Buck, Buck, Moose
As a follow up to his last book, Duck, Duck, Goose, Hank Shaw hit one out of the park with Buck, Buck, Moose. I’ve been following his website and using his wild game recipes for the last few years and was pumped when he announced plans to write a venison specific cook book and launched a Kickstarter campaign to get it off the ground. Hank is also a big supporter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and an advocate for our public lands and the hunting community. Fast forward to two weeks before my elk hunt and the book arrived. Now, I’ve been butchering and processing my own deer for years and with the help a couple over the counter tags back in the midwest every year we pretty much sustain on venison alone in our house when it comes to red meat. From the time we started dating until now my wife has upped her game in the kitchen significantly and most folks who eat at our house wouldn’t know they were eating deer unless we told them. The reason for this comes down to meat care after the kill, butchering and putting the right cut into the right recipe. These are all subjects Hank covers in his book. It starts with a primer on venison and then gets right to care after the kill and butchering. The advice and instructions are concise, easy to follow and spot on. Even though I’ve been doing this for years I picked up few tips in this chapter to improve the way I do things. Along with instruction on how to get the job done is an explanation of what each cut is and what cuts are suited to the recipes in the following chapters. This is the second key to enjoying game meat, using the correct meat for the correct dish. You wouldn’t use a sewing kit to try to change a flat tire, so let’s not try to make a fillet from a neck roast. Hank explains this “right tool for the job” philosophy throughout the book. The introduction to meat care, butchering and cut explanations by themselves are worth the price of admission, but wait until you see the recipes.
I haven’t cooked every recipe yet, but I did cure a couple roasts as corned elk and made my first successful batch of sausage, his english bangers. I also swapped over to his method for grinding burgers for the grill and coupled with some course ground mustard and a pretzel bun, I may have found the perfect burger. We just cooked one of the corned elk roasts and I was blown away. First, let me tell you that my wife and I eat corned beef year long. It’s sort of a staple comfort food for us. It’s hearty and easy to make, get it to a simmer toss some buttered potatoes with parsley in the oven and go about your afternoon. And let’s not leave out the corned beef on rye sandwiches as leftovers for a couple days. Well, curing the roasts is just about as easy as the cooking. Mix up the cure, make sure the roasts are covered and toss in the fridge for a few days. We decided it’s just as easy to make three of em as it is one so we went big and now have a few meals at the ready. After eating the first one I’m glad we made the extras. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a corned beef roast from the grocery store again.
A few notes on grinding. The advice found in this book is absolutely brilliant. In the past I’ve tried the attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer and it doesn’t suffice. I’ve had mild success and much frustration with an inexpensive manual grinder and this year after filling my elk tag I borrowed a mid priced grinder and a sausage stuffer from my buddy Adam. Eureka! Even a mid range grinder around the $200 mark coupled with working quickly and at the right temperature is incredible compared to the tools and methods I’ve tried in the past. Needless to say a quality grinder is going on my shopping list. I’ve ground bulk breakfast sausage and chorizo in the past (with some frustration), but the bangers were my first attempt at stuffed sausages. After my loose sausage making experiences I thought that there must be some sort of magic and wizardry to making a good stuffed sausage. I kept my expectations pretty low for the bangers but, once again, the advice and methods Hank provides are spot on. I was amazed at how easy the process was and how damned good the sausages came out in terms of taste and texture. I was surprised that my wife and I made something that tasty on our first attempt. If you’re already a sausage savvy chef fear not, Hank continues on into more complex sausage recipes and curing. I’m just not equipped to make some of them, yet.
The book isn’t all about sausage and cured meats though. I just skipped ahead to that stuff. There are wonderful recipes for everything frompreparing the perfect tenderloin steak to interesting offal recipes that I can’t wait to try and everything in between. As for those steaks, venison requires bit of special care on the grill since it isn’t marbled with fat like a lot of beef, it’s not quite as forgiving to prepare. Hank does a good job of taking the confusion out of this so you don’t have to lose any of that backstrap you worked so hard for to trial and error on the grill.
- This book will make you a gangster in the kitchen.
- Save money AND meat by doing it yourself and not paying a processor. This isn’t to say that all game processors are bad, quite the contrary. However, I have heard some horror stories and the cost savings of doing it yourself are substantial. I still take a bit of Wisconsin whitetail to get landjaegers and hukki summer sausages made by a butcher up there because his recipes are simply amazing.
- Use the whole animal. The butchering advice and subsequent recipes will help you waste little meat and if you’re daring the wobbly bits aren’t left out. I was raised to keep the liver and the heart from game I take, but Hank’s book goes further yet. I think we miss out on a lot of nutritious food these days because we are either too scared or too lazy to branch into the world of offal. Some is an acquired taste and some is just plain good. Lingua tacos anyone?
- Speaking of scared and lazy, this book will help you diversify from wrapping everything in bacon. Caveat, you can still wrap stuff in bacon, just not everything. There are wonderful flavors in wild game that need to be experienced and bacon hides these flavors from us.
- Great introduction into home made sausages both raw, smoked and cured.
- You’ll probably end up with some new kitchen gadgets like a quality grinder and some sausage making supplies.
- Oh, and how could we forget that wild game is vastly more healthy than factory farmed meats.
- You’ll probably spend some coin on some new kitchen gadgets. I know budgets and kitchen space can be tight, so fear not, you can handle everything in this book with some sharp knives, a set of pots and pans and a grill. Grinding burger and making sausages are made infinitely easier with a nice grinder and a stuffer, but they only encompass a small portion of this book. Plus, you can buy a heavy duty grinder and a sausage stuffer for about the same cost of commercial processing a couple deer or an elk.
- You may make your spouse a bit uncomfortable the first time you bring a whole quarter into the kitchen for butchering. The good news is, she’ll forgive once she finds out how tasty the recipes in this book are. I’m lucky though, my wife is pretty used to seeing game come into the kitchen and fully supports my diy hunting and butchering habits since it’s supports ou r family’s eating habits.
The fine print. I’m in no way financially tied to Honest-Food.net or Hank Shaw. I bought the book from the Kickstarter campaign at whatever the price was then and I can tell ya it’s worth every bit of the cover price. I’m not receiving any compensation for writing this review, financial or otherwise. Hank Shaw is providing the book for this giveaway. Click here to head over to the GiveAway Page!