All Fired Up!
Aside from everything being served up with pumpkin spice, autumn is my favourite time of year. The cooler days, longer shadows, the cavalcade of colours and of course the sound of gunfire in the distance.
As a kid I never understood why my father would travel to northern Ontario every year to go deer hunting. Besides the time spent “in camp” with his buddies, I just never figured out why anyone would expend so much energy on bringing home venison and forcing others to eat it. I feared having to choke down dinner when venison was served, all covered with an unpalatable pile of fried onions to cover up its gamey flavour and cooked beyond recognition in an attempt to make it tender or ground up into sausage with bacon to compensate for venison’s exceptionally lean characteristics.
Now that I have an understanding of foods, I appreciate venison and how to properly prepare it. Of all the big game meats, the most extreme variation in flavour occurs in venison. Depending on the species, age, how and where the animal is harvested from all influence its flavour. Deer that graze in farmers fields on corn and apples tend to have a more mellow flavour opposed to those that grow up eating twigs, bark and cedar as they tend to taste like twigs, bark and cedar.
Hunters give away venison like gardeners hand out zucchini. If you have a hunter friend ask them for some ground venison and give it a try in the following recipe.
2 cups Napa cabbage shredded
1 lb ground venison, or pork
4 green onions minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 egg beaten
1tbsp ginger grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp pepper
In a medium sized bowl toss together the cabbage with the salt. Allow the cabbage to rest for 20 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the cabbage, allowing it to remain moist but not wet. In a large bowl combine the cabbage with remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients together by hand. This yields enough filling for 5 dozen dumplings.
2 packages of Chinese dumpling wrappers
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup of water
Lightly dust a baking sheet with the cornstarch. Using your finger, wet the edge of the wrapper with water. Place 2 tsp. of the filling in the centre, fold the wrapper over and pinch the edges together. Pleat the edge by pinching the wrapper a few times around its edge. Stand the finished dumplings on the dusted baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel.
Dumplings can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to six hours. You may choose to freeze the dumplings uncovered on a tray, once frozen transfer them to an airtight container and store frozen for up to three months.
The dumplings may be cooked fresh or from frozen by steaming, boiling or frying. My preference is to fry them. Pre-heat a cast iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil and fill the pan with dumplings but do not allow them to touch. After 2-3 minutes of frying, pour ½ cup of water into pan and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook covered until dry and all splattering ceases. Remove lid and fry until bottoms are golden brown. Serve with rice vinegar, soy and chilli sauces for dipping.
Chef Brian Henry is Owner of Angle Iron Kitchen in Lakefield, & The Spice Co. Best Damned Chef in The Kawarthas!