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5 months ago

DROOL-WORTHY: Sporting chef shares tips for tasty venison

Scott Leysath, The Sporting Chef, slices seared venison hind quarter to prepare a dish for those in attendance at the SEOPA conference last fall. A quick sear is all venison needs and don’t overcook it. (David Rainer)

 

With Alabama in the peak of deer season, freezers are getting full, which means it’s time to prepare some tasty venison.

As a buddy and I were discussing on a trip home from a hunting excursion, venison got a bad rap back in the day because of several reasons. Most deer hunting in the mid-20th century was done in front of a pack of hounds on a hot deer trail. Plus, it was verboten to shoot a doe back then. Hence, bucks replete with rutting hormones or lactic acid from being chased by the hounds, or both, made some of the meat less than palatable.

There was also the practice of hauling a nice deer around in the back of the truck to show all your buddies that contributed to the venison stigma.

That last practice is what really irks Scott Leysath, aka The Sporting Chef, when he hears people complain about the taste of venison. Leysath, who has roots in Grand Bay, Ala., and once produced the “Hunt, Fish and Cook” show out of Huntsville, said the care of the deer carcass right after it is harvested is a crucial step to tasty venison.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Alabama,” Leysath said. “Despite this recent cold spell, it can be a little warm during deer season. When I see people driving around with deer in the back of their trucks before it has been field-dressed, it makes me cringe. As with any animal, you need to get deer cleaned and cooled as fast as possible. If you ride around with the deer in the back of the truck, it’s not going to encourage it to taste good when it’s cooked.”

The best-case scenario, according to Leysath, is to have access to a walk-in cooler where the skinned deer carcasses can be hung for at least a week. He hangs larger animals for up to two weeks. The failure to properly age the venison can lead to a chewy meal.

“I actually had a buddy of mine from Centre, Ala., call me and say he had done everything I told him to do to prepare the venison,” Leysath said. “He said, ‘I did not overcook the backstrap. It was 130 degrees in the center. I made that balsamic dressing to go with it. But it was really, really, really tough.’

“I asked him when he shot the deer. ‘Yesterday.’ He hadn’t given that meat a chance. It has to go through rigor for 24 hours, and then you have to let it hang or age. If that backstrap had been aged for a week, it would have been a whole different animal.”

Leysath said that venison that is frozen soon after harvest can still benefit from the aging process. If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler but have room in a refrigerator, you can put the meat on a rack above a pan and let it age. Another option is to use a large ice chest, but don’t put the venison in the ice. Arrange some method to keep the venison elevated above the ice and ensure the temperature inside the ice chest doesn’t get above 40 degrees.

“You’re going to lose some crusty bits that aren’t going to look all that pleasant after a week or two, but the rest of it is going to be a lot more tender,” he said. “After a couple of weeks, the meat will lose about 20 to 25 percent of its weight, but what is left is good stuff. The dry-aging and hanging makes all the difference in the world.”

Leysath also has a pet peeve about trying to mask the flavor of wild game. He has a friend in Alabama who claims snow goose is by far the best-eating goose. His friend cuts the goose breasts into little strips and marinates them in teriyaki for 48 hours. Then cream cheese and jalapeno are added before being wrapped in bacon.

“That’s the universal recipe with wild game,” he said. “You marinate in who knows what, add jalapeno, some kind of cheese and bacon. Then it doesn’t taste like deer, duck or snow goose. What’s the point of that?”

Leysath said during his travels he has noticed that cooks in some parts of the country are predisposed to overcooking and are convinced wild game must be done all the way through.

“The biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks is to get them to quit cooking their deer quite so long,” he said.

Leysath gave a venison cooking demonstration at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference last fall, and the venison didn’t stay long in the frying pan before he was slicing it into bite-size pieces.

“I just sort of looked at it, didn’t I,” he said with a laugh. “Had I kept cooking it, it would have been less tender. And that was a muscle from the hind quarter. That wasn’t a backstrap. The key is, before serving, cut it across the grain. If you see long lines running through it, you’re cutting it the wrong way.

