Now that the fall hunting season is over and the freezer is full, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
Most people have their favorite recipes for preparing wild game and rarely venture out of their comfort zone. Others are searching for new ways to cook but are afraid to ruin prized meat.
Hunters can now turn to a new blog, Food for Hunters, written and photographed by Nebraskaland Magazine regional editor Jenny Nguyen and recent Southern California transplant Rick Wheatley. The recipes are easy to use and geared toward making fabulous meals in a short time.
Started in 2011, Food for Hunters has been gaining in popularity along with the number of recipes on the site. It received a huge bump from Deer & Deer Hunter Magazine last November when one of the recipes, Chuck Wagon Chili, was published and proclaimed the “best venison chili ever.”
The two just signed a deal with F&W Media to do a book featuring wild game from the field to the dinner table.
It’s the start of a shared dream to expose more people to the beauty of the natural world through tasty food.
“If I was on TV, I’d rather be on the Food Network than the Outdoor Channel,” Wheatley said. “A show on the Food Network would reach more people to educate them about wild game.”
Still, Wheatley loves exploring and cherishes every moment outdoors.
“It’s hard to keep up with him,” Nguyen said.
Before meeting Wheatley, Nguyen didn’t give hunting a second thought. Very few people hunt where she grew up in Southern California.
“I didn’t really even know hunting still existed,” she said.
Nguyen was brought to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was 2, her parents hoping to give her more opportunities. After graduating from UCLA, she found herself working at her dream job at Nebraskaland magazine, finding adventure around every corner of the state.
Nguyen met Wheatley while taking horseback riding lessons in college. Wheatley, 55, thought the age difference was too great between he and Nguyen, 23.
“She had to knock me upside the head to date her,” Wheatley said.
It was food that sealed the deal.
“Cooking together brought us closer,” Nguyen said.
She is a heavy-duty foodie with dreams of sharing her love for food with everyone she meets. She’d love to have her own restaurant.
She’s on a crusade to help hunters use all of the available meat from harvested animals. She hates to see anything wasted.
The two are inseparable in the field as well as in the kitchen.
Wheatley teaches Nguyen how to hunt and outdoor survival techniques. Nguyen teaches Wheatley about butchering and her style of cooking.
Nguyen prefers to hunt for upland game.
“I like to keep moving,” Nguyen said.
She has harvested waterfowl, upland game birds and a doe this past season.
Wheatley loves all hunting but was unsuccessful, like many this year, in his first season of deer hunting as a Nebraska resident. If it weren’t for Nguyen, the new book might have been missing an important chapter.
Both love photography and rarely go out without at least two camera bodies and a few lenses.
With a tight deadline for their new book, the couple doesn’t have a lot of time to plan future ventures. Yet both have the same dreams of hunting, fishing, foraging and publishing together.
“I can’t imagine ever not doing this,” Wheatley said.
Venison Chuck Wagon Chili
1 pound ground venison
1 pound diced venison
1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt; salt, to taste
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¾ tsp. cayenne pepper
5 tbs. chili powder
2 cans of red beans (15 oz each)
2 cans of refried beans (15 oz each)
1 cup of water
1 can diced tomato (14.5 oz)
1 can of tomato sauce (8 oz)
2 tbs. molasses
Shredded mozzarella, for sprinkling
1. Trim and remove silver skin from 1 pound of venison stew meat and cut into small, bite-sized pieces.
2. In a large pot, heat up 1 tsp. olive oil and add chopped onions.
3. Once the onions soften, add the stew meat and the ground venison and brown. While the meat browns, break up the ground venison with your spoon to prevent large chunks.
4. Once meat browns, stir in the refried beans and red beans, liquid and all. You don’t have to cook the venison all the way through before adding the beans. It will continue to cook later.
5. Stir in the crushed red pepper, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and chili powder.
6. Stir in cans of chopped tomato and tomato sauce. Salt to taste.
7. Then the molasses. Cover and simmer on low for one hour. If after the hour you still think the chili is too thin, take off the lid and continue to cook until thickened. Or you can do this before the hour is up.
8. Ladle chili into serving bowls and sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. Enjoy with some corn bread and coffee.
— Food for Hunters
For more recipes, visit the Food for Hunters site