Pronghorn for The Pan
The meat of the Pronghorn Antelope is a most precious commodity from my point of few, speaking as a hunter and a huge fan of all wild fish, game, and fowl. Yet, I think it safe to say that the beast is not common table fare in most American households; in fact, I would venture to guess that very few people have ever tried it. That is a great loss to those so interested, as the animal affords one of the greatest epicurean opportunities of the west. It is my favorite of all wild meats, and there are many, many others like me.
It is understandable why so few have had the opportunity to give it a try, for it is a main ingredient not easily obtained. Pronghorn hunting permits are limited in one form or another in most of the western states, and acquiring a tag is often the most difficult part of an antelope hunt. It can take several years for the hunting gods to smile, but I can assure you that is it well worth the wait.
To my taste the flesh is fine grained, sweeter, and more refined than most big game animals. Most venison or beef recipes will work to some degree, but it is after all, a bit different. It may take a little experimentation at first, but not too much. And as with all venison as a general rule, it is best to cook it leaning on the rare side.
To me a Pronghorn is the untamed and free-roaming veal of the western horizons, as their are some basic similarities and shared culinary characteristics. Treat it as you would prepare a nice cut of veal and you may be pleasantly surprised. A dish of Breaded Pronghorn Cutlet, or “Antelope Wiener schnitzel”, might just do the trick.
As for spices, sometimes simple is best. If you like your entrees with a touch more complexity, then the usual candidates for veal and venison apply. But be sure to try one dish with sage as a special attraction. It is, after all, a creature of the sagebrush flats and the high deserts of the west.
Above all, enjoy your prize and savor the catch of the day. That is if you can get one to stand still long enough!
* Pronghorn has a nasty reputation as tasting overly gamey, at best, and inedible, at worst. Don’t believe it for a second. Well harvested, properly cared for in the field, and prepared in an attentive manner, antelope is hard to beat. Generally hunted in hot weather far from commercial processing facilities, heat spoilage and tainted meat is your worst enemy. The old time hunters who really knew their meat used to say that quick cooled meat was of the sweetest kind.
Plan accordingly – dress, skin, and quarter as soon as possible and store on ice until you can refrigerate or freeze. You will be more than rewarded for your efforts, and you may find that you have acquired some new and famished friends in the bargain. It’s a fine deal, anyway you slice it.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON PREPARATION
I am a proponent of offal, or organ meats – otherwise known as the heart, livers, kidneys, and assorted parts. Many hunters choose to leave these items behind, missing out on some truly great dining as a result.
Traditional venison recipes for the liver and kidneys work well here. As for the heart, I prefer mine cut in pieces, marinated, and splayed out on a very hot grill, finished medium rare. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will become extremely tough if you do.
Be extra sure to recover the tenderloins, which sit directly under the backbone and can be tricky to find. They are quite small but highly desirable, and many hunters have simply forgotten to cut them out. I’ve done it myself a time or two, much to my chagrin.
Tenderloin can be best cooked simply, and I like to celebrate success with a heavy black skillet and some salt and pepper. After a long day or more on the hunt, there is nothing like a simple feast to finish off the fun.
As for the rest – you’ve only just begun. Chops, roast, or stew, it’s all great any way you cook it.
Have any favorite recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about ‘em….
Food Freedom – and Guns Too!
Michael Patrick McCarty
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