Fully Wild: Savor the Flavors of Venison with Foraged Chanterelles

Savor the delicious flavors of wild venison pared with foraged chanterelles and a garlicky juniper berry sauce, a savory creation that captures the essence of the outdoors. (Photo: Provided by Austin Murphy)

Social media can be a great thing for myriad reasons, among them being the ability to locate and build relationships with people of like-minded interests.

I love bowfishing and also have a jones to get to Washington for some fishing and bowfishing on the Potomac River. Also, I think it would be incredibly cool to hunt Sika deer in the Maryland marshes (and eat seafood, of course). For all the insanity that goes on in D.C.’s political world, there are outdoors gems to be found and enjoyed just like anywhere else. The shores of the Mid-Atlantic teem with possibilities.

Austin Murphy hunts wild game, such as this Sika deer, and forages for mushrooms and other plants to create delicious dishes.

Austin Murphy and I began following each other on Twitter a couple of years ago. (He can be followed here: @MDVAsnakehead if you’re on the social site.) He’s an accomplished bow hunter and fly fisherman “deeply committed to living sustainably and dedicated to hunting, foraging, and cooking high-quality wild food sources.”

Murphy describes his efforts in the wild as something he thoroughly enjoys while being able to connect with the land and provide delicious food. He often targets exotic or invasive species, such as the northern snakehead fish and non-native blue catfish found in the Potomac River or Sika deer. He hunts throughout the U.S. but spends most of his time in the Chesapeake Bay area pursuing his passions.

This is how describes his hunting, thoughts and prep for the recipes below:

“On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, whitetail deer and sika deer feed on a variety of food sources including acorns, persimmons and wild grasses found on hundreds of small islands sprinkled throughout the tidal marshes of the Chesapeake Bay. These islands, made up of hardwood flats and pine forests, provide food and sanctuary to both species of deer. I killed my first sika deer on public land and was impressed by the herbal quality of the meat; it seemed like the venison was infused with the amazing wild flavors found in this unique ecosystem.

“This recipe will work well for whitetail deer and sika deer. The cooking techniques are relatively simple so it can easily be prepared at home or on the road in a sparse hunting camp. Much of the cooking preparation can be done in advance so the entire meal can be cooked in 20 minutes. This simple meal is designed to provide you with a high-energy fuel source for your next outdoor adventure in your corner of the world.”

Spices included in Austin Murphy’s venison recipe are simple but flavorful, lending additional layers of taste to the hearty dish. (Photo: Provided by Austin Murphy)

Pan-Seared Venison with Juniper Berry- and Rosemary-infused Garlic Butter   

¼ cup toasted pine nuts
(2) 8 oz. eye of round venison steaks (can substitute tenderloin or backstrap)
2 tbsp of grape seed oil
3-4 tbsp. juniper berry and rosemary infused garlic butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs

Eye of round steaks are found on the hindquarter and are often overlooked. They have great flavor and texture so I urge you to experiment with them. When carefully trimmed, these steaks will look a lot like a backstrap. I think you will really enjoy this cut of meat, but you can substitute tenderloin or backstrap for this recipe; just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Carefully trim away fat and ligaments. Tenderize the steaks with a Jaccard or use whatever technique you like.

Rub the steaks with salt and black pepper.

Put pine nuts in a dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat about 3 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown. Turn heat to high and add oil to the pan; once the oil is hot, add steaks. This should make a sizzling noise. Sear the steaks for 2 minutes, then flip and let sear on the other side for 1 minute.

Tilt the back side of the pa and add a generous portion of Juniper Berry and Rosemary infused garlic butter to the top side of the pan. The infused butter will melt and pool in the front of the pan. Baste the steak with the melted butter using a large metal spoon for 1-2 minutes (careful not to burn yourself or the butter). Regulate the heat by raising and lowering the pan from the heat source. The butter should have a foamy texture (this technique is a classic French technique known as Arrosser, which means to baste). Once the butter stops foaming and before it turns dark brown, remove the steaks and check doneness; they should be medium rare to medium.

Let rest for five minutes and slice into ¼ inch medallions. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and a fresh rosemary sprig.

Chanterelles have a rich flavor that pairs well with venison. Add a nice fall cider, ale or red wine to cap the meal. (Photo: Provided by Austin Murphy)

Juniper Berry and Rosemary Infused Garlic Butter
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted grass fed butter
6-8 cloves mashed garlic
4-5 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
4-5 crushed juniper berries

Peel garlic cloves, halve them lengthwise, remove the germs (the sprout in the center of each clove), and chop the garlic. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, smear and mash the garlic until it forms a smooth paste. You should have about 2-3 tsp. garlic paste.

Use about six (4 inch) stems of rosemary. Remove the leaves and discard stems. Coarsely chop leaves. This should yield about 4-5 tsp of chopped rosemary.

In a small bowl, combine garlic paste and rosemary. Add butter and mash together with a fork until completely incorporated. Add salt and pepper.

Crush juniper berries. I like to use a mortar and pestle, but you can use a variety of techniques to crush the berries into small bits, similar to size of crushed black pepper. Juniper berries are loaded with flavor so less is definitely better. If you use too much, your butter will take on an antiseptic flavor.

For optimum food safety and flavor, use butter immediately or shape into a log using parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Locally Foraged Chanterelle Mushrooms
1 tbsp grape seed oil
½ tsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
16 oz. chanterelle mushrooms (can substitute thinly sliced chicken of the woods or oyster mushrooms)
1 tbsp persimmon jam (can substitute fig preserves)
1 tsp finely minced ginger
3-4 tbsp local honey
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (about an inch long)

Heat pan over medium heat and add oil. Add red chili flakes to the hot oil, and let toast for approximately 1 minute. Add butter and ginger. Add persimmon jam to melted butter, stir gently to incorporate and add mushrooms.

Gently toss mushrooms in sauce until evenly coated. Reduce heat to low and add honey. Stir until evenly coat. Cook for 3-4 minutes. The mushrooms will begin to sweat and liquid will slowly thicken to form a sweet and spicy sauce. Add chives. Remove from heat.

Warm vegetable slaw with a hint of spice and sweetness from honey is a great addition to any venison meal. (Photo: Provided by Austin Murphy)

Warm Vegetable Slaw
2 tbsp goose or duck fat
2 cups riced cauliflower
1 ½ cups shredded vegetables (carrots, beets, broccoli)
1 tsp lemon juice

Heat pan to medium, add goose fat. Add cauliflower and shredded vegetables, cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add kale and beets. Stir until goose fat and vegetables are evenly mixed. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice.

Remove from heat when the cauliflower and shredded vegetables soften to desired tenderness.

The warm slaw will continue to cook once removed from the heat so I recommend that you remove it before the kale wilts.

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Cick to learn more …

There’s just something satisfying about knowing you’ve done it all yourself—from pulling the trigger to washing up the dishes. Even better, you didn’t have to pay someone else to do it for you!

Gut It • Cut It • Cook It guides you every step of the way from the field to the table. No detail is left out—from proper field dressing and butchering to storing and preparing your venison.

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