Ask Chef Boy Ari
Good Sauce Trumps Bad Marinade
Q: Dear Ari,
Can you recommend a good marinade for wild game?
A: Ah, yes, hunting season might be over but the eating continues! On any day countless lucky hunters, plus their lucky families and friends, are thawing out chunks of wild meat. Some know what to do with it, some don’t.
In my opinion, my opinion means nothing compared to that of Angus Cameron, author of The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook. Let me just say that he is the man.
In my opinion, my opinion means nothing compared to that of Angus Cameron, author of The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook . Let me just say that he is the man.
In general, Angus is not a big fan of marinades. They’re too committing and strong, overpowering the taste of the animal. What people often complain about as gamey is usually, in both Angus’ and my opinions, just part of the complex flavor of meat.
But this is not to be confused with the complex flavor of a gut-shot animal, which can be quite nasty. The gamiest—in a bad way—meat I’ve ever had was from a whitetail fawn that, according to conventional wisdom, should be about as tasty as it gets. But it was gut-shot. In cases like this, a strong marinade is advised. Items like soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, wine, spices, garlic, onion, oil, fruit, Worcestershire sauce, etc., are good for marinades.
Rather than focus on marinades, Angus spends his time and energy on making a really good sauce to serve with the meat, which was often seasoned with just salt and pepper.
I like to fry tender chunks in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper—for an interesting treat, try coarse salt—and maybe a little garlic toward the end. On most days my sauce is simply a co-munched (chewed together) mixture of mayo, pickled peppers and a sip of wine. But spend a little time making one of Angus’ sauces for your meat, and you’ll find out what flavor is.
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