People are typically surprised by the amount and variety of wild game in my diet. Boar, duck, quail, and especially squirrel, aren’t the most common proteins on peoples’ plates, but I’m out to change that!
Luckily for me, most of the people I cook for are pretty adventurous eaters. Not every cook is so blessed. I wanted to give some helpful hints to those of you who are up for the challenge of cooking wild game, but might be serving some more “selective” palates.
Presenting a picky eater with a thick slab of venison or boar might not go over so well. People may leave the table hungry and grumpy—not the goal. Picky eaters typically go for foods that are simple, familiar and nonthreatening. It hurts my heart a little bit to know that they’re missing out on all the flavors and experiences nature has to offer. In my opinion, the key is to ease these eaters into trying new foods. Here’s a few ideas and recipes that could help open the minds and mouths of even the most critical taste buds.
Picky or not, it’s hard to muster up the courage to eat something that looks foreign to us. In my profession, food presentation is half of the game. Our eyes certainly guide our stomachs. If you can make wild game appear to be nothing out of the ordinary, your picky eater might be less intimidated by this novel beast, and might try a bite or two without even knowing that it’s something brand new. One way to do this is to give your game a little disguise.
Most picky eaters won’t turn down a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. You can easily swap out the ground beef in the meatballs, or any recipe, for wild turkey or wild boar, smothered in the same traditional tomato sauce; they won’t be able to “see” the difference.
Consider presenting your game in a way that your eater is accustomed to seeing some of their other favorite proteins. A delicious impostor. Serve up some Buttermilk Fried Rabbit, instead of fried chicken. There’s a familiar comfort in the golden crispy covering. In order to make the transition to wild game easier for your eater, don’t go too crazy with the spices. First, try using your own family’s recipe for the fried-chicken batter, just swap out the protein. Keeping with familiar, and approved of, tastes could act as a stepping-stone to trying some more adventurous recipes.
You could always literally hide the game in the meal. This tactic is as old as time, but usually applied to veggies. Dishes that include finely chopping or mixing in the wild game can help get their palate accustomed to the taste. Perhaps try mixing some wild boar into a Bolognese or topping your next Friday-night pizza with indistinguishable bits of bison, with the added cover of melted cheese, to slyly introduce these new proteins.
Picky eaters—kiddos and adults alike—aren’t big fans of the risk associated with trying new foods. Typically, they’ll come to find out the risk of trying wild game is one worth taking. You simply have to make the dish familiar enough that the picky eater feels comfortable trying it. Hopefully these tips will help you brave the novelty of preparing wild game while easing your discerning diners into tasting it.