By Erik Barber
Don’t get down because hunting season is well past halftime. Assuming your freezer is full of venison, you can enjoy many wild-game dinners in the months ahead.
Venison is a lean, excellent protein source that can be cooked endless ways. Whether it’s venison barbacoa, or backstraps served over a cauliflower puree and balsamic reduction, you can get creative. Just don’t keep it all for yourself. Sharing it with others around the dinner table makes meals more memorable. Before inviting your friends and family, however, consider a few things about hosting wild-game dinners.
It’s hard to please everyone when cooking for a group, so don’t stop at one dish. Make a full-course meal, complete with appetizers and several entrées to please different palates. Consider grilled backstrap, carnitas, or even ribs to ensure you feed everyone.
In fact, encourage your guests to try everything. Wild game can be outside the comfort zone for those who haven’t tasted it before, so serve up some encouraging words, too. If they trust you, and feel comfortable with your group and the setting, they’ll eagerly try something new.
If you’ve included fellow hunters on your guest list, ask them all to bring a dish. Potlucks are a fun way to get creative and try new recipes, but keep track of dishes your guests bring to prevent duplicates. The last wild-game dinner I attended offered everything from mountain lion tenderloin and panfish fillets to sandhill crane and jalapeno venison poppers. As you enjoy a top-notch meal, you’ll share hunting stories and plan future trips.
A cold beer or glass of wine greatly complements any meal. When you choose the right beverage, the flavors work with each other. An imperial stout and a red wine share bold, oaky tannin flavors that work with a backstrap smeared in vegetable oil, coated in salt and pepper, and grilled to medium-rare.
Look for similarities the entrée and beverage share to find matches that cleanse your palate. A hazy IPA might not mesh with venison ribs carrying a smoky BBQ flavor. The tangy IPA, however, works great with a freshly squeezed lime atop venison carnitas.
No rules, of course, dictate how to pair your favorite drink and dish. It’s fun to experiment with new combinations to find the best match. Add another layer to your meal and drink by choosing a beer or wine produced near the site where you harvested the animal. You could also visit a winery or microbrewery when hunting out of state to find a pairing you can enjoy later at home with friends and family.
Welcoming your nonhunting friends into your favorite pastime to share the harvest is a great way to grow our community. Keep that in mind the next time you dig into your freezer for your hard-earned venison. By sharing it, you might create a hunting partner by sharing an open seat at your table.