Whitetail Buck Neck Confit
What to do with a big whitetail buck in rut. Thankfully a mature buck presents some opportunities in the kitchen that make some pretty special food outcomes - but there are a few things to wrap your brain around first for this one. 1) neck is not just something to bone out and grind and 2) whitetail fat is not garbage.
Let’s go with #1 first. Ever since friend of the show Kevin Kent braised whitetail neck to put in pirogies for the season closer chef collab in S2, braised neck has been around in a variety of forms in our kitchen. Boning them out is annoying, and wasteful - you can’t get all the meat, and it’s a waste of time. More importantly, the neck meat is the best cut for braising on a deer. Big mature bucks have mega-necks compared to antlerless and younger deer. You get ‘bonus neck’ by a factor of many.
Okay, #2: whitetail fat is not garbage. Whitetail fat has one critical flaw - its waxy mouthfeel. Worth a shot if only once to see how similar it is to eating a candle. It's really hard (dense) at very high temps once rendered. This recipe was built around that. Sidestepping it. Using the power of the fat to create the optimal braising environment (confit), but then using a technique (grilling) to have the braised meat shed away all the waxy fat. Proud of this culinary trickery. It’s a real winner. If you've never confit'd anything, don't be scared. It's just a fancy french term for 'preserved in fat'.
1-2lb chunk of whitetail buck neck, doesn’t matter which part.
1 L of whitetail fat
4 cloves garlic
1 small bunch woody herbs
Salt (1.5% the weight of neck meat - weigh your neck meat)
Step one, shoot a mature buck. Just after skinning, trim the cleanest looking fat and render it down. The ingredient list implies precision amounts - forget that. You just need enough rendered fat to cover the chunk of neck, and this is more a function of the pot/vessel you choose than the volume of fat.
With neck chunk and rendered fat in hand, get them into a vessel as mentioned above, that mostly or completely covers the meat in fat. Add the onion, garlic, bunch of herbs, and 1.5% salt by weight of the meat (weight of meat X 0.015).
That’s it. Get it in the oven at 150C and cook it ‘until’, until you can pull apart the neck meat with a couple forks. It will get there. Check after a couple hours, then maybe every 1/2 hour after that. I think nothing of tossing it in the oven in the morning and checking in on it in the afternoon.
Here’s the trickery. Finish it on a wood fire grill. It will wax up on you pretty good as it cools down - doesn’t matter. All that fat will render down on the grill. Take it slow. Let the fat drip and flare up a bit, and let the exterior get super crispy.
That’s it. Victory. The rest of the plate in the photo? Who cares. It can really be anything. I did it atop a baked potato, some charred green onion, sour cream, and pickled onions - a kind of baked potato-meets-poutine kind of thing. Don’t get caught up on that. Just try the meat and use your ingenuity to imagine how you’ll want to use it, other than just straight up.
The grill and comfort food vibes kind of beg for a malty beer, a beefy red, or a shot of whiskey.
You can watch the whole adventure of this hunt and cookery of this dish in S7 of From The Wild.