Cooking game meat can be tougher than tracking down the prey from which it originated, but it doesn’t have to be.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife is planning cooking classes to help hunters understand the way to handle and cook game meat. The first was on March 22 and saw 60 participants at Technique restaurant on the campus of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, 1451 Center Crossing Road. The idea stemmed from the basic course required to get one’s hunting license.
“Anybody born after Jan. 1, 1960, in Nevada has to take that course,” said John McKay, NDOW statewide outdoor education coordinator. “But that just gets them out there, out in the field. Now, we have these advance courses to teach them more skill-based kinds of things. A glaring need seemed to be in the care and cooking of wild game.”
Topics include game care, processing and storage. He said people are often hesitant to approach NDOW workers for advice.
“Whether it’s not learning proper techniques in the first place, being afraid to ask questions or listening to the old wives’ tales out there, many hunters don’t seem to know the basic principles necessary to first get their game home in good shape and then do their harvest justice when preparing it,” McKay said.
Martin Olson, NDOW Southern Region hunter education coordinator, was tapped to discuss how to address the meat in the wild so it doesn’t spoil.
“A lot of people back east go deer hunting, and it’s 35 degrees outside, so you can hang a deer in a tree like it’s in a refrigerator,” Olson said. “Out here, you can’t do that.”
He knows the techniques to field dress the animal and transport it. He said wild game doesn’t have the fat and marbling found in farm-raised animals, so it’s easy to overcook. As for that gamey taste, he said that comes from not getting the hide off the animal soon enough.
“The two principles we’re trying to get across is, first and foremost, the quality of your meal depends on how well you take care of the meat in the field. You have to get it home clean, cool and dry,” McKay said. “No amount of spice or marinade can cover up for a bad product to start.”
Olson flew to Maine last fall, when he drew a tag for moose. He killed a 1,000-pound one, and some of that meat was used in the class to make chicken fried moose with country gravy. He also killed a whitetail deer in Alberta, Canada, this winter (Nevada has only mule deer). It was used for two dishes: venison sausage and venison goulash.
“Next time, Le Cordon Bleu will probably purchase the meat from a game farm, so you won’t get moose,” Olson warned those planning to sign up for the second session. “It’s a little tough to come by.”
Chef Michael Anderson, lead chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, agreed to cook the meals.
“People do things like your basic stews, chilis, things like that,” McKay said. “But one of the principles we wanted to teach was that wild game can be used for the same things as any other domesticated meat.”
He participated in a cooking class that his counterparts in California offered last May at The International Culinary Center in Campbell, Calif. It included recipes such as bear pot stickers, venison stroganoff and a horseradish-crusted venison steak. He took notes and brought the idea back to Nevada.
In January, NDOW hosted its first cooking class in the Reno area at an independent cooking school called Nothing To It! Cooking School & Kitchen Store. Olson went to Reno to observe the class and learned that within four hours of announcing it in an email blast, all 60 spots were reserved, with a waiting list of another 60. Nothing To It! said it was the fastest a class has filled up.
McKay said the response showed the need for such instruction and “we had a lot of email response from folks down in Clark County asking, ‘Hey, when are you going to do that here?’ ”
The next one is planned for June, to be followed by another in October or November. The cost for each class is $40 per person. They will cover cooking fish, upland game and waterfowl. Details will be posted at ndow.org.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.