Recently, several BHAers had the opportunity to join the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and our conservation partners North Carolina Wildlife Federation and National Wild Turkey Federation at our state farmers market to cook wild game for anyone who wanted to try it.
When cooking for this sort of crowd or even for extended family, I tend to look for preparations that have stood the test of time across cultures, which usually means I end up adapting recipes from the lamb/goat side of things over to venison. This accomplishes two things: it gets away from the can of soup with cube meat in a crock pot that everyone down south seems to think is the only approved deer recipe aside from summer sausage; and, if you do it right, it makes people say, “Wow, that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten!”
In this instance, I went for a preparation common in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Netherlands known as rendang. Rendang came about as a way to preserve meat that still tastes great in hot climates. A large number of the flavor and spice additions have anti-microbial qualities, and properly cooked rendang will keep for up to a month and still taste fantastic. In addition to having a great, not-too-spicy, melt in your mouth and keep you coming back for more taste, it is perfect at hunting camp as refrigeration – especially during hunting season – isn’t mandatory, and it can easily be cooked in a single Dutch oven. With some rice or roti, rendang is a great dish after you have hiked more than you thought you could, carrying more than you should and just want to put your feet up and relax.
With the recipe below, you can leave it a little wetter and get what would be termed a kalio, which is more popular in the Netherlands. But beware, the wetter it is the shorter it will keep.
- 2 lbs cubed and boned out venison leg
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (more or less as needed)
- 10 kaffir lime or curry leaves
- 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2-inch length
- 2 cups coconut milk (more if desired)
- 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
- Salt and sugar to taste
Spice Paste Ingredients:
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 10-15 dried red chilis, rehydrated in warm water with seeds removed
- 5 fresh red chilis with seeds removed
- 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, lightly smashed
- 1-2 shallots
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 1-in. ginger, peeled
- 1/2-in. galangal, lengkuas, peeled
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 candlenut, lightly smashed
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- 1 tbs turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Using a large Dutch oven, get a good sear on the cubed venison, taking care not to overcrowd the pan.
- Once seared nicely, deglaze with a bit of water or shaoxing wine and add in the spice paste, lemongrass, a bit of sugar and the toasted coconut. Stir and cook on med-high heat until the paste changes color, about 5 mins, then add the coconut milk and curry leaves and bring to a low boil.
- Cover and simmer on a low temp for at least an hour and a half, adding more coconut milk or water as needed if things get too dry.
- Cut heat and keep covered for 30 minutes until the meat is tender and sauce is thickened to your liking.
- Serve with jasmine rice and/or roti.
Photos by Author