Harvesting game in North Carolina is far more than seeking a trophy; it is about some mighty fine eating whether venison, duck breast or quail.
Talk to hunters about their favorite recipes and you will encounter the simple, the complex and the bizarre. How about fried muskrat or stir fried snow goose or fricassee raccoon or whistle pig delight? These are only a sampling of game recipes offered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission.
Most venison lovers like their meat cooked rare or pink, at the very least. It’s hard to find any takers for well done venison. Walter “Deek” James of Raleigh is the exception.
“I live alone so I like to keep it quick and simple,” he said. “I’m one of the few who prefers venison well done. That’s why we have teeth.”
Here is the James method: Brown in olive oil on both sides half-inch slices of venison steak or tenderloin. Simmer slowly 15 or 20 minutes with onions and mushrooms.
Tom Pate of Burlington who has been eating game since he was a youngster, is a connoisseur of almost any game cooked medium rare or rare, with the exception of quail, squirrel and rabbit.
“The key to it all is to cook it at least medium rare or it’s dried out and hardly fit to eat,” he said. “Venison tenderloin is like a filet mignon two inches thick. Cook on your grill until it’s good and rare in the middle.”
Among Pate’s favorites is dove breast wrapped in bacon and grilled. He also offers up pickled duck breast. Slice the filet down the middle about ¾ inches through. Insert a Kosher dill pickle spear, wrap in bacon, tooth pick together, then grill medium rare.
Pate fondly recalls eating a game breakfast prepare by his grandmother – quail fried like chicken with gravy over rice. One of his old hunting buddies, Smitty Nauss of Pawley’s Island, S.C. shared a unique way of grilling duck breast: filet and skin breast, soak in salted ice water. Then soak for two hours in a concoction of 1/3 balsamic vinegar, 1/3 olive oil, 1/3 Dales steak sauce. Add garlic powder and celery salt to the mix.
“Then the secret is to put the bacon directly on the grill to start it dripping, then the breast meat directly on the heat with no bacon to sear,” said Nauss. “When you turn it, lay the dripping bacon on top of the breasts for basting. Watch close not to overcook make sure it is medium or it will be tough.”
Bobby Glenn Kimbrell, who owns and manages a sportsman’s club near Duke Forest in Northeastern Alamance County, filets out the breasts of a swan then prepares it this way: pulverize the breast until a half-inch thick. Pepper, wash in egg, then dip into House of Autry breader. Fry like country style steak until medium rare.
“Put it on a biscuit and it’s mighty fine on a cold morning,” he said. “No matter what game you’re cooking it’s all in how you fix it; don’t overcook it.”
John Shipley of Winston-Salem, who runs a wildlife management business and grades timber, eats game twice a week.
“My favorite way is to smoke a venison shoulder and chop it up like barbecue,” he said.
Shipley, a die-hard woodcock hunter, loves to eat the little bird.
“Some say it tastes like the worm it eats. To me, it’s similar to dove and has a liver flavor, wrapped in bacon and fried,” he said.
Brian K. Schmidt, a resident of Maryland, is an avid goose hunter who goes afield with Boykin Spaniels for retrieving.
“An easy recipe is to boil the goose breast for an hour, then shred the meat, add barbecue sauce and crock pot for a couple hours on low,” he said.
Another Schmidt method is to slice goose breasts into finger-size pieces, wrap in bacon, secure with toothpicks and grill for 10 minutes.
“They go super quick as appetizers,” he said.
Mike Harden of Graham only deer hunts in November. Then he is busy preparing his beagles for rabbit season. He grills venison tenderloin like a steak.
Harden, however, is known for his rabbit stew. He par boils four rabbits, debones the meat and puts in a pressure cooker with onions, carrots, potatoes, a can of celery and mushroom soup and a cup of red wine. Cook on high for 30 minutes.
“It makes a luscious stew,” he said. “Pour it over Texas toast and with a glass of merlot, it’ll make you wanna slap your mamma.”