Maple-vinegar Marinated Frenched Venison Racks

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Venison is one of those common, yet rare meats to find. Deer are plentiful throughout the northeastern woodlands and has been an important food since pre-colonial times. But somewhere during the history of America, it became a less common meat and though deer still roam in large numbers, it is hard to find venison in the grocery store or on dinner menus.

Most of my experience with venison has been with the wild kind that has been hunted and meant to feed a family for months. There’s only so much venison jerky you can stomach in the winter months before you need to call it quits. But recently, venison has been making a resurgence in fine dining. I’ve had venison sausage, venison ragu, and most recently venison heart tartare.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to receive some grass-fed, free range New Zealand venison from Marx Foods. Venison, like other meats, has unique flavors depending on its habitat and diet. I was excited to compare North American venison to New Zealand venison, especially since it wasn’t “wild” and wouldn’t have the traditional gamey-ness.

Though I created a few meals out of the venison I received, the recipe I am featuring today is from Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking. Since I made this the week of Thanksgiving, I thought it seemed appropriate to reach for a very traditional Native American recipe that was simple and focused on the flavor and quality of the meat itself.

The flavors were kept simple out of respect for the venison and served with a warm roasted sunchoke salad tossed with spinach, quinoa, and a ginger vinaigrette. The meat itself was firm yet easy to chew. Pieces that were more rare tasted grassy with a strong iron after taste while pieces that were more cooked had the texture of pork and a more neutral flavor.

About  the  Venison

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Silver Fern Farms Venison is grass fed and pasture raised in New Zealand’s open fields and rolling green hills.

Farmed venison comes from deer born and raised on lush, green New Zealand pastures and has a fresh, consistent, delicate flavor, whereas game venison comes from hunting wild animals, which provides an inconsistent eating experience and a tough, “gamey” flavor. The animal’s natural leanness means it’s a lighter, healthier red meat option. It has more protein than any other red meat and is rich in iron and full of B vitamins.

Product provided for review.  All notes & opinions are my own.

Thank you Marx Foods for the opportunity to taste this unique venison.

Hawaiian Mac Salad

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Hawaiian macaroni salad, part of the holy trinity that makes up plate lunch, is something close to my heart. Everyone has their own special recipe and every since I visited Helena’s Hawaiian Food this past fall, I’ve been trying to figure out what made it taste so good. My dad clued me in that he uses whole milk in his mac salad which makes it taste creamier and mellows out the vinegar.

So when I saw a recipe for Hawaiian Pasta Salad on Kim’s blog Feed Me Seymour, my mind was made for this month’s Secret Recipe Club pick. Kim prides herself on recipes that aren’t daunting or scary such as: Black Tea Honey SconesPumpkin Spice MarshmallowsButterbeer CupcakesRolo Cookies, and Nutella-stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Since I made this mac salad in the middle of a snow storm, I had to improvise. There was no macaroni pasta at the store so I picked the closest thing; I had to make my own mayonnaise out of olive oil, egg yolks, mustard, and salt; I used almond milk instead of regular milk. Using a more traditional milk, especially whole milk, will make this much creamier and less tangy.

Regardless, this was a mighty fine macaroni salad — 2 scoops of this and some Honey Garlic Chicken really hit the spot.

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Salad with Pickled Beets & Feta

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For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was paired up with Turnips 2 Tangerines. After trying out some apple cider garam masala pickled beets at my local farmer’s market, I decided to tweak Lynn’s recipe for pickled beets. Thankfully I was able to find pre-cooked and peeled beets, so this recipe was even easier!

I simply subbed out the vinegar for apple cider vinegar and the spices for garam masala. I used the pickling liquid to make a simple vinaigrette (1 tablespoon pickling liquid, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or to taste, dash salt and pepper, 1/4 teaspoon mustard).

The bitterness of the greens, saltiness of the cheese, and tang of the beets all go well together. The cider vinegar and spices keep the beets from tasting too “dirty”, but they still keep their earthiness.

I’ll have to go back to Turnips 2 Tangerines and look at the other recipes I was having trouble choosing from, including: Spicy Refrigerator Pickles, Surprise carrot cake, pear nut cake, and chocolate pecan coffee cake!

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Secret Recipe Club