“And if the internal temperature is beyond 140 degrees, it starts to get tougher. Some folks can’t get past eating medium-rare venison. If I’m doing a seminar, I’ll cover it up with a dark sauce, and they talk about how tender it is.”

Obviously, Leysath does not apply the medium-rare rule to all venison.

“Sometimes, you want to go low and slow,” he said. “If you’ve got a venison shoulder, leave the bone in. Give it a good rub with olive oil and whatever seasoning you prefer. I’m going to brown it and then braise it in a roasting pan with a can of beer, celery, onion and carrots at a low temp. I’m going to let that moist heat do the work for me. After a few hours, the meat is falling off the bone. I wish deer had more than four legs, because those shanks are some of the best eating when you cook them low and slow.”

When Leysath wants to change skeptics’ minds about the taste of venison, he uses this trusty recipe.

Backstrap and Berries

½ venison backstrap

3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

¼ cup red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp berry preserves

3 tbsp chilled butter

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup whole berries

Trim all silverskin off the backstrap and either cut into thick medallions or in chunks that will fit in the frying pan. Sear all sides of the venison in the hot oil and set aside. Add red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and berry preserves to pan and reduce by one-third. Add chilled butter. Slice venison across the grain. Pour balsamic-berry sauce over venison and top with your choice of whole berries.

Leysath also suggested a very simple dish of four to five ingredients with an Asian flare.

Sesame Backstrap

½ venison backstrap

¼ cup yellow mustard

½ cup sesame seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup chopped green onions

Optional: couple of shots of sriracha hot sauce

Take backstrap and cut into thick medallions or manageable chunks. Coat in mustard and then roll in sesame seeds (look in Asian section of the grocery store instead of spice aisle). Sear all sides of the venison in hot oil and set aside. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped green onions to pan. Reduce by one-third and then pour over sliced venison.

“The key is to not overcook it,” Leysath said. “If all of your venison goes into a slow cooker with a can of cream of mushroom soup, you’re really missing out on a whole lot of venison flavor.”

Of course, many hunters will grind most of their deer, save the backstraps and tenderloins. Leysath has a proven shepherd’s pie recipe that gives cooks an option other than burgers or venison chili.

Venison Shepherd’s Pie

The Filling

2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup carrot, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups ground venison

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp kosher or other coarse salt (or 2/3 tsp table salt)

Pinch or two black pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken, beef or game broth

Dash Worcestershire sauce

The Topping

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add ground venison and cook, stirring often, until evenly browned. Sprinkle flour over and stir to mix evenly. Cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining filling ingredients, stirring to blend and cook for 2 minutes more.

Prepare topping. Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a pot. Cover with at least one inch of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and whisk in butter and half and half until smooth.

Transfer filling to a lightly greased baking dish. Spread potatoes over the top and place in preheated oven until lightly browned on top and the filling is bubbly hot.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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4 hours ago

Port of Mobile welcomes home a Harley-Davidson used during World War I

A true piece of history arrived at the Port of Mobile yesterday.

The 1918 Harley-Davidson Model J motorcycle was brought over from France to drive on American soil for the first time since it was manufactured some 100 years ago.

Its current stage of life began about 10 years ago when a wealthy Frenchman named Christophe de Goulaine, of the notorious Château de Goulaine in Nantes, purchased the Model J and had it refurbished, with the intentions of bringing it home to its land of birth.

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Last month, the Harley was put on a ship docked at Port Saint-Nazaire in France and sailed to Alabama’s Port City.

Until Monday, the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile will be displaying the Model J for visitors to see though on Saturday morning, those who want to see it will have to visit the Mobile Bay Harley-Davidson.

“We thought it was a rare opportunity for us to showcase a piece of military history that transited seaports 100 years ago, assisted the war effort, and found its way back home through the Port of Mobile,” Brent Beall, Interim Executive Director for the museum, said in a press release.

After that, de Goulaine and the bike’s restorer, Pierre Lauvergeat, will drive it all around the country: first stop, Jacksonville, Florida.

The two also intend to stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Harley-Davidson Headquarters.

