September 26, 2013


Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The passage of the first cool front of the fall is an annual reminder that I need to look in the freezer and determine how much wild game remains.

After the inventory is completed, it’s time to make plans to do either a little cooking or a lot of cooking.

Sometimes I enlist a little help from my friends, one of whom happens to be David Holloway, the Food Editor for the Press-Register in Mobile.

Holloway readily admits that he’s not the best hunter in the woods, but he does a heck of a job of preparing any wild game with his native Louisiana flair.

“I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, that as a hunter I’m a pretty good cook,” Holloway said. “That’s probably pretty good since the only real reason that I’m often invited to go hunting with friends is my ability to stand over a stove and turn out some tasty victuals. The only really hard-and-fast rule I go by as a successful camp house cook is to avoid killing any of my friends or having the weekend end up with a visit to the nearest emergency room. That’s not a high bar, but it’s one that I’ve so far, knock on wood, been able to successfully walk under.

“One of the hallmarks of the early hunting season menus is the hodgepodge nature of the fare. A lot of hunters find it necessary to excavate the innards of their home freezer for game left over from last year. That’s why these early hunting meals are often a smorgasbord of tasty dishes that don’t follow a regular pattern.”

Holloway’s suggestions start off with a sauce piquant with squirrel. Of course, you can take your choice of meats to use in a sauce piquant. I’ve had it with rabbit and turtle, too; all outstanding.


4 good-size squirrels, cut into pieces

Cayenne pepper


4 tablespoons cooking oil

2-3 tablespoons finely sifted flour

1 large onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

3 cans Rotel tomatoes with chilies

2 cups chicken stock (water will do)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 bay leaves

1 pound andouille sausage, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 bunch green onion tops


Season squirrel with cayenne pepper and salt. In a cast-iron pot, brown pieces of squirrel very well in cooking oil.

Remove meat to a warm plate, reduce heat to medium and add flour to make a dark roux. Stir constantly until the roux is about as dark as chocolate. (Be careful not to get any of this roux mixture on your skin; it burns.) Add onion, bell pepper and celery, and continue to cook until tender.

Add tomato paste and Rotel and simmer for 30 minutes. Add stock, garlic, meat, remainder of seasonings (except for onion tops) and andouille and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, or until meat is tender. Top with chopped onion tops just before serving.
Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.


3- to 4-pound rabbit, cut up

Tony Chachere"s Original Creole Seasoning

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons margarine

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 6-ounce can tomato paste


Season rabbit well with Tony's seasoning. Dip in flour and fry in a Dutch oven in margarine until brown. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic; simmer until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste and enough water to cook rabbit until tender and still have a nice, thick gravy. Serve over steamed rice. Serves four.


1 large venison roast

Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning

1 large onion, sliced

1 package of Lipton's dry onion soup mix

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1/2 to 1 soup can water

Season roast liberally. Place onion in bottom of crock pot and place roast on top. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Makes 6-8 servings. You can thicken the gravy after it's done and serve with rice or pasta. Egg noodles are excellent with this. 


4 pounds ground venison

1 pound lean ground pork

1 package chili seasoning mix

1 large onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped

3-4 ribs celery, chopped

Olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped or minced

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 12-ounce can beer

3 tablespoons ground chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 teaspoons Tony Chachere's Original Creole seasoning

3 teaspoons (or more) ground cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons Tone's beef base soup starter (get it at Sam's)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 14.5 ounce can Navy beans

1 14.5 ounce can red beans

Extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated, or sour cream, to taste

In a large Dutch oven brown meat and drain. Lower heat, add prepackaged chili seasoning mix and continue to simmer. Stir occasionally. In separate skillet, sauté onion, bell pepper and celery in a little olive oil being careful not to burn. Sauté until onions are clear. Add garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add vegetables to meat mixture and combine. Add both cans of tomatoes, beer, sugar and seasonings and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for about two hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will be.

Add beans 1/2 hour before serving. Serve over rice or corn chips. Sprinkle grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese or sour cream on top. Makes 10-12 large servings.










For comparison, my favorite venison chili recipe follows:


¼ cup olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

4 large onions, chopped

2 large green peppers, chopped (optional, my girls don’t like green peppers)

4 pounds ground venison

3-4 cans diced tomatoes

2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste

4 16-ounce cans of kidney beans

1/4-1/3 cup chili powder

1-3 dashes of cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon liquid crab boil (my secret ingredient)

1 tablespoon salt

1-3 dashes of garlic salt

2-3 bay leaves

Heat olive oil in large stock pot with heavy bottom and sauté garlic, onions and pepper until tender. Add venison and brown for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, chili powder, cayenne pepper, crab boil and salt and garlic salt. Mix together and then add bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. Serves 10-12.

The last recipe is probably the easiest ever. All it takes is time.











1 venison backstrap    

1 quart of favorite marinade.


Carefully clean all silverskin off the backstrap and cut into 6-inch long chunks. Pour half the marinade in sealable plastic container.Place backstrap chunks in container and pour remaining marinade over the top. Seal container and place in the refrigerator a week. That’s right, a full seven days.

Get charcoal or gas grill nice and hot. Slap backstrap on the grill and cook until medium rare. You won’t believe how tender seven days of aging and marinating makes the venison.

As we charter members of the “Big Dave” club say, Bon Appétit!



PHOTOS: (By David Rainer) Venison chili, prepared in a variety of ways, is a big hit for game day during the football season or for the hungry hunters at deer camp. Venison backstrap preparation starts with the removal of the silverskin, followed by an adequate covering of your favorite marinade with adequate time in the refrigerator.