Five Regional Wild Game Dishes

posted on October 17, 2012

Texas Breakfast Tacos

Not to be confused with the immense breakfast burritos of California, breakfast tacos are in every food truck, roadside stand and coffee shop in Texas and have become especially synonymous with Austin. Influenced by Texas’ neighbors below the border, they are a combination of tightly wrapped ingredients that blend together in a paste, from beans, to cheese, to potatoes, to eggs to chorizo, barbacoa and bacon. Adding a little wild hog bacon, wild duck chorizo or venison barbacoa gives it an extra allure. They’re inexpensive, portable and full of protein, which makes them great to carry when you’re on the go.

The Arkansas Whole Hog
One of the questions I get most often is “what is your favorite wild animal dish?”

I always describe a whole wild hog that’s cooked until buttery, either underground or in a smoker, oozing slowly for many hours over coals. From the moment I tasted it, it earned itself a special place in the crevices of my mind. Slow cooking a whole pig has been an American tradition for more than 300 years. It is prepared in some form in almost every Southern state, with various barbecue sauces, molasses rubs and seasonings depending on geographic location. The whole hog I first tasted was in the Arkansas Delta where the Italian immigrants made it common practice to dig a large pit in the ground and cook the hog with coals. It is also a tradition among Hawaiians, where lava rocks are heated and placed in a pit lined with banana or ti leaves, which add insulation and flavor.

Chicago-Style Meat Sandwich
In the Italian stockyards in the South side of Chicago, a special meat sandwich was born that captured the taste buds of loyal devotees, and created alliances that have withstood generations.

The Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich is a drippy, messy, meat sandwich made by slowly roasting beef on a rack above a pan filled with beef stock. The beef is then thinly sliced, soaked in the juice, and piled on a roll with sautéed peppers and sometimes a giardiniera relish. Then more juice is drizzled over the top for good measure. This sandwich works very well with venison roasts, thinly sliced and garnished the same way. It can be even better tasting than beef!

North East Corned Meat
When Lewis and Clark set out on their Corps of Discovery they struggled to find fresh meat, especially during the coldest winter months. The meat they obtained came from hunting and fishing, through trade or through the kindness of American Indians. The Corps ate everything from dog, to whale, to horse, and because fresh meat spoils after a few days without refrigeration, what they could find needed to be preserved. Corning was one way to do it. This consisted of meat laid in a salt brine for several weeks, which allowed it to be stored for much longer.

The Irish immigrants also brought this technique over with them, as did the Jewish culture. All over New York in particular, you’ll find delis serving up pastrami and reuben sandwiches, arguing over whose is the best, much like the deli wars over the Chicago-style beef sandwiches. Corned venison is equally as delicious as corned beef, and interchangeable in a recipe. Try a little corned venison smothered in Thousand Island dressing and see if you don’t agree.

California Cold Meat Noodle Bowls
The Asian immigrants in California brought a host of wonderful dishes with them. The cold noodle bowls, sometimes referred to Bún, are among by favorite. They are a great way to use up leftover meat. Simply doctor it up with a bowl of rice noodles, along with chopped lettuces, herbs, cucumber, carrot, roasted peanuts, sweet vinegars and a dash of sriracha. It is a meal to remember with any wild game leftovers you choose.

What is your favorite regional wild game dish? Share it with us in the comments!


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