I didn’t eat much wild game growing up. This is because whenever my dad killed a deer he turned the entire thing into summer sausage and pepper sticks. Trying to eat your way through 90 pounds of summer sausage every year, well, you sort of lose interest. I stopped eating those all together for probably 15 years, and whenever it was offered to me I had flashbacks of my childhood. The few times we did have venison steaks or burger, it was so bad that nobody would eat it. It wasn’t until I shot my first deer that I really made an effort to eat more of the animal.
My uncle was into butchering his own animals and taught me a little bit about it. I remember that Christmas, after I had shot my first deer, my mom bought me the L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook. After reading through it I got more interested in eating different animals. (If you don’t own that book I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.) All the different recipes in there are really what got me most interested in trying new things.
Like most teenagers though, I had other interests and sort of lost the drive to hunt and cook. It wasn’t until after I returned from a stint in the Navy that I got back into both. I still have that L.L. Bean Cookbook and still find recipes in it that I haven’t tried or ones that I have tried but want to give another go. All the recipes in that book are designed for a specific wild game; when I read through my other cookbooks, I have to think about how I can substitute wild game for whatever meat or fish the recipe calls for.
As a general rule, I substitute deer and antelope for pretty much any recipe that calls for lamb or goat. I will use deer for some recipes that call for beef, but I usually like to use moose, elk, or bison. I use ground meat universally and can substitute pretty much any kind of ground meat for any recipe. Last week I saw a recipe on Andrew Zimmern’s website for grilled beef rolls. I knew instantly that I was going to give them a try. My good Friend Ben Pena had just given me 25 pounds of ground bison, so deciding what filling to use wasn’t hard.
For a recipe like this, I wasn’t worried about the meat drying out or falling apart, so I didn’t need anything with extra fat mixed into it. (Wrapping the meat in brined grape leaves means the meat inside is going to steam and won’t dry out.) Lean ground bison was a perfect choice, but any ground game would probably work just fine. This recipe made 15 rolls, but could easily be doubled to feed a large group. These little rolls would make a great appetizer or a tasty lunch.
**Vietnamese Style Grilled Bison Rolls
1 lbs. lean ground bison (or other ground meat)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tsp. Asian fish sauce (I prefer Red Boat brand)
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon honey
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 jar of brined grape leaves
Oil for grilling
Mix all the ingredients except the grape leaves and oil in a bowl and then place in the fridge for 4 hour or overnight. When you are ready to grill, drain the grape leaves and pat them dry. Place two grape leaves on a damp paper town and a spoonfull of the meat mixture. Roll them away from you, folding the side in as you go. Brush the rolls with oil and grill over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, flipping the rolls so that the grape leaves don’t burn. Serve with a Nuoc Cham sauce (below) and garnish with cilantro.
Nuoc Cham Sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons sriracha
In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved.