Trek to Table: Best Recipes to Use Recent Hunting Kills in Holiday Meals

by Kayla Zadel
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Christmas is right around the corner and it’s time to start planning your holiday meals. But why not show off your recent hunt and cooking skills at the same time.

If you’re not sure where to begin and are searching for a recipe, look no further than this. Or maybe you’re trying to make wild game more appealing to your guests with discerning palates. Whatever the case is, take a shot at some of these recipes inspired by the holidays.

Check out these tips and recipes for success!

Tips to Keep in Mind While Prepping and Cooking Holiday Meals

Before any great meal comes together, there’s always some prep involved. This can mean hunting down the main dish, harvesting it so that it’s ready to be cooked and even marinating it to instill extra flavor.

Not only does marinating help tenderize the meat and give it extra flavor, but it can also take away the gamey taste so your guests are more accepting of the dish. Take venison for example, when marinated for at least 8 hours or overnight, the less tough and dry it will be, says Mossy Oak.

Brining is another great option for a hunting kill. Like marinating it infuses flavor and tenderness into the meat. Try soaking your game in a salt solution to effectively draw out blood and increase juiciness. Flavoring the brine with bay leaves, peppercorn, and other herbs will introduce more flavor and can help reduce the gamey taste.

Start by Introducing Wild Turkey

Start with an animal that your guests and family might be more familiar with, like a wild turkey. Wild turkeys have a different diet than those that are farm-raised. Therefore resulting in a different flavor and their meat is much leaner. The brining technique proves very beneficial in this case.

We love Duck Dynasty star Willie Robinson’s smoked turkey recipe. He gives it a cajun twist and roasts it to perfection.

We also recommend trying this Roasted Wild Turkey recipe from Taste of Home. It’s fairly simple and stuffing the wild turkey helps with keeping the meat moist, as well as the topping of sauces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 wild turkey (10 to 15 pounds)
  • 2 large apples, quartered
  • 2 pound baby carrots
  • 6 to 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup French salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan; then place apples in turkey cavity. Place potatoes, carrots and onions around turkey. Pour water over vegetables. Combine seasoned salt, salt and pepper; rub over turkey. Combine remaining ingredients; spoon over the turkey. 
  2. Cover and bake until a thermometer reads 170°, 3-1/2 hours, basting occasionally if desired. Turkey may be uncovered for the last 30 minutes for additional browning if desired.

Duck as Christmas Meal Delicacy

If your guests are game for wild turkey, then introducing them to another wild bird might just be the gateway for trying all exotic meats.

Duck is often underappreciated and intimidating. However, if it’s prepared and cooked the right way, it’s a delicacy of delicious proportions. Give this Balsamic Cranberry Duck recipe a try from Game and Fish Magazine. It combines both a sweet and sour component that compliments the flavor of the duck.

(Photo by Charles Mostoller/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 large duck breast half fillets
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add wine, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  2. Add cranberries and simmer until cranberries soften. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust flavor to suit your own taste. If the sauce is too tart, stir in a little sugar. Too sweet, add a little more vinegar. You get the idea. 
  3. Season duck breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  4. Add duck breasts and sear on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over to brown other side until breasts are rare to medium-rare. 
  5. Remove breasts from skillet and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  6. Slice duck breasts thinly across the grain. Spoon a little sauce on each plate and shingle breast slices over sauce.

Other Wild Birds That Might Fly with Your Guests

Quail is making a comeback and is actually a tender and delicious bird. Giving it an Asian flavor helps tackle the gamey taste. This Asian Style Roasted Quail is a recipe for success.

Birds and beer make a great pair when it comes to cooking. Using a beer can is not only fun but is a great way to get presentation points with your guests. This recipe for Beer Can Roasted Pheasant will guide you step by step.

Tackling Venison

Venison might the most intimidating of wild game when it comes to giving it a try. However, many of us have venison to spare around this time of year. This recipe involves our other favorite meat, bacon, and is great for wowing large gatherings.

This Stuffed Venison Backstrap Recipe from AmazingRibs.com says that this will keep your venison rich and juicy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds bacon
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1-2 whole venison backstraps (loin)
  • 2 tablespoons Killer Hogs AP Rub
  • 2 tablespoons Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub

Method:

  1. Fire up. Prepare a pellet smoker or any other bbq grill for indirect cooking at 350°F. On a charcoal grill, place one half of a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquettes on one side of the grill’s charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Add your favorite wood to the hot coals for smoke flavor.
  2. Prep. To prepare the stuffing, cook 6 slices of the bacon over medium heat, then drain on paper towels. Crumble when cool (you should have about 1/4 cup). Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the pan.
  3. Chop the onions, mushrooms and parsley. Then sauté the onions and mushrooms in the bacon drippings over medium heat. Stir them into the cream cheese, and fold in the crumbled bacon and parsley.
  4. Trim excess silver skin from venison backstraps and cut a slit down the length to butterfly it open. Be careful not to cut through the entire piece.
  5. Season with the AP rub and stuff with the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Lay the bacon strips next to each other, then put the backstraps crosswise over the strips. Wrap the backstraps in bacon, place seam side down on a wire rack, and season with the BBQ Rub.
  7. Cook. Set the rack on the smoker, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 130°F or your desired doneness, about 30 minutes. The bacon should be brown on the outside.
  8. Serve. Cut crosswise into individual pieces for serving.

Futher Tips to Follow

Before we wrap this up and put a bow on it, we want to share a few more tips with you. Cooking your wild game in a slow cooker not only enhances the flavor and the tenderness, but it’s also a great way to set it and forget it allowing you to have extra time to prepare the rest of the meal.

If you want to give your guests options, then preparing wild game as sample bites or appetizers could be a creative way to go. These venison meatballs, duck poppers, and wild boar pork belly burnt ends let your company sample a little bit of the hunt without feeling pressured to eat an entire meal.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

The last tip we have is to mix your wild game with store-bought meat. This might help persuade your guests to partaking in the dish. Knowing that the meal contains something that they’re familiar with can make the recipe more inviting. Plus it will give your hunt a more mild flavor, and not have such a strong gamey taste.

If you’re hosting a houseful of red-meat eaters then it shouldn’t’ be too hard to persuade them when it comes to trying something new. And when in doubt, always add bacon. The smell and taste of bacon is hard for those with the most discerning palates to turn away.

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