It is the first week of November here in East Texas, the opening of deer hunting season. Last Saturday, just as dawn was breaking, I climbed the steps to my blind. It’s the size of a small room, complete with wood stove, chairs and real windows – after all this is Texas. I raised a window, checked my rifle, and turned off my phone. When I looked out the window again, there stood a very old buck. He was a typical East Texas eight point, two of which were broken off from fighting. Soon he was on our skinning rack.
Often in Northern climates, deer are hung outside to age. November is too warm here for hanging a deer outside. So we usually use an ice bath. I cut the deer into quarters and put him on ice in a large cooler. After five days, he was ready. The hams and shoulders were frozen for later use with wild boar in sausage. However, the back straps and tenders are too good to go into sausage. The question was how best to prepare them.
I remembered a discussion from my first safari in Africa; an old Cape buffalo bull with just one horn hung around our camp. The camp manager, Swifty Swift, a former Rhodesian government official before the war there, explained this was just the kind of trophy his German clients would want. They wanted unusual trophies, old with broken or deformed horns. So for my old deer with broken points, I decided to make a version of German jaegerschnitzel (hunter’s cutlets), the ancestor of Texas’s chicken fried steak and the country fried steak of my youth in South Carolina. This is jaegerschnitzel with a Southern influence.
- 4 steaks from the deer back strap, about one-half inch thick.
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon Cajun hot sauce
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ to ½ cup canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 ½ cups beef stock (or commercially available broth)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup chopped parsley for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Pound the steaks to a quarter inch thick. Since this was a really old buck, I decided to marinate the steaks. Mix together the buttermilk, oregano, thyme and hot sauce in a bowl.
Cover the cutlets and marinate in the refrigerator for three or four hours, turning occasionally. This is easily done in a large Ziploc bag. Buttermilk has a good balance of acid and fat that tenderizes and imparts a tangy flavor to wild game.
While the meat is marinating, mix together the breadcrumbs and flour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Let the cutlets and marinade come to room temperature, then remove the cutlets from the marinade and scrape off the excess. Reserve the marinade. Whisk the egg into the marinade, and it becomes your wash.
Heat the oil to about 350 degrees in a heavy skillet. Dip the cutlets in the wash, letting the excess drain. Then dredge them in the breadcrumb and flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
Cook in the skillet until golden brown, about 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the other. Keep the cooked cutlets warm while you prepare the gravy.
Pour off excess oil from the skillet and cook onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and beef stock and cook for about five minutes. Combine cornstarch and sour cream in a separate bowl, mix well and stir into the gravy. Heat the mixture, but do not boil. Be sure to scrape up all the good stuff on the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The jaegerschnitzel is now ready to serve. Plate the cutlets, spoon the gravy over them, sprinkle chopped parsley for garnish and enjoy. The jagerschnitzel I prepare here at the ranch is fork tender and delicious. This is real comfort food. Try it with spaetzle for a complete German meal.