white-tailed deer

Harvesting a deer this fall can put meat in the freezer and provide comfort food as the weather turned colders.

NEBRASKAland Magazine, NGPC

With the onset of colder weather, my thoughts have turned to comfort food. A major ingredient in comfort food around my house is, of course, wild game.

There are all sorts of wild critters residing in our four freezers, including doves, squirrels, rabbits, various kinds of fish, snapping turtle and lots of venison. So to make room for this year’s deer harvest, I have been cooking a lot of venison lately. One of my favorite wild game comfort food meals is venison Swiss steak.

I like to cook this dish in my trusty slow cooker, filling the house throughout the day with its increasingly delicious aroma. But I am one of those who rarely follows a recipe to the letter. I tend to toss in whatever sounds good or what I have too much of and do not want to waste. So every time I make something it tastes a little different. I will provide the basic recipe here and encourage you to experiment.

First, you need some venison steaks. Two pounds of meat is about right. You can always double the recipe if you want more. Sirloins, round steaks or chops will do. I prefer to use butterfly steaks that I cut from the backstrap. I split the butterfly completely in two and trim off any connective tissue that may have been holding the two halves together. If your steaks are large, you may want to cut them into smaller pieces – what some folks call “finger steaks.”

Next, mix up some flour with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder in a bowl or zip-close plastic bag. Here is where you can do a little of that experimenting — you could throw in some paprika, Italian herbs, Montreal steak seasoning, whatever you think might add some flare. Dredge the meat in the flour and seasonings, and then lightly brown it in a heavy skillet with oil over medium-high heat. The meat should not be cooked through, just browned.

Slice an onion and layer some of it in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place half of the browned meat on top of the onions, them more onions on top of the meat. Mix one cup of ketchup, a half cup of water and a half cup of brown sugar. If this amount does not look like it will cover all of the meat, just mix up some more using the same ratio of ketchup, water and brown sugar. Spoon some of the mixture over the meat. At this point, I usually toss in some parsley, thyme and/or marjoram. Add another layer of meat onion, ketchup mixture and herbs.

Now set your cooker on low and cook for at least six hours. At the six-hour mark, I check the meat for tenderness and like to add a quart jar of my home-canned stewed tomatoes and peppers, and then let the dish simmer for another hour.

If you are really feeling “wild,” toss in some sliced mushrooms for the last hour of cooking. The flour in which the meat was dredged helps thicken the sauce to a gravy consistency. Serve with mashed potatoes or over egg noodles.

This is an easy way to prepare venison, and it is a dish sure to give you a big comfort food smile.

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Wendy Horine is Nebraska’s hunter education coordinator in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Communications Division. Contact her at wendy.horine@nebraska.gov.

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