PROTEIN WATCH game on
VENISON WI TH SHELL
BEAN/S WEET PEPPER
CURRY AND SPICED RAITA
Yield: 6 servings
2 T. + ¼ cup olive oil, divided
2½ t. cumin seeds, divided
1 red onion, medium dice
2 t. ginger, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 serrano chili, thinly sliced
2 t. curry powder
1 t. garam masala
1 large heirloom tomato, peeled,
5 cups shell beans, precooked in
3 sweet peppers, blackened over
burner, skins removed, medium dice
Kosher salt, as needed
½ t. nigella seeds
½ t. black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves, roughly chopped
2 red chilies, roughly chopped
2 cups whole milk yogurt
2 lbs. venison loin, seasoned for a few
hours with salt and pepper.
1. In thick-bottomed pot, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add
2 t. cumin seeds; saute until just
starting to brown. Add onion; cook
until richly browned, stirring often.
Add ginger, garlic and serrano chili;
saute until aromatic (do not brown
garlic). Add tomato; saute until
liquid evaporates and oil separates.
Add shell beans; bring to a simmer.
Add sweet peppers. Allow flavors to
develop; adjust seasoning with salt.
2. In small pot, combine ½ t. cumin seeds, nigella seeds, mustard
seeds, curry leaves, red chilies and
¼ cup olive oil. Heat over medium
heat, stirring constantly, until curry
leaves are crispy and seeds lightly
browned. Immediately stir into
yogurt. Adjust seasoning with salt.
3. Brown venison in saute pan over medium-high heat. Finish in 350°F
oven until internal temperature is
125°F. Allow to rest.
4. Slice venison thinly. Serve over shell bean curry with dollop of
spiced raita and flatbread.
Recipe is courtesy of Nicky USA.
Alternative game meats such as buffalo, antelope, elk, bison and venison appear on just 2%
of restaurant menus, according to Chicago-based foodservice research firm Datassential. Despite
the underdog status of the niche proteins, more chefs appear to be embracing them. To wit, 45%
of chefs declared game meat a hot trend for 2017, and almost a third of chefs called it a perennial
favorite, according to the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C.
Boulos started incorporating game meats into the menu in 2011. The dishes often appear
as heartier fare on fall and winter menus and have proven popular with diners. “We’re always
surprised at how well these dishes sell,” he says.
Geoff Latham is not surprised that game meats are in demand. The founder/president of Nicky
USA, a Portland, Oregon-based purveyor of game meats, believes the combination of grass-fed
animals and leaner meat are attractive to diners seeking more sustainable sources of protein.
“There is a huge push to promote wild game as an alternative red meat,” he says. “We’re seeing
such good demand from restaurants.”
THE HUNT FOR QUALITY CUTS
Chefs eager to incorporate game into their menus can expect to hunt for sources. Traditional
foodservice companies often don’t stock wild game, forcing chefs to seek out specialty purveyors.
In the U.S., popular sources for wild game include Nicky USA, New Jersey’s D’Artagnan Foods,
Union, and Fossil Farms, Boonton, and Broken Arrow Ranch, Ingram, Texas.
Although game meats can be difficult to source, the novelty contributes to their popularity,
says Boulos. “We like to spotlight these dishes for a couple of weeks to build excitement.”
But limited availability also means premium pricing. Richard Blondin, The Refectory’s
executive chef, uses cuts that are from the most tender, prized—and expensive—parts of the animal
for the entrees he prepares. As a result, prices for dishes featuring game meats are $45 and up.
But game meats aren’t limited to menus at fine-dining restaurants. “We’re seeing a lot of
growth in the fast-casual segment,” says Latham.
Higher costs didn’t stop Sammy Ballarin from building an entire restaurant concept, Sammy’s Wild
Game Grill, around game meats. The menu of the fast-casual Houston restaurant includes burgers, hot
dogs and tacos made with game meats ranging from water buffalo and elk to camel and yak.
Although Ballarin pays twice as much for game as for ground beef, he manages to keep prices
for his burgers and hot dogs between $7.95 and $11.50. “We are serving something that is unique
in our area,” he says. “Burgers made with game meat are more expensive than beef burgers, so the
prices are a little higher. But it is worth every penny.”
ABOVE: Dry-aged Grimaud Farms duck
and geoduck tartare, black truffle,
fermented apple and fried potatoes from
Taylor Thornhill, chef, Bateau, Seattle.
OPPOSITE, LEFT TO RIGHT: Carlton Farms
pork tenderloin from Erik Van Kley, chef,
Taylor Railworks, Portland, Oregon. Nicky
Farms rabbit with curry and coconut rice
from Akkapong Earl Ninsom, chef/owner,
PaaDee/Langbaan and Hat Yai, Portland.