The Gleeful Gourmand: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Venison Burgers With The Volume Set At 10

Last Fall, my husband, Buck, was fortunate enough to go out with one of our friends to hunt deer. He was excited because he's always enjoyed hunting, but very rarely able to do so. The last time he went hunting was about 10 years ago on a bitter cold Maryland morning. He was the only person in his hunting party to shoot a deer. He'd never even been deer hunting before (Bow hunting wild pigs in Hawaii, yes. Deer hunting, no.) Could he replicate his (long) past success?

It wasn't looking good. The light was dwindling in the late afternoon sky, and the final moments when one can legally shoot deer was ticking down. He had seen a couple of deer earlier, but none were close enough to shoot. Ready to climb out of the tree stand, he happened to glance across the field and saw a buck crossing the street. The buck stopped after a few feet, putting it about 150 yards away, and my husband knew it was now or never. He took the shot, and the buck jumped; luckily (and maybe incredibly) running towards him. He took another shot and hit him, and when it finally came close enough, he shot it again, putting it down.

Yes. Buck killed a buck. Meanwhile, our friend texted him: "What's with all the shooting? Are you starting WWIII over there?"

My Buck was elated, and even did a dance. It was captured on video, but regrettably for me, and for you, it was too dark to see it clearly. I'm sure you all can paint a vivid enough picture in your imaginations.

We now had a lot of venison on our hands. Ground venison. Venison steaks. Summer sausages. Ground venison sausages. Our freezer was stocked. Now what in the world would we do with it all? It's a good thing I like venison (the taste is excellent, and it's one of the leanest red meats you can have), so we had fun trying various ways to use it up. One of my favorites was using the sausage in a frittata loaded with veggies and some parmesan.

A couple of weeks ago, Buck decided to use the last of the ground venison and venison sausage to make burgers. I was pretty apprehensive - I've never had sausage in my burger, but what the heck, I was willing to try it.

Ground venison and sausage venison burger. So very, very yummy.

It was beyond delicious. Juicy, and so flavorful I could feel fireworks going off on my tastebuds, it may have been the best burger my husband has ever made. He employed some pretty interesting spices in the mix, and not the kind you would automatically think would work well with burgers, but oh man, did they ever. We caramelized some onions to go on top, and piled on some buttery-soft Boston Bibb lettuce. We smeared Dijon mustard on the toasted buns, the perfect compliment to (possibly) the perfect burger.

Here's how he did it:

• 1 pound ground venison to 1 pound seasoned venison sausage (If you don't have venison, try an equal mixture of ground beef and seasoned pork sausage)
• Worcestershire Sauce
• Liquid Smoke (all natural)
• A few dashes of Soy Sauce (reduced sodium)
• Kosher Salt
• Paprika
• Garlic Powder
• Freshly ground Black Pepper
• Pinch of Chili Powder
• Italian Herb Mix (the kind you can grind) - sparingly

Mix all ingredients, but don't over-mix. Form patties without squishing too much (this will cause the burgers to dry out quick). Just before putting on the grill, make a small indentation with your thumb into the patty, and put an equally small pat of butter in the indentation (this will keep it nice and moist). On a medium flame, grill to your preference. Top with the following on a toasted hamburger bun:

• One onion sliced, and caramelized in a little butter and olive oil
• Boston Bibb Lettuce
• Dijon Mustard

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mom's Gazpacho

Every family has a special recipe that the matriarch or patriarch guards cautiously from prying eyes. You know the one. It's so coveted that whenever it makes its appearance on the family dinner table or buffet at a party, the whole gang cheers and slaps hands. It's the type of recipe that you don't feel right asking if it could be made for a special occasion, because it's so precious that it has to be offered by the one in charge of it.

My Mom's Gazpacho is that dish for me and my family. It only gets made a couple of times a year, in the summer when vegetables are at the peak of their bounty and freshness; and is definitely made for our 4th of July dinner. I can't remember there ever being a 4th of July, no matter where we were, that her Gazpacho wasn't on the table. Even though we expected it each year, we still would ask, a gleam in our eyes, a hushed reverence in our tone, "And you're making the Gazpacho, right? Right?"

And so it begins...
I have had plenty of Gazpacho at restaurants and none of them compare to my mother's. Maybe it's just the happy memory of my youth rushing through with the first bite. That first crunch of a tender, fresh pepper; the tang of the soup bursting on my tongue, showing me pictures in my mind of family and friends, catching lightning bugs, and watching fireworks. Or maybe hers really, truly is the best.

My hand is starting to cramp from all the chopping. I need another glass of wine.

And yes, you read that right. I said crunch. That's what sets this recipe far apart from all the other Gazpachos out there. Instead of being puréed into a smooth, textureless soup, this one boasts finely diced veggies, so that every mouthful brings cold, crunchy delight. You can actually taste all the flavors of each vegetable as you eat. Peppers, tomatoes (Mom says Jersey are the best, I say Hanover are), celery, and olives. Oh! That's another big thing. I hate olives. I hate them with a nauseated fire of a thousand suns. But I actually like them in this Gazpacho. That's how miraculous this recipe is.

I admit that it's a lot of work to finely dice all those veggies instead of throwing them into a food processor, but it's so worth it. Especially if you have someone who's willing to help you slice and dice (offering them a nice glass of wine while you work doesn't hurt either). Mom says that as much as she hates to part with this recipe, I earned it being passed along after all the years of helping her chop. Taken from the pages of Southern Living Magazine (we think) decades ago, she's changed enough of the recipe to now call it her own. Don't let summer slip away without giving it a try yourself.

This doesn't exactly show off our knife skills (hello huge chunk of radish), but it still tasted amazing.

Mom's Gazpacho

4 slices of bread, without crust and cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup of oil (vegetable is best)
3 Tbsp. +++ of white wine vinegar (to taste)

Put salt, garlic, oil and vinegar in the bottom of a large pot. Mash and mix, then add cubed bread and thoroughly mash and mix. Taste just a small bit of bread to make sure the mixture has enough tang. The following vegetables should be peeled, seeded, and finely diced:

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large cucumber
small bag of radishes (not peeled)
1 can of pitted, drained black olives (not peeled)
2 stalks of celery
1 red onion
1 small mild chili pepper (optional)

Add veggies to the above mixture, stirring well. Add 8 ounces of tomato juice, and 2 ice cube, mixing well again. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Enjoy! And thanks, Mom!