Years ago I used to attend the annual Wild Game Dinner at our church. It was a time when women cleared their freezer of the various species their husband had shot in the woods and preserved for posterity. I tasted squirrel, bear, elk, buffalo, raccoon, rabbit, dove, and moose, and some “mystery meats” that had lost their labels. But my favorite was the well-cooked venison and wild turkey (not the bottled kind).
This week I jumped at the invitation of my friend Wesley to join a dinner party featuring a deer bagged on his property along the Missouri River and an elk, compliments of a Colorado hunter.
I arrived in time to watch as he reconstituted the dried morels, that he had collected and stored for just such a feast. The sauce began with chopped garlic and scallions sautéed in butter and olive oil. He deglazed the skillet with a splash of red wine, added a big dollop of red currant jelly, and reduced the mixture. Next he added the rehydrated and sautéed morels and enough cream to thicken. The addition of the gourmet mushrooms created a lively sauce for the meats and an aroma to match.
At the last minute, Wesley gave the elk and venison tenderloins a quick, buttery sear in a hot skillet as guests gathered at the dining table.
Laughter and storytelling filled the room as we enjoyed some of nature’s greatest (and oldest) gifts to hungry humans: wild game, morel mushrooms, wild rice, root vegetables, fresh salad greens, and the fruit of the vine.
Another guest, whose daughter is a food writer, dazzled us with a delicate fruit and custardy dessert, barely sweet: Greek yogurt panna cotta with a honey-fig sauce.
Ahh. . . the joy of good friends, good food, good times. Laissez les bons temps rouler!”