My family is no stranger to eating wild game.
In fact, Moose is no exotic meat in our home. It is more a cultural staple descended from my Dad's roots in Newfoundland (where there are more Moose than people - seriously, look it up.) From my Dad's heritage our house has also always been filled with venison (specifically deer), salted cod, salted beef (you don't want to know - although I admit that I'm the only one in the house who can't stand it.) So I figured maybe, as a family, we'd spread our culinary wings a little and try out some unexplored exotica.
I decided on a sort of tasting menu, cooking what would normally amount to a single serving of each meat so that we could each try as many things as possible.
Even when I was a quasi-vegetarian who avoided most red meats, pork and poultry I would always jump at the chance to try something new. So I was more than a bit surprised that my family members were reticent and suspicious of the unknown (especially given the aforementioned food staples in our house.)
The biggest surprise to me was my Dad, although I have often mentioned Dad's suspicion of pretty much anything I cook, I figured he'd be totally up for this as wild game is not unfamiliar to him. But no luck. Apparently if it doesn't come from Newfoundland he's having none of it.
Still, everyone put on their game face (see what I did there "game" face? Get it? I'm hilarious!) and made the effort to at least try everything I put in front of them.
So let's start at the beginning, I visited two local shops to gather my ingredients.
First I went to Nicholyn Farms a local country market that prides itself on supplying locally produced and organic foods (and at great prices I might add.) From Nicholyn I managed to procure elk tenderloin, bison striploin and pheasant. There was a lot else that I could have purchased, locally raised beef and pork for starters, but I tried to limit myself to my gamey goals on this visit.
Next I trekked over to Black Angus Fine Meats and Game which is about 2 hours from home. However, when you live in rural central Ontario that distance is actually pretty reasonable and it was totally worth it for what I found there. I went a little crazy purchasing some meats that I didn't even manage to put on the table yesterday.
(The Black Angus website is also a great site for detailed information about the game they sell; including flavour profiles and where they source the meat.)
From Black Angus I purchased wild boar in rib, bacon and prosciutto forms, duck prosciutto, squab and quail eggs.
On to the meal:
I prepared everything in the most simple form possible so that we could really taste the flavour of each meat and not get lost in sauces or side dishes.
We started with an appetizer plate featuring the various kinds of prosciutto and a super yummy regular ol' pork prosciutto that I got from a lovely old Italian man who cures all his own meats. I also served some pretty little hard boiled quail eggs on the tray.
Here's a rundown of the various opinions on the cured meats:
Wild Boar Prosciutto (on the right side of platter):
earthy and nutty
more like a pancetta or sopressata
more aggressive than pork
Duck Prosciutto (left side of the platter):
fat melts in your mouth
the spicing was perhaps too strong but the meat itself was wonderful
Enjoyed by everyone
stronger than chicken eggs
slightly gamey aftertaste
I also had some wild boar bacon (not pictured):
very good flavour
more flavour than typical bacon
good fat content and marbling
not as smokey as much bacon
Next we moved on to the grilled squab.
(Please forgive the blurry pic. As I've mentioned, I have to take my pictures outside and it was getting dark at this point - apparently I'm not a very good tripod.)
And roasted pheasant.
There was a very strong response to the squab; not everyone would try it because it's meant to be cooked on the medium rare side, which, brings up nightmares of undercooked poultry. In the end most of us dug in and those who didn't really missed out!
Grilled Squab (seasoned with s&p and grilled on the stovetop):
closer to the texture and taste of a red meat
extremely tender and moist
my personal favourite of the night
Roasted Pheasant (seasoned with s&p, barded with bacon and roasted in the oven):
very tender and moist
poultry like taste and texture
very dark leg meat
Finally we moved on to the red meat portion of the evening with elk tenderloin, bison striploin and wild boar ribs. I also fried up some more quail eggs along with some manchego cheese for a garnish.
Elk Tenderloin (seasoned with s&p, quickly seared and finished in the oven):
interestingly, a mild flavour burt gamey aftertaste and smell
moose like in flavour
very moist and tender
Bison Striploin (marinated overnight in s&p, olive oil and garlic and grilled stovetop):
very steak like
deep, meaty smell
Wild Boar Ribs (marinated overnight in a spice rub, baked in the oven and finished with a homemade barbecue sauce):
stronger taste than pork
tougher than pork
And that was it for our family game night (see that? I did it again! My grasp of puns is really formidable!) It was a really interesting experience both food wise and culturally; seeing the responses to the "exotic" meats.
Today I am exhausted. I always bite off more than I could chew (Huh? You like that one? I was on a roll. It had to be done) but it was really great to sit around as a family tasting and sharing our thoughts.
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