Fall is finally here, which means hunting season and restaurant menus aiming at wild game. Lower in fat, higher in protein and overall delicious in many guises, here are three top Texas wild game dishes to put on your radar.
The iconic Rainbow Lodge has been touted in the national press as one of the best restaurants in the country for wild game, which makes Houston proud. Its popular Taste of the Wild sampler is great for a group to explore new wild game meats and cooking techniques.
But for an entrée, we cannot resist the gorgeously presented Grilled Elk Chop with vegetable enchiladas, charred tomato ancho mole, and garden squash blossoms. Elk meat (a part of the venison family) tastes similar to beef with a clean, almost sweet flavor. This elk chop is thick and super meaty but lean and cooked precisely on the grill to retain its juiciness.
Chef Mark Schmidt adds an attractive Tex-Mex touch with tender veggie-stuffed enchiladas smothered in a deep, nicely balanced mole sauce kissed with spice and chocolate notes. The freshly picked squash blossoms sweetly gild the lily.
Chef Jeff White of the Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden in the Pearl complex makes a delicious, substantial entrée out of quail, a bird that often seems like a few bites.
White only buys quail from Bandera, and the semi-boneless birds are first marinated with oil, garlic and herbs. Then he stuffs the quail with cheesy green chili grits laced with Swiss chard and housemade boudin sausage before pan-frying and finishing the birds in the oven. Served sliced on a bed of pickled cactus succotash and drizzled with a rye whiskey demi-glace, the succulent dish screams Texas.
Inspired by a quail-hunting trip White took a few years ago, this dish has become one of the biggest sellers on the restaurant’s menu. “Quail raised on local Texas farms has become a quintessential, sustainable and readily available protein, so we keep it on our menu,” says White.
With restaurants spanning the nation from Seattle to Knoxville, renowned Texas chef Tim Love’s roots remain in Texas where he is chef-owner of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro restaurants in Fort Worth and Austin, in addition to other concepts around the state.
After opening his flagship Lonesome Dove in 2000, he quickly earned the reputation for fresh preparations of both familiar and exotic meats. On the menu in Austin, anticipate mouth-melting Texas game spit-roasted over mesquite including elk, duck, rabbit and the standout: meaty yet lean wild boar ribs.
The Wild Boar Ribs are first dry rubbed, and then braised with chilies, garlic and cinnamon sticks. Finally, the ribs are lightly fried and tossed with rich veal stock-based barbecue sauce.
“This has an Asian twist, representing the Chinese railroad workers who settled in Texas,” says Love. By the way, Love and team plan to open a restaurant in Houston’s Kirby Grove complex in 2018. Yee haw!