The Other Red Meat

For Texas chef Tim Love, venison surpasses beef in almost any classic recipe. By Jonathan Miles

Beth Galton

Picture a 1,200-pound Hereford steer: a big, lumbering slab of thick fat and meat. Now imagine a 140-pound buck, fleet-footed and elegant in comparison, a whole other beast. Sure, they're ungulate cousins, but it's hard to see any similarities. And that, says Texas chef Tim Love, is precisely where we're going wrong.

"They're basically the same," says Love, whose acclaimed flagship Fort Worth restaurant, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, may be the ultimate crossroads of beef and game cookery, a stockyards-steeped eatery where diners veer between Love's 20-plus-inch "Tomahawk Chop" (a massive, bone-in beef rib chop) and a venison chop served with truffled mac-and-cheese, fried artichokes, and a morel mushroom glac¿¿. There are some important distinctions-venison is inherently leaner than beef and more boldly flavored. But, Love continues, "It's meat, period. And if you can cook one, you can cook the other."

This should come as welcome news to hunters who've exhausted their trove of venison recipes, since most of the million-plus beef recipes out there, according to Love, easily translate for use with venison so long as you follow a few rules (see sidebar on p. 61). "Generally speaking, your cuts are all the same-except smaller, which means they cook in less time," says Love, a self-taught chef whose beef savvy dates back to his childhood spent on a Tennessee cattle farm and who can often be found hunting deer and doves at his Oklahoma ranch. "And the cuts are also leaner.

Venison doesn't have the marbling that beef has, so it's less forgiving when you cook it too long. People sometimes complain that venison is dry because it's lean. No, it's dry because they overcooked it. Venison can't be cooked past medium, so if you're a well-done kind of guy, you should stick with beef."

The following recipes-involving a rib eye, short ribs, and tenderloin-illustrate Love's meat-is-meat approach. They're all equally suited to venison or beef. "I always tell folks," he says, "not to learn how to cook a beef fillet. Learn how to cook a fillet." [NEXT "Braised & Barbecued Ribs With Homemade Pickles"]

Braised & Barbecued Ribs With Homemade Pickles

For the Venison Ribs
1 rack of venison ribs, at least 8 bones on the rack, or, if unavailable, 8 rib chops
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1⁄2 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 white onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 jalape¿¿o, split
2 Tbsp. chile powder
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 tsp. dried sage
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 cup barbecue sauce of your preference (Love recommends Stubb's)

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce in a large roasting pan and add enough water to cover the meat. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil; or, even better, both foil and a lid.

2. Place in the oven; cook until very tender (as long as 8 hours).

3. Remove the ribs from the roasting pan and cool in the refrigerator overnight. Discard the cooking liquid.

4. Light a medium-hot fire in your grill. Slice the cooled rack into individual ribs and grill for about 3 minutes per side, or until heated through. Brush on the barbecue sauce and continue to cook, turning frequently, until they're browned but not blackened. Serve with the homemade pickles. Serves 4.

Homemade Pickles
3 cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cups red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves
4 serrano chiles

Pickling Liquid
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 jalape¿¿os, halved lengthwise
8 garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1⁄2 tsp. mustard seed
1⁄2 tsp. coriander seed
1 bay leaf
3 whole cves
3 whole black peppercorns

1. Combine all the pickling liquid ingredients together in a medium saucepan and boil for 3 minutes.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, and pour the hot liquid over them. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours. [NEXT "Garlic-Stuffed Tenderloin With Western Plaid Hash"]

Garlic-Stuffed Tenderloin With Western Plaid Hash
8 venison tenderloin fillets, about 4 oz. each
14 garlic cloves, unskinned
1 cup syrah wine
11⁄2 cups beef or game stock
2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
2 russet potatoes
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced jalape¿¿o
1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cloves in a skillet or pan, sprinkle with olive oil, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. The garlic should be creamy, sweet, and soft enough to squeeze out of the skins. Set aside to cool, and discard the skins. When the garlic is cool, make a small slit in the side of each fillet with a paring knife, and stuff one clove in each. This will leave six for use in the hash.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Put 1/2 cup of the wine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the wine to boil until reduced by half, then add the beef stock. Let this mixture boil until reduced by half as well. Keep warm or reheat when ready to serve.

3. Make the hash: In a medium saucepan or deep skillet, heat the peanut or vegetable oil to 325 degrees. While it's heating, cut the potatoes into thin, 1/2-inch strips and rinse in cold water to remove some of the starch. Blot them dry with paper towels. When the oil is hot (check by dropping a potato strip in; it should sizzle aggressively), add the potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain them on a paper towel, and season with salt and pepper. In another large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over high heat. Add the bell and jalape¿¿o peppers, onion, cabbage, and remaining roasted garlic. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted, then add the remaining wine.

