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How to Cook Your Gut Pile

Nose-to-tail eating is, like hunting, about encountering the wilderness in all its visceral glory, and it's about the wild adventure lying at the big red heart of carnivorousness.

The Kidneys
Kidneys area tough sell for many people, who are often put off by the dirty work that these organs do, and if they've dared try them are sometimes scared off by the sheer intensity of the flavor—"liver squared" would be an apt description of their taste. (Anecdotal evidence: Lamb kidneys were served at my wedding dinner, and I think I was the only one who ate them.) To experience venison kidneys in all their flavor-bomb glory, do as the Argentineans do with beef kidneys: halve them and grill them plain. The recipe that follows, however, is a gentler introduction to eating kidneys, a south-of-the-border variation on the famed British pub standard of steak-and-kidney pie. This is a great way to use the kidneys of a single deer, since a little goes a very long way. For some added bang, try serving the empanadas with a sauce made from charred tomatoes (blacken a few seeded tomato halves in your broiler) blended with spicy chipotle peppers and some venison stock.

Venison Steak-and-Kidney Empanadas (serves four)

1 CUP MASA HARINA*
1/2 CUP FLOUR
1/4 TEASPOON GROUND CUMIN PLUS 1 TEASPOON
1/4 TEASPOON CHILE POWDER PLUS 1 TEASPOON
1 TABLESPOON LARD OR SHORTENING
1 CUP WARM WATER
1/2 POUND VENISON TOP ROUND OR ANY TENDER CUT, SLICED INTO ½-INCH CUBES
2 VENISON KIDNEYS (ABOUT ¼ POUND TOTAL), DICED SMALL
1/2 TEASPOON EACH CRUSHED RED PEPPER AND PAPRIKA
1 1/2 TABLESPOON OLIVE OIL
1/2 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY CHOPPED
1 POBLANO PEPPER, FINELY CHOPPED
2 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
1 CUP VENISON OR BEEF STOCK PLUS 4 TABLESPOONS
1 TABLESPOON CORNSTARCH
1 LARGE EGG BEATEN WITH 2 TABLESPOONS WATER
1/2 CUP YELLOW CORNMEAL
1/2 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER

[1] Combine the masa harina, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and ¼ teaspoon each of cumin and chile powder in a bowl. Mix in the lard and then the water, adding a little at a time, working it with your hands until a dough forms. Mold this into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

[2] In a small bowl, combine the cubed top round and kidneys with the remaining teaspoon each of cumin and chile powder, along with the crushed red pepper and paprika. Salt and pepper to taste.

[3] Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the seasoned meats, stirring until the pieces are well browned. Put in the onion and poblano pepper, and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until just softened, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in 1 cup of stock and bring it to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons of stock and the cornstarch. Add this to the pan and stir to incorporate. Simmer briefly until the liquid thickens to a gravylike consistency. Remove it from the heat and set aside.

[4] Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fetch the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into eight equal-size pieces. With a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough between sheets of plastic wrap, into 8-inch circles. (Allow yourself some time here; this is a bit of grunt work.) Beat together the egg and water until frothy, and working one by one, brush the dough rounds with the egg wash and place ¼ cup of the meat filling in the middle of each. Fold the round over into a semicircle (use the plastic wrap to avoid touching and cracking the dough). Seal the edges; if desired, crimp them with a fork. Brush the tops with more of the egg wash.

[5] Place the empanadas on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper and bake them for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Serve them hot with a charred tomato-chipotle sauce.

*Masa harina is hominy flour carried by most large supermarkets. If it's unavailable at yours, try a Latin grocery.

BUTCHERING NOTES
The culinary quality of venison kidneys can vary widely, with occasionally unpleasant results. I'd skip cooking those of an old deer or a rutting buck—they can be seriously pungent. Kidneys are encased in a creamy, waxy fat called suet, which is easily removed by cutting into it and then peeling it away. (Birds love venison suet. Pop some in a winter feeder and watch the invasion.) Also strip off the thin membrane covering the kidney and cut out the bean-size core of tube and membrane at its center—a far easier task if you split the kidney lengthwise.

Comments (22)

Top Rated
All Comments
from shootlikeawoman wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

Someday I will eat at Fergus Henderson's restaurant in London. Crunchy pig tails--how can you beat that? Did you know that duck tongues are delicious parboiled, marinated in soy, ginger, sugar and sesame oil, then steamed? Save up your duck tongues in the freezer, then when you have a bunch, give 'em a try!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blind Scud wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

Strangest thing I've ever eaten is pig's snout. It was served on a bun and smothered with bbq sauce. It was very crunchy and tasty. I've heard that deer heart is delicious. One of these days I'll have to try it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from timmy2bears wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

This isn't strange (like duck tongues--yech!), but I almost always eat the heart and liver of the deer I kill. Heart is really delicious and deserves special treatment at a special meal, but the best way to eat a liver is grilled over the coals of a fire, high on the mountain next to the buck you just killed. A little iron to stiffen your legs for the drag back to camp.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

I sing a little ditty each season to the ones I hunt with. It is "Save your Heart for me"!
I eat them with stews, pickled, or just sauteed in butter with onions and garlic.
As for the liver, no thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smitty77 wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

I understand how in the old country every part of the animal had to be used. But eating liver or kidneys does not appeal to me. These organs are pretty much filters and I do not consider them healthy. Either way what one eats is their own buiseness and not mine. I respect it.