“In all, we plan to complete 9000 kilometers (5600 miles) on a 1918 motorcycle without any special technical assistance,” de Goulaine said.

5 hours ago

Are we making the opioid problem worse?

Opioid abuse is taking a tremendous toll on America, with 42,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 and 343 in Alabama.  The problem involves both prescription opioid-based painkillers and illegal heroin and fentanyl.  Might our public policy response be worsening this terrible problem?

Economists have analyzed prohibition, both alcohol in the 1920s and illegal drugs more recently.  We evaluate prohibition, or any other government policy, by comparing the world with and without the policy in question.  This necessarily involves a state of the world which does not exist.  We will never see the toll opioids would have taken in 2018 if we had significantly different policies in place.  We must construct an alternative.

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Rules govern the construction of alternatives to produce meaningful comparisons. One key is allowing only the policy to vary, not other factors, so differences can be attributed to alternative policy.  For example, prohibition does not automatically stop people from taking a substance.  Some potential users will be deterred because of illegality, but others won’t, as we saw with alcohol in the 1920s.

Economic analysis distinguishes harm from the substance itself and those due to prohibition.  Drug violence, for example, is almost entirely due to prohibition.  Dealers’ cash and drugs are vulnerable to theft, and these thefts will not be reported to the police.  Dealers will use violence to protect, steal or retrieve drugs and money. Walgreens and CVS do not have gun battles to control the OxyContin market.

Prescription painkillers provide a distinctive twist to the opioid crisis.  Introduction of opioid painkillers in the 1990s opened new options for millions of American pain sufferers.  Prescription drugs occupy a middle ground in prohibition, legal under government-approved conditions and illegal otherwise.

Perhaps the major controversy for policy and lawsuits brought by dozens of states and cities against drug companies is the addictiveness of opioid painkillers. Studies in leading medical journals show that perhaps one or two percent of patients using the drugs as prescribed become dependent.  Many of the Americans addicted to painkillers obtained them on the black market or through a bogus prescription.

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration reformulated OxyContin to make the pills harder to crush and make into more potent opioids.  Other restrictions on prescribing followed, and pill mills have been shut down.  In Alabama, opioid prescriptions declined 17 percent between 2013 and 2015.  Yet the crisis has become much deadlier since 2010, with heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths increasing by factors of five and six respectively, with only a slight decline in prescription-related deaths. (Overdose victims often used more than one narcotic, so deaths are described only as related to a drug.)

Heroin, especially when laced with fentanyl, is far deadlier than prescription opioids.  It is tragic when people fall into substance abuse, which often happens after traumatic life events.  Rehab is often not effective until people decide to change their lives.  Unfortunately, public policy may only be able to limit the harm during a dark period in people’s lives, and ensure the availability of help when requested.  Forcing people to turn to heroin by restricting access to painkillers increases harm.

Restricting access to prescription opioids is costly.  Many people can no longer successfully manage their chronic pain, with tragic consequences.  In some documented cases, patients have committed suicide after being denied painkillers.  Any policy limiting access for people who do not “need” painkillers will deny some patients in pain needed help because pain is subjective; no doctor or nurse can know if it is tolerable.  And a strong argument exists that American adults should be able to decide how to treat their pain without the government’s approval.  Libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that free people have a right to drugs.

The concentration of the opioid deaths in regions with dwindling manufacturing and mining jobs suggests a significant economic element to the crisis. And this, to me, is the crisis’ most disturbing element.  America today boasts tremendous prosperity and opportunity.  Given the high overall quality of life today, why is the economy seemingly leading so many Americans to addiction?

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

6 hours ago

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers says Mueller probe should be ended by ‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’

The numbers do not lie: America is clearly starting to turn on the Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller. The IG report on the FBI cast more doubt on some of the players involved and the non-stop media coverage has Americans growing weary. U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told WVNN and Yellowhammer News that this investigation needs to stop now:

“I want it stopped now. I called for that about two weeks ago,” Rogers said. “We’ve passed the one year mark, we have spent $25 million dollars. This town leaks like a sieve on anything and particularly with this group of folks if they had anything it would of been leaked out months ago. Even if they have something, they need to tell us, it has been a year and $25 million dollars. I am a recovering attorney, I know exactly how lawyers work, these people are going to keep running the clock as long as we are willing to keep writing checks every month and paying them.”

