Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Who Gets the Deer? Me or the Dog?

I looked at the text message through watery eyes, trying to make the words make sense. I was sick in San Diego, which is not nearly as romantic as being Sleepless in Seattle. I was on a work trip in which we were trying to fit four days of work into two days. My brain and body were not cooperating. Staring at the text was not clarifying the message. Clearly, this required a phone call. This is the story Dave was trying to tell via text message:

 

Dave and Toni (the Good Captain Morgan) were clearing out deep brush from the site of the future horse pasture (which is a much larger undertaking than we originally thought.) Over the roaring of the chainsaws, they heard a noise. It was an anguished scream of a mammal. Giraffe they thought but no, we don’t have live giraffes on the property. They ran towards the goat pen, thinking something was attacking the goats or alpacas. (Oh yeah, in the last year while I was not blogging we got another goat and two alpacas, who are collectively approximately 300 years old. We will talk more about them later.) A quick head count confirmed the heard was accounted for and everyone was fully intact. That’s when they found Chaos, who gleefully lead them to a mortally wounded deer. I hesitate to call it a fawn because that incites thoughts of Bambi, which makes Chaos the bad guy.  She was a little bad but mostly, she was just doing what dogs want to do in the deepest, darkest recesses of their doggie hearts. Hunt. Even your Pekingese wants to hunt wild creatures.  Or should I say, your Pekingese especially. Those little guys are fierce! Chaos was super-pleased with herself. The young deer was not quite dead but was well on her way and in quite a bit of pain. She had hung herself up in the fence and Chaos had mangled her back leg and underbelly. Dave, bless him, who is not an animal killer by nature, decided the best way for him to dispatch the deer has beheading. They decided Toni was to hold the deer down and Dave was to cut off the head. There was some discussion about the need for accuracy. Toni having survived her tours overseas, did not want to contemplate the tragic irony of losing a hand in a non-hunting accident and Chaos was still attempting to do drive by licks of the deer, putting her snout in harm way. They had nothing to fear. The deer was small and Dave is strong; it was a swift death, worthy of a wife of Henry VIII. Decapitation is not really the Boy Scout approved way to kill a deer but it you are in a pinch, it is effective. Chaos continued to trot around gleefully.

 

Having no knowledge of how to properly butcher a deer, Dave immediately called the woman who helps us butcher the meat rabbits. Just the week prior she and I had been discussing the possibility of me shooting a deer from the front porch (I was kind of joking) and she had said she would butcher it if we did. How’s that for strange timing? Dave and Toni lined the back of Toni’s Land Rover with contractor bags and transported the bled out carcass. I’m not sure what Toni thought she was signing up for when she moved out here but I’m guessing a bloody dead animal in her rugged-luxury car was not on the list. I’m just glad my Subaru was parked at the airport waiting for my return! The butchering went smoothly and quickly. You will be happy to know, I don’t have photos. They paid her the front half and kept we kept the back half, which was then further split between the humans and the dog. Chaos got the mangled half and we took the good meat.

 

(This reminds me of an old 911 call about the deer, the dog and the bambulance. Listen to it here. You will find yourself asking, “But what I want to know is who gets the deer, me or the dog?”)

 

So it came to pass that three nights later, when I returned from my trip and the fever had died down, Toni found a recipe, prepared and served the deer. It was, in a single word, DELICIOUS. I don’t know why people eat anything else. It was tender and flavorful. It puts farmed meats to shame. Also, the berry sauce was to die for. I like it on mashed potatoes, in place of gravy. I might also like it with gin, as a tasty cocktail base. The recipe for the venison and sauce can be found here (you’re on your own for the cocktail):

Venison: http://honest-food.net/2012/12/25/roast-venison-recipe-dumplings/

Sauce is something like this but I think she made it without the meat stock: http://eatlikeagirl.com/2010/10/27/wild-venison-with-wild-blackberry-sauce/

Hungry? Go forth and RELEASE THE HOUNDS! Let your Yorkies bring home dinner. If that dog won’t hunt, you can always buy venison online (or invite yourself to dinner at a hunter’s house.)

(Deer animal activists, while I am sympathetic to your plight and agree with many of your principles, this is not intended to spark a debate about hunting with dogs. The idea of hunting with dogs is discussed mostly in jest. I do not really condone any form of animal slaughter which causes undue suffering and hunting something with a dog does in fact cause undue suffering. This post is intended to have some fun with the crazy things living with animals brings to our lives.)

