Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bacon Wrapped Venison Shank

Most hunters aren't quite sure what to do with the shank. Elk, deer, antelope. But nothing gets wasted here. This book is one of the best I've seen if you've never processed your own meat and need detailed, pictorial instructions (and don't worry folks, those are painting drop cloths, not the scene of violent meat mayhem).

Shanks (the lower part of the leg) have a lot of sinew and connective tissue so there really isn't a lot you can do to make them tender or tasty. So they usually get ground up into burger. Nothing braises quite like a shank, whether it be lamb, beef, veal or, in this case, venison, but if you are short on actual prep time, a marinade makes a good alternative. For the hunters out there, we all know that we really shouldn't’t waste the shanks of the deer, elk or antelope we shoot and with the right prep you can get a tasty supper. Prep is the key. Muscles that get a lot of work, though tough as all get out, are full of flavor.

A proper marinade is easy, and will help to break down the connection tissue into a silky coating that will tenderize and sweeten the meat. Add in a little spice and some savory bacon. . . .

I made this a weekend or two ago, and it was a hit.

Bacon Wrapped Venison Shanks

2 lbs venison shank per person. For each add:
1/2 lb bacon (Plain, thin-sliced Bacon is best)
3 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups soy sauce
2 heaping teaspoons of ground ginger
dash of garlic powder (or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of minced garlic).

Mix sugar, soy and seasoning in a large zip lock bag (you can use more than one bag if you have several helpings, I usually only have four to prep unless I got the Three Mile Island Whitetail). Poke just a few shallow holes in the venison with a fork. Add venison shank(s) to the marinade in the bag. Put in the fridge at night and let marinate until dinner tomorrow.

Remove the shank(s) and place on a slotted bake sheet with a drip pan or aluminum foil below to catch dripping. Don't throw away marinade.

Wrap the shank in uncooked Bacon. You may use more than 1/2 a pound, just make sure the shank is covered, securing it as needed with a toothpick or two.

Drizzle some of the the remaining marinade over the meat. You want enough to moisten the meat and also a little in the bottom of the pan so you can continue to baste the shank with the marinade throughout the cooking process with a brush or a turkey baster.

Place on center rack in oven and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. This should cook the meat to about rare. If you want it more cooked, even with the searing step that follows, add 5-10 minutes. This is a naturally tough piece of meat so leaning towards rare will give you the better cut and taste.

Remove shank from oven and place the shank directly on a grill over medium-high heat for a minute to sear the bacon and outer shank. If you wish to pass on this step, cook the shank at 300 degrees F. for an hour and a half, remove and let rest five minutes and slice and serve. The bacon won't be as crispy but it will be as good.

Jumbo Shrimp in Herbed Cream Sauce

Due to the evening light, and shadows as not all the lamps are set up, the photo is not all that great but it was delicious.

1 pound medium or extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed Kosher salt and freshly white pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup J Vineyards and Winery, California Pinot Gris (or your favorite Chardonnay)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 to 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Pat the shrimp dry, put them on a plate, and sprinkle lightly with salt and white pepper to taste. Heat a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. As soon as the pan feels hot when you hold your hand an inch or two above its surface, add the oil. When the oil is hot enough to swirl easily in the pan, carefully add the shrimp, placing them evenly in the pan. Without disturbing them, cook the shrimp for 2 minutes on one side. With a fork or a small spatula, flip the shrimp over and cook them until they are uniformly pink and beginning to curl, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the shrimp from the pan to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm. Raise the heat under the pan to high. Add the wine and with a wooden spoon, stir and scrape to dissolve the pan deposits. Let the liquid simmer until it has reduced in volume by half (4 to 7 minutes). Reduce the heat and stir in the cream. Reduce slightly and stir in the Dijon and continue simmering until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes more. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the shrimp and crushed tarragon to the sauce and simmer briefly to heat up the shrimp.

