Great scott! A mushroom that tastes of fish? For the good of all mankind we must cook it and throw it on a steak quickly …..it’s surf and turf!
Indeed lobster mushrooms do taste of fish. Delicately though, they will not overwhelm you. You could snicker all you want and serve them to people that don’t like fish at all, without incident. The lobster tastes pleasantly of shellfish or crustaceans, and this is concentrated upon drying. Interestingly enough, it is the most fishy/stinky when decomposing.
Now usually I would be serving the lobster mushrooms in a restaurant with a beefsteak like this, and you definitely could. When I was dreaming up how to showcase this simple way to use the lobster mushroom though, I thought of the venison my friends had shot, still in the deep freeze downstairs. Of course Minnesota has cows and we eat their meat, but we also have woods, filled with all sorts of edible critters. Deer are merely one, but they make a fantastic steak, so they are a great choice.
What cut is a venison steak?
This a great secret I’m going to share with you, and will change the way you think of those snow-encrusted packs of venison steaks in your freezer the hunter in your life has given you. A common question I get from home cooks regarding cooking deer is:
“I just don’t know what to do with all the venison!”
There are many different cuts that will show up on your door in a big cardboard box when you have a deer processed by a local butcher. Typically these will be divided into “chops” “steaks” “roasts” “tenderloin/backstraps” and probably a bunch of meat sticks or sausage from other parts. What I’m going to focus on here is from my personal experience dealing with “steaks” of processed venison from a number of different butchers in the midwest.
The word “steak” in itself is misleading, since different steaks need different treatments. A while back I remember opening up a pack of venison meat labeled “steaks” someone had given me. I was curious to see what kind of cut it was. They were none other than New York strip loins. A while later I talked to another friend of mine and we tried some of his venison “steaks” from a different processor in Wisconsin: New York strips again. At the restaurant, we sell Venison New York strips as a 40$ entree. Be it known those steaks in your freezer are much more valuable than you may think.
On a side note about parts, I have a coworker who made chilli from venison penis, which he fed to his in-laws. Not knowing what it was, they all proclaimed it delicious. Looks like it’s all in our heads after all eh? Just to be clear though, I haven’t eaten it venison penis.
Cooking venison steaks
There are caveats here though, and the biggest one is knowing how to correctly cook a piece of wild meat. When done correctly, this can be a sublime dining experience. Though when done improperly, will beget all the comments everyone recalls when describing the reasons they don’t like venison, boar, elk, etc.
“It’s tough….It’s gamey….it’s dry”
If you overcook your venison it will be all of these things. This is not a simple technique to convey in just a few words. It has taken me years of learning to finally understand how truly time and heat sensitive wild meat is. Literally a minute or two in the pan to crust and brown it is all you need, you need only heat the meat until it is barely warm inside.
After a nice quick sear the meat must be allowed to rest for a few minutes, during which you may handle other business like sauteing a nice accompaniment (lobster mushrooms) or making a salad. There is power in technique and I promise you, once you have tasted a venison steak cooked properly, other meat will begin to taste like corn and water to you.
Venison Steak with Lobster Mushrooms
Serves 4. Great with roasted potatoes and wilted spinach
- 4 venison “steaks”
- 4 lobster mushrooms, about the size of your fist
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Flavorless oil like grapeseed or canola for sauteing
- 3 tablespoons lard
- Chives or other soft herbs to finish the lobster mushrooms (optional)
- Remove the venison steaks from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking to come to room temperature, this ensures even cooking.
- Season the venison steaks with salt and pepper. Heat some oil or lard in a large saute pan, when the oil smokes, the venison steaks and sear on one side only, until heavily caramelized and browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the steaks and cook on the other side for 10 seconds, then remove and place in a warm area to rest. The steaks should be 110 degrees for rare. I don’t recommend cooking them more.
- Pour off the scorched oil from the pan. Add the lard and heat until very hot again. Add the lobster mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium high heat until caramelized and browned. Toss with the chives and reserve on a paper towel to absorb excess fat.
- On each of 4 preheated dinner plates, slice the venison steaks on the bias into 2 ounce slices, garnish with the lobster mushrooms and serve immediately.