While there is indeed a recipe at the end of this post, I want to talk more about technique than any specific recipe. I want to show you a Chinese trick that will make any wild game meat tender and juicy. Learn this technique and you will never go back.
I am assuming you’ve had Chinese food at a restaurant, right? Ever notice that the meat is never dried out? There is a reason for that, and that reason is called “velveting.” Velveting is the process of coating the meat with a delicate layer of ingredients, usually involving some sort of starch, and then stir-frying it. It’s not so much a batter as it is a gossamer layer of protection for what is typically very lean meat. And those of us who cook wild game a lot know all about very lean meat.
I’ve now velveted everything from rabbit to duck to pheasant to venison, and the trick works on any meat. It is a great way to highlight leg steaks or pheasant thighs, but it’s best with lean, tender meat such as backstraps or breast meat.
There are lots of ways to velvet meat. Some are uber simple: Marinate it in soy, cooking wine and corn starch and proceed to the stir frying. This works pretty well. A better way, however, is to “pass through” the coated meat in lots of reasonably hot oil. It is the same general idea as double-frying French fries. A quick bath in 275°F oil sets the velvet coating, and helps the meat hold up better under the ferocious heat of a proper stir-fry.
The downside is that you need to use a couple cups of oil. But, you can strain and save the oil for several uses, so it’s not all that bad.
The result will give you that “ah ha!” moment when you realize you have cracked one of the secrets of Chinese cooking. No matter what you include in your stir-fry, if you do this velveting trick you will be overjoyed with the texture of the meat. Give it a go. You’ll see.
Consider this a master recipe for any stir-fry you might want to throw together on a Wednesday night. The most important thing is to remember the ingredients and the proportions of the velvet marinade. Everything else is your choice.
When making any stir-fry, the work is in the chopping, so do everything before you heat up the wok. Speaking of which, if you don’t have a wok and you like Chinese food, you really ought to get one. But a large saute pan will work in a pinch. Also make sure to use your most powerful burner for stir-frying. If you really want to do it right, use one of those outdoor burners that can kick up to 40,000 BTUs. I will often use my Camp Chef stove for stir-fry. It rawks.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch) mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- 1 pound venison, trimmed of all fat and sinew
- 1 1/2 cups peanut or other cooking oil
- 1 to 4 fresh red chiles
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, slivered
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- Slice the venison into thin slivers of about 1/4 inch or less and anywhere from 1 to 3 inches long. Mix with the marinade and set aside while you cut all the other ingredients.
- Heat the peanut oil in the wok or a large, heavy pot until it reaches 275°F to 290°F. Don’t let it get too hot. Add about 1/3 of the venison to the hot oil and use a chopstick or butter knife to separate the meat slices the second they hit the hot oil. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove with a Chinese spider skimmer or a slotted spoon. Set aside and cook the remaining venison one-third at a time.
- Pour out all but about 3 tablespoons of the oil. Save the oil for the next time you cook Chinese food.
- Get the remaining oil hot over high heat on your hottest burner. The moment it begins to smoke, add the chiles and bell peppers and stir-fry for 90 seconds. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the venison and stir fry 90 seconds.
- Add the cilantro and soy sauce and stir fry a final 30 seconds, just until the cilantro wilts. Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve at once with steamed rice.