The bright, crisp days of autumn are drawing the holidays closer with each falling leaf and drop in temperature. Across the country, hunters join farmers in harvesting the bounty of the land, sharing local, sustainable game with friends and family at the table. While game meats can be tricky to make appealing to more discerning palates, these five simple holiday dishes and recipes can turn your deer, pheasant, quail, and other wild finds into a satisfying meal that will have guests asking for seconds.
With many dedicated conservationists and landowners now planting forage crops specifically for quail, these birds have made quite a comeback. When properly cooked (read: not overcooked),
quail is a tender and delicious gamebird. The addition of balsamic vinegar lends a delightful semi-sweet acidic element that pairs wonderfully with the richness of the meat. Tom Minchella, head chef at McKendrick’s Steakhouse in Dunwoody, Georgia, brings this simple but fantastic quail dish to the table for us, and it is always a hit.
With so many options in our local supermarkets, the venerable duck is often forgotten. Many home cooks seem to be afraid of using duck, although it is wholly unfounded; accorded a little respect, this ingredient will delight most any holiday guest and is a lovely departure from the standard fare at most tables. Once again, Tom Minchella uses simple techniques and respect for the main ingredient to deliver this succulent duck recipe, just in time for the holidays.
For those who have never been in love with turkey, pheasant is a delicious substitute. It feels familiar but has its own distinct flavor profile. Also, it is a fantastic canvas for many spice blends and sauces. As with most wild game, the worst thing that you can do is overcook it; watch that thermometer and remember that most meats continue to cook after you pull them from the oven (this is your carry-over time and will vary per pound of meat cooked). Steve Rinella, host of the hit TV show “MeatEater,” shows us how to keep the meat moist while imparting big flavor with herbs in his take on beer can roasted pheasant.
In addition to showing your expertise as a hunter, highlight your skills in the kitchen this holiday with a dramatic and savory platter of perfectly-cooked venison. This time of year, many of us have venison to spare; put it to good use with this stuffed venison backstrap recipe from Scott Rea. Perfect for wowing large gatherings, the bacon wrap not only looks and tastes amazing, but it also helps to prevent the lean meat from becoming too dry.
And more venison (it’s worth repeating)
This last holiday dish is one that, although a little bit more involved, is an absolute showstopper. People who claim to not care for venison often ask for second and third helpings. Garnering a five-star rating from Epicurious, this recipe for roasted rack of venison with dried cranberry gravy is a visual delight with all the makings of the perfect holiday memory. Make sure to save some for yourself.
In the season of harvest and holiday, family and friends gather together for a good food and good reasons. This year, welcome them all around a table filled with local, sustainable, unexpected food that will delight and surprise everyone who tastes it.
From all of us at Ragan and Massey, we send you the warmest of holiday wishes. Game on.