Roast at this high heat for about 15 minutes to get browning started.
  4. Without opening oven door, reduce heat to 325° and roast until internal temperature reaches 165°, about 1 1/2 hours.

You can save time by deboning the turkey earlier in the day and keeping it in the fridge until ready to stuff. Plus, it gives you time to make a stock from the bones. We ate late in the day.

Cranberry, Walnut, Sausage Stuffing

  • Servings: a lot
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 14 oz package seasoned stuffing cubes (mine were sage and onion)

2 medium onions, chopped

1 celery heart, about 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1 lb sage sausage (mine was Jimmy Dean®), lightly browned

about 1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock

  1. In a large bowl, combine stuffing cubes, cranberries, walnuts, and cooked sausage.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and celery, cooking until translucent.
  3. Pour butter and vegetables over stuffing and mix well.
  4. Add turkey stock, stirring until all the bread is moistened. If you are using fresh bread, you might not need this mush stock. You want moistened bread that is not pasty.

Not only was the stuffing great, but it made the pan drippings in the roaster very flavorful, so that the gravy was exceptional. You could taste a little tartness in the stuffing from the berries and savory sweetness from the sausage. The walnuts retained a little chewiness after cooking.

Most of the stuffing went into a buttered 13″ x 9″ casserole to bake for 30 mins covered and 20 mins uncovered.

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Sunday was day nine of the opened buttermilk, so after ranch dressing and scones, I thought buttermilk biscuits would finish off the quart nicely.

When we were in grad school in Arkansas, my husband fell in love with a kind of disgusting looking fast food called a Volcano. It consisted of broken up biscuits topped with sausage gravy in a giant Styrofoam cup. Although I never had one, I knew I could do better, and since the Volcano continued to live on in his fantasy cuisine, I figured out how to do it, just not in a Styrofoam cup.

Biscuits and gravy is a simple, but satisfying dish, made better here with homemade buttermilk-lard biscuits. The biscuits came out so well, I couldn’t stop taking pictures, obviously.

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