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A dish that's got game

January 07, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Chris Nelson grew up in Chambersburg, Pa., and always hunted with his dad when he was a kid.

He continued to hunt until he moved to Hagers-town about 18 years ago, and although he takes his 4-year-old Irish setter, Lucy, for daily field runs, Nelson and his bird dog do not hunt deer or bring venison to the table.

But he fondly recalled the taste of game in his family meals. Roast leg of venison was a Christmas dinner tradition in his parents' home, and the ground venison makes great spaghetti sauce, he said.

Like many who do not hunt but appreciate the taste of venison, Nelson can find the seasonal game in restaurants. A couple of chefs shared their recipes for venison dishes recently.

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Eriksson Hill, executive chef, Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort in Flintstone, Md., said deer are beautiful and he couldn't shoot one. But, he added, he has no problem eating them.

The resort's New Year's Eve menu featured a venison dish - grilled medallions of loin served with a Granny Smith apple relish and parsnip puree.

Hill imports the venison he serves. It's farm-raised in New Zealand.

He described the meat's taste as unique - but not so unique that people wouldn't order it.

Venison is sweet-tasting, he said, low in fat and high in protein. "That's the trend right now."

Because it's so low in fat, it can get dry, Hill cautioned. "You don't want to overcook it."

Christian Asam, general manager and vice president of the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., would agree. He recommends cooking venison to medium rare or lighter.

Asam has eaten venison for years. Bavarian Inn, owned by his parents, has offered a game festival every fall through Valentine's Day for 26 years.

The menu includes rabbit, elk and venison. Two venison dishes are offered by the restaurant's chef, Jeff McGee. One is round cuts from the leg, prepared with mushrooms in a savory red wine sauce, a traditional European entree, Asam said.

A sweeter option also is served. Slices of goat cheese alternate with seared medallions of tenderloin. A port wine and cherry glaze tops off the dish. Asam recommends an Australian shiraz or California syrah to accompany it.

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