Deer hunting season in Georgia has just come to a close, and the way I figure it, many of you Southeast Georgians who read my column probably love to hunt or at least have some men in your life who pride themselves on bringing home the meat. If at this time of year, you find yourself with a freezer full of venison and you're unsure of how to prepare it, I may be able to provide some inspiration.
Hunting is not only a fun sport, but an economical way to enjoy God's green Earth. I'm not one to hunt myself, but my husband Kurt really enjoys the practice of getting up before dawn and quietly walking to his climber stand out in the woods to wait patiently for that exhilarating moment when a beautiful buck or doe decides to reveal itself. After two years of hunting, many times returning home empty-handed, that moment finally came for Kurt on a cold November morning, the weekend after Thanksgiving.
His first deer, a 125-pound Middle Georgia doe, yielded about 40 pounds of meat. We had the processor to divide the meat into sausage, ground deer and cubed meat, and I've had fun coming up with creative ways to cook the wild game. If you're familiar with deer hunting, then you know how it all works. If not, when you take your kill to the processor, most deer processors will ask you how you'd like the sausage seasoned, and because deer meat is extremely lean, if you'd like additional fat added to the ground meat. We request mild seasoning for the sausage, and no extra fat, because it gives me more control in the kitchen, and depending on the type of dish being prepared, allows me to build flavors accordingly.
Take for instance my Vegetable Venison Lasagna. Lean and packed with tender, sautéed rounds of squash and zucchini, the dish is seasoned with Italian herbs and crushed red pepper flakes for extra zip. I made it on a weeknight recently and took a shortcut by using oven ready lasagna noodles and a good quality jar of tomato sauce. Topped and layered throughout with fresh, salty Parmesan cheese, the casserole takes about 25 minutes in the oven to bake. This is my favorite way to eat deer meat so far! To round out the meal, I served the lasagna with bread and a garden salad.
Venison tastes very similar to ground beef. In many recipes, ground venison can be substituted for ground beef. It's not gamey as some might presume, and seasoned correctly, it complements pasta, grits and a variety of other dishes. In addition to the lasagna, with Kurt's doe we've cooked deer burger soup, country-fried venison with brown gravy and bacon-wrapped back-strap. For these recipes and more, be sure to follow my food blog on social media or visit SomeKindaGood.com. Good food and good company, that's what it's all about!
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast, aspiring cooking-show host and writer. The personality behind the blog SomeKindaGood.com, she is a graduate of Georgia Southern University and is currently a student at Savannah Technical College's award-winning Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.
Vegetable Venison Lasagna
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 lb. ground venison
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar good, quality tomato sauce
1 medium squach and zucchini, sliced into rounds
2 tbsp. olive oil
6-7 oven-ready lasagna noodles
1/2 cup-1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. each of dried oregano and basil, crushed
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, using a wooden spoon, cook venison and garlic until browned. Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Because venison is such a lean meat, there is no need to drain the fat as there will be very little. Add jarred tomato sauce and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, adding the dried herbs and crushed red pepper flakes. Taste the sauce and season it again with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sqaush and zucchini in batches, being careful to place them in a single layer to brown. Do NOT pile the squash and zucchini high or else they will steam instead of caramelize. Flip the vegetables once during cooking, about 2 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are finished cooking, begin layering the lasagna. Using an 8X8 casserole dish, begin with the meat sauce first, followed by a single layer of zucchini and squash, then Parmesan, then two to three sheets of pasta. Repeat the layers until ingredients are all gone, finishing the dish with meat sauce, topped with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil and finish baking the lasagna for 5 minutes to brown the cheese. Let stand for about 10 minutes before cutting. Slice casserole into six hearty portions. Garnish with fresh parsley.