In December 2014, I experienced my first whitetail deer hunt on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It was the final day of shotgun season, and the sun was about to disappear. Just as the last bit of daylight gave way to night, a group of deer appeared and I was able to harvest my first doe. Our guide at Schrader's Outdoors, David Crist, took the doe to Tuckahoe River Deer Processing.
After Christmas, I received a message that my deer was butchered and ready to be picked up. Tuckahoe River Deer Processing is part of the Tribbett Family Farm, which includes approximately 240,000 chickens. When my friend and I arrived, my meat was in an enormous freezer and divided into two large paper bags. We spent some time talking with the Tribbett family about their farm and their impression of this year's deer season before collecting my prize and leaving.
While driving home, we talked about the ways we could incorporate venison into our meals. Given my Korean heritage, an obvious choice was bulgogi (bul-go-gi). Bulgogi is marinated, sliced beef that is grilled over fire or a stove top frying pan. Korean cooking also uses the bulgogi concept with pork (typically spicy) or even chicken. I, however, would be trying it with venison.
Some of the foundational Korean flavors are built from soy sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions and sesame oil. Gochujahng (go-chew-jang) is a hot pepper paste that is frequently added to create spicy dishes and soups. I used the following ingredients for my bulgogi marinade:
• 3 crushed garlic cloves
• 1 teaspoon minced ginger
• 1 chopped scallion
• 1 small chopped onion
• 1 sliced carrot (diagonal)
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup sesame oil
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 cup of water
• 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
• 1/2 cup crushed Korean pear (optional)
The flavor should be a combination of bright, salty and sweet that makes your mouth water.
Next, I defrosted a pound of venison steak and sliced it thin. I hand-mixed the venison with my marinade and let the meat soak. Ideally, the meat should marinate for a minimum of three hours—though overnight is ideal. After my marinade saturated the venison, I cooked it on the stove for about 10 to 15 minutes on high heat. This step will vary depending on how thinly you sliced the meat. During warmer months, grilling the venison bulgogi over a gas or charcoal would be even better.
You can serve the bulgogi with steamed rice and a salad … or with a variety of kimchee (kim-chee) and other Korean pickled vegetables. For aesthetics and taste, before you eat, garnish the bulgogi with one teaspoon of sesame seeds. The traditional way to eat bulgogi is to hold a fresh lettuce leaf in your hand, add some bulgogi, maybe a spoonful of rice and a small amount of gochujahng. Fold the lettuce into a tiny taco, place the lettuce wrap into your mouth and enjoy.
Bulgogi is also utilized in other Korean dishes such as bibimbap (bi-bim-bap) or japchae (chap-chey). Both dishes combine bulgogi and sautéed vegetables with either rice or glass noodles. Better it should go to the waist than to waste, I say!