Appetites: Oh deer! Venison meatballs with cherry BBQ sauce
With deer hunting season upon us, now is a good time to look at what to do with your venison after the hunt.
Chef Jon Wipfli believes it is important for people to have a connection with their food and where it comes from — that’s part of the reason he wrote his new book, “Venison: the Slay to Gourmet Field to Kitchen Cookbook.”
Wipfli said learning to hunt and cook your own meat can make you a better cook, especially when learning how to use different cuts of meat.
One of Wipfli’s favorite recipes is for venison meatballs, and he recommends pairing them with his cherry barbecue sauce.
Wipfli will be at Barnes and Noble in Roseville, Minn., on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.
Recipe: Venison (and pork) meatballs
“The flavor and texture of venison often benefits from the addition of ground pork shoulder, and this recipe is a perfect example. Using a 50/50 blend of venison and ground pork will leave you with a more succulent, less gamey meatball.”
Grapeseed oil to evenly coat the bottom of your pan, plus additional for greasing the pan
1 white onion, small diced
1 clove garlic, small diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoonground juniper berries
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (from about 12 slices of bread)
1 cup whole milk (do not substitute low-fat milk)
1 pound ground venison shoulder
1 pound ground pork
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
Place the oil, onion, garlic, thyme, cloves and juniper berries in a saute pan and slowly cook over very low heat until all the moisture from the vegetables is gone and they are completely soft, making sure that there are no colors developed in the pan while cooking, this should take about 45 minutes.
Once cooked, transfer the vegetables to a mixing bowl and let them cool in the fridge. Next, take the 12 slices of bread, remove their crusts, and mince them into tiny crumbs. In a separate mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs and pour the milk over the bread slowly until it looks like a mucky swamp bottom. The bread should absorb all the liquid, and there shouldn’t be any excess. If there is excess milk, pour it out of the bowl and discard it. Place that mixing bowl in the refrigerator to keep it cool.
Place the venison and pork into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the bread and milk mixture along with the cooked vegetables and salt, and turn on the mixer to a medium-low speed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until they’re fully incorporated. Let the paddle spin for about a minute, or until you notice that the meat is starting to stick together on its own accord and is beginning to look gummy.
At this point, remove a small patty of the meatball mix and pan-fry it. Taste it for salt and texture — it shouldn’t be crumbling apart — and adjust the salt in the meatball mix if necessary. If your tester crumbled, continue mixing the meatball mixture until it becomes more cohesive. Once the meatball mix is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with grapeseed oil. Roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-ounce balls, just bigger than a half-dollar coin, place them on the sheet. Bake until they have an internal temperature of 155 degrees, about 20 minutes.
Recipe: Cherry barbecue sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups fresh pitted cherries
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until they appear slightly translucent, that should take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Softly simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Add more orange juice if necessary to thin it out if the barbecue sauce is too thick. To finish, poke a skewer into each meatball and dip the meatball halfway into a bowl of the cherry barbecue sauce and serve immediately on a plate, skewer side up for easy access.