When visiting my friend Allan in New Jersey this Sunday, I received an unexpected Christmas gift. Allan handed me a heavily wrapped plastic bag with something hard and cold in it.
“What’s this?” I said.
“I’ve never had deer before. How do I cook it.”
“Just fry it in a pan with a little butter, pepper, and salt. Don’t cook it long. If you do you might as well eat shoe leather.”
I thanked Allan for the gift while wondering if I was up to the challenge of cooking venison. Or eating it, for that matter, as images of Bambi crossed my mind. I would soon find out, as the temperatures in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were an unseasonable 70 degrees F, and the deer was largely thawed when I reached home. I stuck it in the fridge while I searched the Internet for recipes for deer.
There appeared to be two ways to serve the beast: either marinate the heck out of it and then drown it in a sauce, or fry it. Not having the time or patience to marinate deer meat for twelve hours led me to frying, and an extremely easy recipe. Here is the link: http://www.food.com/recipe/easy-venison-steaks-56523
I made my own version, eyeballing measurements, as follows.
I took a large cast iron pan, and melted butter at medium heat. I mixed flour, minced onion, some steak seasoning, and a salt-free garlic and herb seasoning mix, and then coated each steak with it. (I later replaced the steak seasoning mix with red pepper to give a little more kick, and that seemed to work well.) Into the pan they went. The steaks were cut thin, and I cooked them only a couple of minutes on each side. I kept adding butter to the pan as I added another set of steaks – deer has next to no fat so you need to add some, and Paula Deen would be proud of the amount of butter I used.
I don’t eat rare meat, so some people might argue I overcooked the deer, but they still had a red color in the center and they weren’t chewy, so I think they were OK. I served them with pasta and mixed vegetables.
However, after all that effort I discovered I don’t really care for venison, or at least that much venison. After a day of eating the leftovers I got rid of it. Perhaps I did overcook the meat? Would marinating have been better? I’m not sure. However much I enjoyed cooking and eating deer, other meat carries less mental baggage – that night I dreamed I told my young nieces that Christmas was cancelled because I’d eaten Prancer.