18 Years. Down the drain.

Some of you know, I am a vegetarian. Was a vegetarian. I say “was” because in the last two weeks, I have had three bites of three different types of animals. All of these animals came from our farm* so I felt OK with the ethics of eating them. They lived a good life. They died a dignified death. (Since I’m thinking about it, put that on my tombstone, please: “She lived a good life, she died a dignified death.”) And I also really, really wanted to use the Le Creuset cocotte that my supremely-talented-at-gift-giving husband got me for Christmas. I was really, really excited about the Le Creuset.

*Technically, one was just passing through the farm, on her way back to her deer family.

So what magical creatures drew me out of 18 years of vegetarianism? In order: rabbit, deer, goat. Yeah, pretty much the three cutest animals on a farm. This is further proof that my heart is black and shriveled. Really though, we raise the rabbits for dog meat. They are fast growers and take very little to get a lot of high quality meat. They are pretty much the perfect homesteader’s meat. If, that is, you can get past their adorable little faces. The goat was also bought as dog food. We brought him home as a little guy and raised him into a strapping young buck. Then just before he turned in to a jerk (as all billy goats do) we killed him. I named him Meat, just in case anyone questioned his fate. It could have been worse. I could have named him Sue. The ghost of Johnny Cash just rolled his eyes.

The rabbit is what started it all. Cpt. Morgan, who is living with us while learning French for the Army and I *PAUSE* This is going to get confusing if you don’t read the post I wrote about her last year. This is not a sign of my alcoholism; it’s her legit name. There are other signs of my alcoholism. Hiccup *UNPAUSE* were at the rabbit killer’s farm getting the rabbits slaughtered when the rabbit killer convinced Cpt. Morgan (can we call her Toni? We’re going to call her Toni) that she had to try the rabbit. Toni was very excited about the idea of eating our home raised meat. She might also have been suffering a severe protein deficiency after her first two weeks with us. I’ll be honest; I was pretty excited about cooking a rabbit. I enjoy cooking. I had recently been reading Jacques Pepin’s memoir, which had in it, aunt’s rabbit recipe. It sounded like the type of hearty, French provincial fare I dream of. Those French country dwellers really know how to cook. So I agreed to have one of the rabbit’s slaughtered for human consumption.

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We waited the requisite three days for the meat to relax, then set out to turn our little friend into braised rabbit en cocotte with mustard sauce. The recipe came from The Apprentice, by Jacques Pepin. I’m not going to put the recipe down here. I don’t want his publishers to sue me. There are several recipes in the book, though it’s not a cookbook. It’s a fun memoir and I highly recommend you buy it, if only for the rabbit recipe. Basically, it’s rabbit braised, cooked to falling off the bone tenderness, in white wine, then finished with a cream and Dijon sauce. Run, don’t walk, to Amazon, right now. We did a couple of things differently than the recipe. First, I wasn’t sure if I was going to eat any rabbit so we attempted to make the stuffing separately. This was facilitated by the smaller Le Creuset casoulet Dave got me, with my larger cocotte. You like how I keep throwing that in there? My Le Creuset. MY Le Creuset. I’ve wanted one for the longest time, I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out the bucks and I definitely didn’t expect one (two!) for Christmas this year. Anyway, the world’s best bakeware couldn’t save the stuffing. We burned the living bejeezus out of it. We tried to save it by adding more water and drinking more wine. It sort of worked. But the rabbit was a whole different matter. It was brilliantly. If you cook, you know how terrifying it can be to try a new recipe, especially if you have never actually eaten the main component of the recipe. Everything with the rabbit was like cooking in a fantasy, Food Network show. It browned perfectly. I added way too much wine but better too much than not enough wine. The vegetable were cooking exactly on schedule, in the same pot as the rabbit, and looked lovely in the Le Creuset. Come on. You knew I had to say it again. I was in the zone. We had Brussels sprouts as a side. Below, you may oogle the dishes as they cook.

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Yes, that is my Le Creuset. Have you heard about it? I got it for Christmas.

End of this part of the story: The rabbit was delicious. Rabbit is all white meat, which makes it like the tofu of the animal world. It tasted like Dijon and cream. I love Dijon mustard and feel that Dijon will make any dish better, especially if the Dijon is stone ground, with huge mustard seeds!

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Since this is a really long story, we still have two more animals to go through, and I have a short attention span, I am going to pause for the evening and finish the rest of this story tomorrow. Or the next day. Definitely this year, unlike the last story about digging up Sheldon’s head, in which all the photos for that were on Dave’s computer that died, so you will never see the end of the story. I know, always an excuse. Just subscribe to the blog, so you don’t have to check in and get disappointed. Or just check back the day after tomorrow to get the rest of the story, disappointment free.