Deer and Foie Gras Meatballs

With my first deer now in the freezer, I need to come up with recipes for the whole beast. I made a great roast out of the hind leg last weekend (more on this another time), but I had cut off the less tender shank and saved it for another recipe — hence these luscious and distinctive meatballs. Instead of being ground, the meat is first stewed, then wrapped around a cube of foie gras, and then breaded. Thinking about it, this recipe combines three Hungarian traditions: hunting, foie gras, and deep-frying. My friends have been facetiously calling them “Hunter’s Balls”!

I served them with a slightly sweet dip made of crème fraîche mixed with onion jam.

Braised deer shanks
Yields about 20 meatballs

2 lb deer shanks, bone in
salt
black pepper, ground
olive oil
4 oz peeled carrot, large dice
4 oz peeled onion, large dice
4 oz peeled parsnip, large dice
2 oz celery, large dice
1 peeled garlic clove
16 oz red wine
24 oz water
4 thyme sprigs
1 tsp cacao powder
2 oz butter

  • Season the deer shanks generously with salt and pepper, then sauté in an oven-proof pot with olive oil over high heat, until brown on all sides. Add the carrot, onion, parsnip, celery, and garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the red wine, bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes, then add the water and the thyme. Bring back to a boil, cover with a lid ajar, and cook in a 200 F oven for about 4 hours, until very tender.
  • Let cool for 30 minutes. Take out the shanks and reserve. Strain the cooking liquid, and reduce to 8 oz in a saucepan over high heat. Shred the meat between your fingers, then finely chop with a knife. Add the meat and the cacao powder to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat until almost completely reduced, stirring regularly. Mix in the butter, and continue cooking until there is no more liquid, but without drying out the meat. Let cool and refrigerate.

Breadcrumbs
Yields enough breadcrumbs for about 20 meatballs

6 oz Pullman bread, sliced

  • Place the bread slices on a baking sheet on the oven rack, and toast at 300 F for 10 minutes on each side.
  • Break the slices into pieces, and pulverize in a blender. Reserve in a closed plastic container.

Deer and foie gras meatballs
Yields about 20 meatballs

5 oz foie gras
braised deer shanks
about 3 oz flour
2 eggs, beaten
breadcrumbs
canola oil for the deep-fryer

  • Cut the foie gras into approximately 20 cubes. Take a small amount of the deer shank mixture and flatten it. Place a cube of foie gras in the center, wrap it in the meat, and shape into a ball between the palms of your hands. You should use just enough meat to completely cover the foie gras. Repeat until you run out of meat or foie gras. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Place the flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls. Heat the deep-fryer to 360 F. Coat each meatball with flour, then dip into the egg, and thouroughly cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Deep-fry the meatballs in small batches for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Let rest on paper towels for a minute, then serve.

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