I have heard eating the heart of a deer is very tasty. I would be more than willing to try one if only I could get one that was intact.

I have the utmost respect for the game I pursue. I thank the lord for every animal I harvest and don't consider leaving the gut pile for the coyotes a bad thing. I also don't bring the deer back to camp with the vitals still inside. I think dressing the deer in the field right after the kill is one of the most important steps to good tasting venison. I've had to come back to find deer the next day and the meat didnt taste as good as it could.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

When I was a kid we ate lots of chicken feet. They were very delicious. My daughter in law is Chinese (from Singapore) she tells me the Chinese will eat just about anything thats protein including dogs and cats. At a Chinese resturant in London I saw intestines on the menu last Nov.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from stu_manji wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

It is illegal now, due to new child labor laws, but from the time I was in junior high until I graduated high school I worked in a local butcher shop. There was a man who came and collected the chicken feet from us once a week and sold them to other people. Del, until you wrote that, I thought it was a mythe and he was using them for something else.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from patricksholl wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

I have eaten liver, beef and chicken, and rabbit kidneys. I do not like either of these organs and throw them out with the guts. My dislike has nothing to do with their functions but their taste. With birds I do usually save the gizzards and like them fried and as a base for gravies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

Good on you guys, american hunters have a poor reputation for wastefulness, I'm delighted to hear you say you'd like to try the 'ofally good' parts!
SBW

PS Hank is americas Fergus check out his blog
http://www.honest-food.net

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from woofbarkenarf wrote 5 years 10 weeks ago

It's good to see that my upbringing wasn't so strange and uncommon as my wife says. Deer heart, and Liver were typically the first meals we made from a fresh kill. My father would get me to go down to the butchers place in deer and antelope season to collect the tongues, which he would cook in the crockpot or a dutch oven. These were all good eating. Even had some calf brains in with some scrambled eggs once and enjoyed it.

What I was taught by all of this is that you should appreciate the food in front of you for what it is, and not what you wish it to be.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 5 years 7 weeks ago

one time we told a city boy that he was eating a cut of meat from a deer and it really was moose heart! He liked it till we told him what it was

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I think I will leave it for the coyotes and have the warm feeling that I have contibuted to the circle of life.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 5 years 5 days ago

I'm gonna try some deer heart this fall. I'll even have some liver, though I detest beef liver. Hey, if I don't like it, my dog's sure will!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunter Savage wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

i have eaten deer heart and liver the night of a kill all my life . in my eyes it is some of best eating there is on the animal . and don't even get me started on a small black bears liver , my 12 year old son love's it as well

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hoveysmith wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

Check out the recipes in the books Crossbow Hunting (Stackpole, 2006) and Backyard Deer Hunting: From deer to dinner for pennies per pound (AuthorHouse, 2009). These include items like Dear Heart soup (Pun intended. The author claims he wooed his wife with it.) as well as recipes for ground meat dishes and making sausage. Both books take the reader through the meat-preperation steps as well as cooking.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

i wish i could have some deer hearts and livers right about now.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from yellowtail3 wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

hmmm... girlfriend tells me venison liver is good. I think i may repent of my habit of leaving the entire gut pile in the woods, and try some next nov...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from snapperhunter wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

def going to try the heart this season

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from snapperhunter wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

def going to try the heart this season

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from TXBucksnort wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

no way, no how, am I eating guts. Yuuuuuuuuuck!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cranky Canauck wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

THe moose we kill we save the heart and nose for the indian lady who lives on the lake she says no liver,that says it all for me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ray cummings wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

The guy who said there isn`t much you can do with the lungs was wrong. I grew up on pork lungs (when you could still get them from the butcher shop)and love them. When I began hunting (63 years ago) I took neck shots whenever possible to save the lungs on my deer. I like them almost as well as the steaks. All you do is start at the bottom and slice them about 1/4 inch thick until you get to the wind pipe. Simply dredge them in flour, pepper, and maybe garlic powder and fry them. You can salt them to taste after they are cooked. I cook the heart the same way. The liver is best when cooked with slices of apple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from hoveysmith wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

Check out the recipes in the books Crossbow Hunting (Stackpole, 2006) and Backyard Deer Hunting: From deer to dinner for pennies per pound (AuthorHouse, 2009). These include items like Dear Heart soup (Pun intended. The author claims he wooed his wife with it.) as well as recipes for ground meat dishes and making sausage. Both books take the reader through the meat-preperation steps as well as cooking.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

i wish i could have some deer hearts and livers right about now.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from timmy2bears wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

