Unless you’re a resident of South Dakota, or maybe found yourself in a dive bar there during pheasant season, you’ve probably never heard of chislic–a culinary peculiarity rarely found outside the state. Within South Dakota’s borders, chislic, which is cubes of meat fried in oil and served with a bottle of Tabasco and some crackers, is as ubiquitous as billboards touting the Rushmore Borglum story or proffers of free ice water from Wall Drug.
During deer season, drive the back streets of any South Dakota small town and you’ll likely come across a group of guys gathered around a deer hanging in a garage. While one wields a knife on the carcass, his buddies stand around offering encouragement, advice, and bald-face exaggerations about each of their respective hunting abilities. There will definitely be a cooler of beer at hand–maybe Grain Belt, but probably more likely Bud Light, as well as a pot of bubbling oil.
Throughout the evening, chunks of venison go into the oil. There’s not particular preferred cut; whatever end of the deer is getting cut at that time is what gets fried. Could be a piece of the shoulder, or maybe some brisket or even scrap of loin. Chislic is the meat of the proletariat, as evidenced by its genealogy in Eastern Europe where shashlyk most likely originated and was imported from by South Dakota’s early immigrants.
Cooked until just crispy on the outside, yet still pink in the middle, chislic can be eaten as is, with a little garlic salt or Lawry’s seasoning, or as a vehicle for any number of condiments, including Ranch dressing, cocktail sauce, even ketchup. In bars, where chislic most likely will be beef or pork (or maybe lamb), you might get a cup of gravy, if you ask the barmaid nicely. No matter how you dress it, chislic is a tasty way to cook up those scraps of deer meat that are a natural by-product of the butchering process.