Why this matters:

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Congressional Republicans who were inclined to “let this play out” are now openly calling for this to end. They are sighting the lack of results, the length of the investigation, the costs, and even the cloud it is casting over the country.

When asked who should be the one to end the investigation Rogers did not miss a beat, he put that task on one of Alabama’s favorite sons “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.”

Listen to the interview here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

Why Mike Kemp’s withdrawal from BCA is highly significant

As reported earlier today, BCA Progress PAC Chairman Mike Kemp has resigned his position and withdrawn his membership from the group. Kemp was also set for installation as Chairman of BCA later this year.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board has obtained a copy of Kemp’s letter of resignation to BCA Chairman Perry Hand. The letter is dated June 20, 2018.

Based upon Kemp’s position in the organization and the reasons he states for his withdrawal, his leaving BCA is a highly significant development in this ongoing saga.

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Kemp served as Progress PAC Chairman and was next in line for the BCA chairmanship.

The funds in Progress PAC, the BCA’s campaign finance apparatus, typically swell above $2 million during any given state election cycle. As this year’s Progress PAC chairman during a busy state election cycle, Kemp was right in the middle of choosing on whom those dollars got spent. Overseeing the distribution of that kind of money brings with it a tremendous amount of power and influence.

Kemp was also set to take over as the next chairman at BCA. The list of people who have held that position reads like a who’s who in the Alabama business community the last 30 plus years. Kemp was set to join an elite group of business leaders.

No one gives all this up lightly.

And so one can imagine that it took grave concerns about the organization’s direction and actions for him to forego the opportunities that lay in front of him.

Kemp’s stated reasons for withdrawal reveal that deeper problems may exist within BCA.

One passage, in particular, jumps out in Kemp’s letter:

“We must also demonstrate unwavering integrity in communicating with and managing the resources of our membership, to whom we are ultimately accountable. This is particularly true in a time of crisis, like the one before us. I am disappointed that the BCA leadership’s actions to date have failed to meet these standards, and as such, are antithetical to my views in all respects.”

Without elaborating in more detail, Kemp clearly identifies internal communications and financial management as contributing factors to his withdrawal. The organization recorded annual expenses of $4.7 million, according to IRS documents filed in 2016. With so many large members having left already, BCA will likely encounter an even greater budget shortfall. Time will reveal the severity of these shortfalls given that any proposal to dip into organizational reserves requires adoption by the full 132 member board. Additionally, according to multiple sources, a full financial audit of the organization is being pursued.

Attempts at communication within BCA were poor. We have been told repeatedly by current members of the Executive Committee that no one was updated with any regularity. The details surrounding transition were murky. Members feel as if they are being kept at arms-length.

Kemp was a trusted mediator.

Kemp worked diligently to find a solution to the problems that have contributed to this crisis. Other members trusted Kemp based upon his prudent and measured approach. He was making a genuine, good-faith effort to preserve the mission of the organization and improve our state’s economy.

The fact that he has withdrawn completely from BCA would indicate that the group’s leadership has strayed too far from its mission and the problems are beyond repair.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board is comprised of the owners of the company.

8 hours ago

Birmingham doesn’t make the cut for 2020 DNC Convention

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says Houston, Milwaukee and the Miami area are the finalists to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The mayor says Denver also made the party’s short list but has withdrawn its bid.

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A Denver city spokeswoman, Amber Miller, tells the Houston Chronicle that scheduling conflicts forced Denver to bow out.

Turner, a Democrat, told City Council members Wednesday the trimmed field makes Houston’s chances for hosting Democrats “exponentially better.”

The city last hosted a Democratic National Convention in 1928. Republicans gathered in Houston in 1992.

Toyota Center, home to pro basketball’s Houston Rockets, would be the main convention site.

Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Birmingham, Alabama, also were seeking the convention.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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