4. Cook the venison: Make sure the oven is still at 350 degrees. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat in a large, ovenproof saut¿¿ pan. Generously season the fillets with salt and pepper and sear them in the oil, for about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven for about 4 minutes, or until the meat is medium-rare. To serve, place some potatoes at the center of the plate, top with a dollop of the cabbage mixture, and top that with two fillets. Spoon some of the warmed sauce over the meat and serve. Serves 4. [NEXT "Seared Bone-In Rib Eye With Fried Artichokes & Mac-And-Cheese"]

Seared Bone-In Rib Eye With Fried Artichokes & Mac-And-Cheese
4 venison rib chops, double-cut, about 6 oz. each
1⁄2 cup Lonesome Dove game rub (recipe below)
11⁄3 cups orzo pasta, cooked, drained, and tossed with 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1⁄2 cup Manchego cheese, shredded
4 artichoke hearts, quartered and soaked in 1 cup buttermilk
1 1⁄2 cups polenta
Oil, for frying
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Lonesome Dove Game Rub
1⁄4 cup chile powder
1⁄4 cup kosher salt
1 1⁄2 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1. Take the chops out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. While they're coming to room temperature, make the mac-and-cheese: Simmer the cream and chicken stock together over medium heat. Add the orzo and cheese and stir for about 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

2. Make the artichokes: In a heavy pot, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. As it's heating, combine 1⁄4 cup of the game rub with the polenta. Remove the artichoke hearts from the buttermilk and dredge them in the polenta mixture. Fry the artichokes for 3 minutes, in batches if necessary, until golden brown, and drain on paper towels. Keep warm until ready to serve.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the chops with salt and pepper and 1⁄4 cup of game rub. Coat the bottom of an ovenproof saut¿¿ pan with a thin sheen of oil and place over high heat until almost smoking. Add the meat and sear quickly on both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the pan to the oven for about 6 minutes, or until the chops are medium-rare. Serves 4. [NEXT "Venison T-Bone"]

Venison T-Bone

Marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sherry
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 onion roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime

4 venison T-bone steaks
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Marinate the steaks overnight in the refridgerator, or for at least 6 hours.

2. Remove from marinade, and allow them to come to room temperature.

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Dry the steaks with paper towels. When the oil in the pan begins to smoke, and drop the steaks into the pan.

5. Cook for about 4 minutes before flipping. Then cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Feel for doneness and remove the steaks when they are rare to medium rare.

6. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes, covered with foil, before serving. [NEXT "The Rules"] The Rules
Don't be afraid to substitute venison in any beef recipe-as long as you follow these guidelines

1) When grilling or searing, shorten the cooking time. "A venison cut is going to be smaller than a beef cut," says Tim Love, "which means it's going to cook quicker. Reduce the cooking time so that you don't overdo it."

2) Remember the fat. Beef's fat marbling allows it to self-baste as it cooks. Venison lacks that feature. If you're roasting or braising venison, drape it with some bacon or pork fat to keep it moist, using a toothpick as needed to secure it.

3) Be a kinder, gentler cook. A hard boil will toughen beef but render venison almost inedible. "Be very careful about this," says Love. When roasting or braising, try to go lower and slower than you would with beef: a decreased roasting temperature, a lesover medium heat. Add the orzo and cheese and stir for about 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

2. Make the artichokes: In a heavy pot, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. As it's heating, combine 1⁄4 cup of the game rub with the polenta. Remove the artichoke hearts from the buttermilk and dredge them in the polenta mixture. Fry the artichokes for 3 minutes, in batches if necessary, until golden brown, and drain on paper towels. Keep warm until ready to serve.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the chops with salt and pepper and 1⁄4 cup of game rub. Coat the bottom of an ovenproof saut¿¿ pan with a thin sheen of oil and place over high heat until almost smoking. Add the meat and sear quickly on both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the pan to the oven for about 6 minutes, or until the chops are medium-rare. Serves 4. [NEXT "Venison T-Bone"]

Venison T-Bone

Marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sherry
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 onion roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime

4 venison T-bone steaks
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Marinate the steaks overnight in the refridgerator, or for at least 6 hours.

2. Remove from marinade, and allow them to come to room temperature.

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Dry the steaks with paper towels. When the oil in the pan begins to smoke, and drop the steaks into the pan.

5. Cook for about 4 minutes before flipping. Then cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Feel for doneness and remove the steaks when they are rare to medium rare.

6. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes, covered with foil, before serving. [NEXT "The Rules"] The Rules
Don't be afraid to substitute venison in any beef recipe-as long as you follow these guidelines

1) When grilling or searing, shorten the cooking time. "A venison cut is going to be smaller than a beef cut," says Tim Love, "which means it's going to cook quicker. Reduce the cooking time so that you don't overdo it."

2) Remember the fat. Beef's fat marbling allows it to self-baste as it cooks. Venison lacks that feature. If you're roasting or braising venison, drape it with some bacon or pork fat to keep it moist, using a toothpick as needed to secure it.

3) Be a kinder, gentler cook. A hard boil will toughen beef but render venison almost inedible. "Be very careful about this," says Love. When roasting or braising, try to go lower and slower than you would with beef: a decreased roasting temperature, a les