It’s not uncommon for people who don’t hunt or who have never been introduced to wild game to be a little wary of or resistant to it at first. Perhaps they’ve tried some type of wild game before and disliked the gamey taste often associated with it, or maybe they have heard about various wild animals having a different flavor or smell from store-bought meat that gives them pause. Whatever the reason, it can sometimes be challenging to introduce wild game to your family and friends.
Much like campfire cooking, if wild game is introduced the right way, these tasty dishes can be a real crowd-pleaser. This holiday season, try these eight ways to incorporate wild game in your festive dishes.
1. Prepare Store-Bought and Wild Game Holiday Dishes
You can give your guests the best of both worlds during your holiday dinner by preparing a more traditional meat option, plus a wild game dish (or two) to help ease your family and friends into the delightful world of wild-caught food.
If cooked just right, sometimes your dinner guests won’t even recognize the difference between game meat and the stuff from the store. However, if, for some reason, they are off-put by this new choice, you can keep your guests satisfied with the traditional meat or vegetable options they already know and love.
2. Start with Wild Turkey
It’s likely your guests have already enjoyed a roasted or fried turkey from the store on many holiday occasions, so bringing a wild turkey into the mix is an excellent introduction to wild game.
Keep in mind, because wild turkeys have different diets than their captive counterparts, their meat tends to be leaner and is prone to being over-cooked. But with careful preparation and cooking prowess, you can serve up a wild turkey just as juicy and flavorful as any store-bought bird. When accompanied by all the fan-favorite sides, wild turkey is sure to become your family’s and friends’ new holiday meal staple. And, with a little persuasion, your guests might be open to a full wild game dinner hunted and prepared by you for the next holiday meal.
3. Try Another Wild Bird Dish
Like wild turkey, other wild birds, such as duck or goose, are other game-friendly options that can be easily incorporated into your holiday meals. Given the relatively small size of these meat choices compared to larger wild game, such as deer, people tend to be more open to trying them.
Duck, for instance, tends to have more fatty, tender meat most red meat-eaters are likely to enjoy. And because it’s something they can also find in the store, they might be more open to trying it.
Once you get your company hooked on wild bird meat, you can appeal to their more adventurous side by introducing bigger game, like venison, during your next holiday dinner.
4. Mix Your Wild Game with Store-Bought Meat
If you want to entice your house guests to partake in a new wild game dish, you can help persuade them by mixing it with meat from the store. Knowing the meal contains meat they are comfortable with can help make the recipe more inviting to them while also cutting down on any gamey flavor they might not like.
For instance, if you are preparing venison meatballs or meatloaf, combine the venison with ground beef. The ground beef can distract your guests from the more lean venison meat, and it will offer them a more familiar taste.
Another useful trick is to add some bacon bits to the dish. Bacon-lovers will have a hard time resisting the fatty, flavorful taste and smell of bacon sprinkled on top of the game meat.
5. Marinate Before Cooking
Some wild game, like venison, gets a bad rap for being dry and gamey. While it is leaner, you can marinate it before cooking to help tenderize the meat and give it some extra flavor. The longer you marinate it, the less tough and more flavorful it will be for your guests.
6. Brine Your Wild Game
Like marinating, brining is another way to infuse your wild-caught meat with flavor and fend off the gamey taste. By soaking your game in a salt solution, you can effectively draw out blood and increase its juiciness. You can also flavor the brine with bay leaves, peppercorn, and other herbs to introduce even more flavor.
7. Slow-Cook Your Wild Game Dishes
Like marinating and brining, slow-cooking your wild game can help ensure a juicier, more tender holiday meal. While this method adds a little more time to your dinner prep, it can give your wild game dish a more savory taste everyone is sure to enjoy. Try cooking your go-to wild game in a slow cooker or cast iron roasting pot for enhanced flavor.
8. Make Smaller Dishes for Pressure-Free Sampling
Besides preparing store-bought meat recipes for your more cautious guests, try serving with smaller wild game dishes to give your guests the option to sample them without making them feel pressured. By offering smaller sides, your visitors can taste test smaller portions without feeling pushed to eat more than they desire. There are countless wild game recipes you can choose to add to your holiday meal.
The Final Word
It’s not uncommon to run into some resistance when serving up wild game, but there are plenty of ways to make it more appealing to your dinner guests and incorporate it in your holiday dishes. If you’re hosting a houseful of meat-eaters, a great starting point is to make both store-bought and wild-caught dishes to give your guests a meal they’re comfortable with while also allowing them to explore new options and expand their palate.
When incorporating a wild game dish, you can also ease your dinner party into it by serving up a wild turkey or another small animal that may be more familiar and appealing to them. When introducing a bigger game like venison meat, try brining, marinating, or slow cooking it for added tenderness and flavor.
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