Wild Eats with Chef Waddy
By: Lynn Burkhead
Straight from the kitchen in Booger Bottom, Outdoor Channel 'Deer Week' co-host Michael Waddell gives an iron skillet discourse on preparing venison with several of his favorite methods
When Deer Week co-host Michael Waddell sat down for this interview, the question concerning his favorite venison recipe brought a chuckle, a big grin and a quick quip from a nearby observer that this might be in danger of turning into a cooking show.
Maybe so, but with all of his experience in harvesting, preparing, cooking and eating wild deer each fall hunting season, Waddell is a great resource concerning all things venison.
"My favorite recipe?" said Waddell. "Look, I'm from the South. So if you're going to be from the South, (then) obviously, one of my favorite ways (to eat venison) is to fry up cube steak."
With some good wild eating tips coming up, here's a hint; you might want to reach for your cast iron skillet right about now.
"Literally, it's very simple," continued Waddell. "You let it sit in buttermilk overnight, the venison cube meat. (As it does), that buttermilk breaks it down, tenderizes it."
"Then maybe put some salt and pepper on it, maybe your favorite dry rub," continued the outdoors television star. "Batter it in flour, (then) fry it up on 350 (degrees) until it's golden brown."
Then what? Well, judging by the force of Waddell's hand claps at this point in the interview, you'd better be hungry.
"You'll think that you're in heaven, I'm telling you," he said.
Check here for all“Deer Week” venison recipes.
Since you've already got the iron skillet out, about the only thing missing at this point might be some fried green tomatoes, the kind of Georgia southern fare made famous by the dish's namesake movie and the Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette, Ga., just an hour and a half up the road from Waddell's humble abode.
If fired venison cube steak is one way that Waddell enjoys the wild deer meat that he brings home every fall, he also likes to turn some of it into ground venison, the main ingredient for rich and hearty stews, soups and chili recipes.
"When you get used to eating wild venison, you'll never buy (store bought) ground beef again," said Waddell. "Any ground venison is just so amazing."
Not to mention a very healthy eating decision.
"It's actually very lean, it's healthy and it's truly organic," said Waddell. "In the world of organic, you can't get any more organic than to go to the wild grocery store, the "Good Lord's" grocery store, and to pick up your groceries (out in the field)."
"You come back, you prepare it, you cook it, and it's way more healthy than what you buy in the stores," he added. "If you start using that (venison) ground meat, you'll never go buy ground beef for your chilis or your soups ever again, I promise you (that)."
In addition to frying up some steak or making stews, soups and chili with his annual venison supply, Waddell also loves to grill up a good venison burger.
As long as he's allowed to make a couple of key cooking adjustments, that is.
"You know, wild game (meat) is so lean, it has no fat," said Waddell. "As a matter of fact, a lot of the wild fat that is in wild deer meat, you want to get that out of it anyway."
Doing so might enhance the flavor and health aspects of the wild meat, but it also presents a new cooking challenge or two.
"Sometimes, you might have to add a little bit of beef fat (to ground venison)," said Waddell. "But if you're in a situation where you've just got lean ground deer meat (and you want to grill up a burger), a lot of times, it's hard to keep those patties together if you want to make a cheeseburger or a hamburger."
But never fear, because Chef Waddy – look out Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay – has got you covered with a couple of key venison burger preparation tips.
"Put you one egg in there to keep it a little bit (more) sticky," said Waddell. "Or maybe (even) a piece of white bread (mixed in). Or you can get some Italian bread crumbs (to add in) or maybe a little bit of blue cheese."
What 's next?
"Patty them up, throw them on the grill just like you do your favorite cheeseburger, (and) grill them up," said Waddell. "(Cook them) medium to rare, and I promise that you'll have a cheeseburger that's better than anything that you'll get at the restaurant."
And maybe better than anything else you'll ever see on some fancy, smancy big city cooking show.
Because this wild dish is tried, tested, and true – not to mention hungrily gobbled down – by “Deer Week” co-host Chef Waddy, with the recipe straight from the home office kitchen down in Booger Bottom, Ga.