Sprinkle with some of the tarragon you reserved from the ingredient amount for this purpose or parsley if desired.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Crispy Cornbread Waffles

I almost always make cornbread in a cast iron skillet, as I especially like the way the edges crisp up. If you do too, this is a waffle for you. It's not thick like a Belgium waffle but quite light and delicate and best of all VERY crispy, tasting like the best bits of cast iron cooking.

Crispy Cornbread Waffles


1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
½ cup plus one and a half to two Tablespoons All Purpose Flour (use two if you use an extra large egg, if you use a large egg, use one and half to get the right consistency of batter).
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 cups Kefir (remaining Kefir is great to make smoothies with fresh fruit)
1 extra large egg
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons wild honey (I didn't measure, just put in a little spoonful)
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Tablespoons melted lard
1 Tablespoon melted butter (NOT margarine)
1/8 teaspoon Penzeys Mexican vanilla

In one bowl mix flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder (please check the expiration dates on the baking powder and soda, using expired ones will affect the results of most recipes).

In another bowl, whisk egg. Add in baking soda and stir. Stir in Kefir. The mixture will look light and foamy.

Add liquid to dry ingredients until combined. Stir in melted lard/butter mixture and vanilla, stirring gently.

Cook the waffles according to the waffle iron recommendations until the waffles are lightly golden and crispy. (You may need to grease the waffle iron to prevent the waffles from sticking.)

Serve immediately with syrup, honey, bacon and more butter. Leftovers may be frozen for toaster waffles another morning. Makes enough waffles for 3-4 people and recipe cuts in half easily (just use a small egg).

Friday, September 2, 2005

Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles
4 medium red sweet peppers (or two 7 ounce jars of roasted red sweet pepper)
1 teaspoons olive oil
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup fresh basil - snipped
5 cloves garlic minced
3 drops Scoville Brothers Heavy Metal Heat hot sauce
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sweet or hot (I used hot) bulk Italian sausage
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups milk
1 pound ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoon parsley
dash of pepper and a pinch of salt
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (the real stuff not the stuff in a green can).

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cook sausage with 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped garlic in a fairly deep pan. Drain all but about a teaspoon of the grease. Cook the noodles in a separate pot as per directions to "al dente" (you want them a bit firm as they will soften up in the oven).

To roast red peppers: Place them cut sides down on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and browned. Wrap in foil and let sit for half an hour until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the skins from the peppers and cut into thin strips. If using the ready to go bottled kind, simply drain and cut into strips.

Now turn the oven down to 350 F.

Red Pepper/Meat sauce: In the pan you cooked the sausage in, add the olive oil and cook the sweet peppers on medium heat for a minute. Stir in tomatoes, basil, parsley, black pepper and half of the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add sausage and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bechamel Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir in flour, nutmeg and remaining salt until smooth. Add the milk all at once, and cook and stir constantly with a whisk over medium until thickened and bubbly (the mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon). You must stir this constantly or it WILL burn, but it only takes a few minutes to cook. Set aside to cool slightly while you whip up the ricotta.

Ricotta - mix ricotta with eggs, parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Add dash of pepper and pinch of salt (to taste) and mix thoroughly.

To assemble.

Layer One - Spray the bottom of a lasagna pan (3 quart rectangular) with non stick cooking spray. Cover with 3 lasagna noodles. Top with 3/4 cup bechamal sauce, about a cup of the red pepper/meat sauce on the noodles, 1/3 of the Ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Layer Two - 3 more noodles, 3/4 cup bechamel sauce, one cup red pepper/meat sauce, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Layer Three - 3 more noodles , 3/4 cup bechamel sauce, a little less than one cup red pepper/meat sauce, remaining ricotta mixture, 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Layer Four - 3 more noodles, remaining red pepper/meat sauce, remaining bechamel sauce, and remaining Parmesan. Make sure the noodles on the top layer are completely covered with sauce.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and just starting to brown on the top. Let stand 15-20 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead Directions: After assembly, cover the lasagna with plastic wrap and put in fridge up to one day ahead. To serve, remove plastic wrap and cover with foil. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 25-25 minutes, until bubbly and starting to brown.