If you’re a fan of venison like I am and you are lucky enough to have family and/or friends who share their kill with you, consider adding this dish to your repertoire of unique things to serve at your next party.
My preference is to walk these around the party on a platter with toothpicks planted in them and the option of two dipping sauces. Most people will tell you that one sauce is more than enough and that you should have something on a passed tray fully prepared as you would like it consumed, but I find having two sauces available for something as unique as venison increases your chance that guests will try the meatballs.
Simplicity is key here, after all, don’t you have plenty else to do? Form the meatballs the morning of your party using a mini ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure and arrange in a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, then cover and refrigerate; or, if you are preparing them a few days in advance, prepare the mixture in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Last minute prep is as easy as scooping the balls into that same greased baking dish, covering and baking for 30 minutes. Your guests can languish over the roasted vegetables while you warm the sauces in the microwave.
1 ½ pounds ground venison, moose, or reindeer
1 cup butter cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 cup finely grated dry cheese (parmesan, romano, super sharp cheddar)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup gin
2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, then more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste, then more to taste
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix the ingredients together and form into 24 tablespoon-size balls. Arrange the balls in the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 22 to 25 minutes.
Allow the meatballs to cool slightly before inserting decorative bamboo picks and arranging on a large white platter, leaving room for three mini ramekins: an empty one for used skewers and two filled with different sauces. Pass with cocktail napkins.
Sauces for your consideration (all are great multi-taskers)
This also makes a great sauce for pasta, chicken and bruscetta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup very thinly sliced garlic
2 28 ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Kosher or sea salt
Black peppercorns in a peppermill
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Pull the pan off heat and add the garlic. Toss to gloss then move the pan back over the heat. Sauté the garlic in the oil, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to take on some color.
Drain the tomatoes (reserve the liquid if desired) and remove the seeds from the tomatoes by squeezing them out. Add the chunky tomatoes and basil to the oil and garlic. Simmer for 10 minutes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Parmesan cream sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl it around in the pan. Heat the butter until the foam subsides then sprinkle in the floor and stir immediately with a wooden spoon. Stir the butter/flour mixture over the heat until all of the flour granules have turned from white and until the mixture starts to turn a soft golden yellow. Slide the pan off the heat and whisk in the cream. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, then slide the pan back over the heat and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Slide the pan off the heat and whisk in the cheese, continue whisking until the cheese is fully incorporated. Taste for salt and serve as a dipping sauce for the meatballs or spoon over pasta or chicken or pork.
Madeira green peppercorn sauce
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallot
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup Madeira wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons green peppercorns packed in salt or vinegar (not dried)
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl it around in the pan. Heat the butter until the foam subsides then add the minced shallot. Toss to gloss and cook until the shallots begin to break down. Whisk in the Dijon and cook for 1 minute. Pull the pan off the heat and carefully add the Madeira and whisk everything together. Place the pan back on the heat and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream until fully incorporated. Add the green peppercorns, using the whisk to break a few of them up. Serve the sauce as a dip for the Venison meatballs, or to top Venison or beef steak, or beef tenderloin.