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January 14, 2010

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I never thought I would have to wear a chef hat while writing this column. The things we have to do in order to share the entertaining tales related to the outdoors.

For years, I’ve been preaching to my family that we need to acquire a taste for venison. As the ranks of the deer hunters expand at my house, we have more and more opportunities to harvest the healthy food source while enjoying time together in the woods in pursuit of one of nature’s most amazing animals.

Okay, okay, they didn’t buy the flowery dissertation either.

Still it makes sense to me, as much time as we invest in pursuit of deer, we should consider dedicating a sliver of that period to preparation of the meat, the end result of all of our efforts. Perhaps I’m a bit overzealous in this pursuit, possibly because eating is now surpassing hunting as one of my favorite pastimes.

Still I feel a bit obligated to develop a taste for the end results of my hobby. For years we have donated our deer to Share the Harvest or given the meat away to others who desired it, or at times, anyone that would take it.

Finally this year, we were geared up to feast on our deer season rewards.

Wouldn’t you know it, that the entire bow season passed without a single arrow being released by my household. My eight-year-old daughter bagged the first deer of her career during youth season, but for whatever reason, we allowed that opportunity to pass us by.

Again the adults were blanked during rifle season, and we were tied up during the doe season and never even ventured forth in pursuit of said venison.

Finally when much of my wife’s family was back for the New Year festivities, I convinced her to prepare some venison backstrap, which was given to us by a friend. Actually I had nothing to do with, she just announced that deer was going to be on the menu for New Year’s Eve supper.

She worked the phone lines with numerous local connoisseurs learning their trade secrets and preparation tricks. I think she would have made the famous Emeril Lagasse proud, as she put hours into the preparation of the prized meat.

Unfortunately she put just a little too much time into the cooking of the prized centerpiece of the meal. Even efforts to prematurely conclude the cooking process were unable to save the venison from being a tad overcooked. We were warned that the lean deer meat takes far less time to cook to completion compared to standard beef recipes, but we learned this first hand.

I felt sorry for my chef, as she watched what looked like the family dinner from one of my favorite movies Christmas Vacation. I played the part of Chevy Chase, telling her that it was perfect as I gnawed on my portion before swishing it down with a big drink of water. Her sister suggested creating some gravy, well massive amounts of it, and others tried to stem the tide of her welling disappointment by praising the flavor or commenting on the fact that they tasted no gaminess in the dish.

We also may have made a scheduling mistake by following up this trial appetizer by serving a heaping platter of mouth-watering beef brisket and all of the trimmings, sending our piece-de-resistance to the bone plate for feeding to the dogs. (Unfortunately for the future of venison cooking at our home, even the canines chose not to consume the prized deer meat.)

I realize I likely have done little here in this span of words to encourage future venison meals at my home, but a promise is a promise, and I was desperate for material for this week’s column. So if I never eat deer meat again, I owe it all to you readers.


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