This isn't strange (like duck tongues--yech!), but I almost always eat the heart and liver of the deer I kill. Heart is really delicious and deserves special treatment at a special meal, but the best way to eat a liver is grilled over the coals of a fire, high on the mountain next to the buck you just killed. A little iron to stiffen your legs for the drag back to camp.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

Good on you guys, american hunters have a poor reputation for wastefulness, I'm delighted to hear you say you'd like to try the 'ofally good' parts!
SBW

PS Hank is americas Fergus check out his blog
http://www.honest-food.net

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from woofbarkenarf wrote 5 years 10 weeks ago

It's good to see that my upbringing wasn't so strange and uncommon as my wife says. Deer heart, and Liver were typically the first meals we made from a fresh kill. My father would get me to go down to the butchers place in deer and antelope season to collect the tongues, which he would cook in the crockpot or a dutch oven. These were all good eating. Even had some calf brains in with some scrambled eggs once and enjoyed it.

What I was taught by all of this is that you should appreciate the food in front of you for what it is, and not what you wish it to be.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 5 years 7 weeks ago

one time we told a city boy that he was eating a cut of meat from a deer and it really was moose heart! He liked it till we told him what it was

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunter Savage wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

i have eaten deer heart and liver the night of a kill all my life . in my eyes it is some of best eating there is on the animal . and don't even get me started on a small black bears liver , my 12 year old son love's it as well

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from yellowtail3 wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

hmmm... girlfriend tells me venison liver is good. I think i may repent of my habit of leaving the entire gut pile in the woods, and try some next nov...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from snapperhunter wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

def going to try the heart this season

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from snapperhunter wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

def going to try the heart this season

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cranky Canauck wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

THe moose we kill we save the heart and nose for the indian lady who lives on the lake she says no liver,that says it all for me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shootlikeawoman wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

Someday I will eat at Fergus Henderson's restaurant in London. Crunchy pig tails--how can you beat that? Did you know that duck tongues are delicious parboiled, marinated in soy, ginger, sugar and sesame oil, then steamed? Save up your duck tongues in the freezer, then when you have a bunch, give 'em a try!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blind Scud wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

Strangest thing I've ever eaten is pig's snout. It was served on a bun and smothered with bbq sauce. It was very crunchy and tasty. I've heard that deer heart is delicious. One of these days I'll have to try it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 5 years 14 weeks ago

I sing a little ditty each season to the ones I hunt with. It is "Save your Heart for me"!
I eat them with stews, pickled, or just sauteed in butter with onions and garlic.
As for the liver, no thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Smitty77 wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

I understand how in the old country every part of the animal had to be used. But eating liver or kidneys does not appeal to me. These organs are pretty much filters and I do not consider them healthy. Either way what one eats is their own buiseness and not mine. I respect it.

I have heard eating the heart of a deer is very tasty. I would be more than willing to try one if only I could get one that was intact.

I have the utmost respect for the game I pursue. I thank the lord for every animal I harvest and don't consider leaving the gut pile for the coyotes a bad thing. I also don't bring the deer back to camp with the vitals still inside. I think dressing the deer in the field right after the kill is one of the most important steps to good tasting venison. I've had to come back to find deer the next day and the meat didnt taste as good as it could.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 5 years 13 weeks ago

When I was a kid we ate lots of chicken feet. They were very delicious. My daughter in law is Chinese (from Singapore) she tells me the Chinese will eat just about anything thats protein including dogs and cats. At a Chinese resturant in London I saw intestines on the menu last Nov.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from stu_manji wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

It is illegal now, due to new child labor laws, but from the time I was in junior high until I graduated high school I worked in a local butcher shop. There was a man who came and collected the chicken feet from us once a week and sold them to other people. Del, until you wrote that, I thought it was a mythe and he was using them for something else.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from patricksholl wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

I have eaten liver, beef and chicken, and rabbit kidneys. I do not like either of these organs and throw them out with the guts. My dislike has nothing to do with their functions but their taste. With birds I do usually save the gizzards and like them fried and as a base for gravies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

I think I will leave it for the coyotes and have the warm feeling that I have contibuted to the circle of life.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 5 years 5 days ago

I'm gonna try some deer heart this fall. I'll even have some liver, though I detest beef liver. Hey, if I don't like it, my dog's sure will!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ray cummings wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

The guy who said there isn`t much you can do with the lungs was wrong. I grew up on pork lungs (when you could still get them from the butcher shop)and love them. When I began hunting (63 years ago) I took neck shots whenever possible to save the lungs on my deer. I like them almost as well as the steaks. All you do is start at the bottom and slice them about 1/4 inch thick until you get to the wind pipe. Simply dredge them in flour, pepper, and maybe garlic powder and fry them. You can salt them to taste after they are cooked. I cook the heart the same way. The liver is best when cooked with slices of apple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TXBucksnort wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

no way, no how, am I eating guts. Yuuuuuuuuuck!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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