Oh, Deer

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Deer me!

I had the good fortune to come into possession of some ground venison recently, and it resulted in two spectacular meals for the family.

In addition to being delicious, venison is a leaner, lower-calorie option than beef, but it delivers the same amount of protein, slightly more iron and an equivalent dose of B vitamins.

To compare, a 4-ounce serving of venison contains 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of which is saturated fat. The same portion of beef flank steak contains 9 grams of fat, 4 of which are saturated. Venison stacks up well on the cholesterol scale as well; a 4-ounce serving contains 20 milligrams of cholesterol, as compared with beef’s 76 milligrams.

These recipes showcased the ground venison well, but if you are reluctant to consume deer, or can’t get your hands on any, ground beef, lamb or turkey are acceptable substitutes.

Venison Bolognese

This Bolognese sauce employs a wine reduction technique that infuses a richness and depth of flavor which brings subtlety to an otherwise basic dish.

It keeps for several days in the fridge, so it’s a great recipe to cook over the weekend and pull out on a busy weeknight when all that is required is cooking the pasta and heating the sauce.

And it freezes well, so double the batch and have something ready to go when you are caught short.

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pound ground venison

4 large cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes

1 cup red wine

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

Fresh basil and/or parsley for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil with the garlic, salt, pepper flakes and oregano over medium until fragrant.

Add the ground venison and brown thoroughly, about 6 minutes.

Add the wine, lower the heat and cook, uncovered, until the liquid reduces by half.

Add the crushed tomatoes and paste, stir and simmer for 2 hours.

Serve over a pound of pasta, cooked al dente, and garnish with chopped fresh basil and/or parsley.

Serves 6

Venison Meatloaf

This take on the classic updates an old-timer with fresh vegetables and herbs, a heavy splash of Worcestershire sauce and a measured dose of Sriracha. A side of mashed potatoes and a simple green salad will send you hearkening back to the best version of your childhood.

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 handful parsley, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground venison

2 eggs

¼ cup broth or water

1 cup bread crumbs (homemade best; store-bought seasoned or panko work fine)

2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

¼ cup tomato paste

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion, carrot, celery, parsley and garlic until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the heat and cool slightly.

Place the venison, eggs, broth, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce into a large mixing bowl. Mix on low until blended. Add the vegetables and mix again until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into an oblong baking dish and form it into a loaf.

Spread the top of the loaf with a thin layer of tomato paste.

Bake at 375 degrees for an hour until cooked through. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

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