Sunday, January 20, 2013

Men Who Cook - Venduckel

I really enjoy eating.... almost as much as I enjoy hunting.  As a result, I also like to cook, learn from others with more kitchen talent and experiment in the kitchen or over the grill.

I've always, however, struggled with cooking wild game.  Sure, there are the standards like fried venison backstrap (loin) or a simple stew with cream of mushroom soup in a crock pot which are both good and hard to mess up.  But most wild game, at least to me, is challenging since it is very low in fat.  Cross cut a venison roast and you will see no intramuscular fat (i.e. marbling).  As a result, it is very easy for most game to dry out and have the texture of boot leather.

Classic Turducken!
For years, my favorite Aunt has prepared a Turducken for Christmas or Thanksgiving.  For those of you who have never experienced this delight in gastronomy, a turducken is a boneless chicken stuffed in a boneless duck which is all then stuffed in a boneless turkey.  These often have Cajun seasonings and the worst I've ever had was incredible.  They can be bought ready-to-cook or prepared yourself.

A friend of mine from Southern Louisiana (and world-class cook) and I have joked for years about other such odd meat-combinations but never pulled the trigger to make it happen.  Recently, I took the plunge.

Ladies and Gentlemen... I present to you.....the Venduckel.

What is a Venduckle?  A VENison roast stuffed with DUCK which has been stuffed with squirrEL.  Odd?  Perhaps.  Tasty?  Better than I imagined.

Before proceeding, please understand that I prefer to cook by "feel" versus rigid recipes.  The following is a loose guide.  There are 1,000s of options to season or modify your Venduckel.  Experimentation is encouraged.  Please share your stories.


  • 5-6 squirrel quarters (@ room temp*) (not 5-6 squirrels but 5-6 individual quarters or pieces)
  • 3-4 duck breasts  (@ room temp*)
  • ~1/2 of a venison backstrap (tenderized a bit with a hammer or knife-like tenderizer (@ room temp*)
  • ~1/4 stick of butter
  • course black pepper
  • Cajun seasoning
  • some type of meat rub (I like Adams Reserve "House All Purpose Rub")

Prep Time
2-3 months depending on the season, how good a shot you are and if you do not have a well stocked freezer.  Otherwise, ~25 minutes.

General Steps
1.  Plan, hunt, kill, gut, clean and prepare the first 3 ingredients.

2.  Debone the squirrel quarters.  A really sharp knife helps since these little guys can be tough.  I simply cut around the tendons at the major joints since it is like eating those little rubber bands used by kids with braces.  Betcha never thought those high school biology dissection skills would come in handy!!!  Set aside.

Squirrel quarters for Venduckel

3.  Butterfly the duck breasts.  Cut them as evenly as possible about 95% of the way through so they open like a book.  Set aside.

4.  Do the same with the venison roast.  You might need 3-4 cuts so the entire roast will lay flat like a small, meaty blanket.  Set aside.

Venison blanket - a bit sloppy.  Try to uniform thickness (not what I achieved here).
5.  Melt the butter and drizzle about 1/4 on the squirrel.  Add a reasonable about of the meat rub and Cajun seasoning.  Don't go crazy here.  The goal is to complement the flavor of the meat, not cover it up.  Ensure the squirrel is well coated and the ingredients are well mixed.

Squirrel prep.
6.  Lay out a blanket of duck breasts with the edges overlapping a bit.  Drizzle butter and season as you did with the squirrel.  Place the seasoned squirrel in the middle and wrap as tightly as you can in the duck.

Duck blanket pre-squirrel.
7.  Repeat with the venison but only season the "inside" side (I'll explain later why).  Season, drizzle with butter and wrap the duck/squirrel roll in the venison blanket.  You are going to have a buttery, slippery nasty looking roll-o-meat so pin it with toothpicks or bamboo skewers.  (Meat twine would work too.)

Rolling up the Venduckel - make it as tight as possible.
I'll let you insert your own comment here as to what this might look like!

8.  Place the venduckel in a deep baking dish.  (A deep dish should help to contain juices and any associated spatter.

9.  Drizzle the remaining butter on the outside.  Place the venduckel in a preheated 425F.  

10.  Cook for about 20-25 minutes to brown the outside.

11.  Reduce the heat to 350F.  Sprinkle a bit of season on the outside if desired.  Again, go light.  (The seasonings on the outside can burn at the higher temp and add a bitter flavor.)

12.  USE A MEAT THERMOMETER and bake until the internal temperature is ~140F.  Make sure the probe is directly in the center of the venduckel.  (The LAST thing I think you'd want is to eat Squirrel tartare (raw if you are from East Texas).  Time is not cricital here.  The internal temperature is however.  It cooked quicker than I thought it would.

If you don't use a thermometer, you are very likely to overcook it.  It will be dry and generally not good.

13.  Once you hit the 140F degree mark, remove the venduckel from oven and baking dish AND LET IT REST FOR 15-20 MINUTES on a cutting board.  The meat will adsorb some of the juices.  Don't skip this part no matter how good it smells.

14.  Cut into 1/4 - 1/2" slices with a razor sharp knife and serve with some worthy sides.

Note the Venduckel is moist throughout.
Wish I would have plated this better but you get the idea!!!

15.  Enjoy.  

My kids and I devoured this while standing in the kitchen.  My wife could not get past the squirrel. (How someone can eat a chicken but not a squirrel is beyond me.  Chickens are arguably the most disgusting animals on the planet.)

* For an EXCELLENT overview of roasting venison and many other cooking tips, please check out my new favorite blog called Honest-Food.  Hank has many, many excellent ideas, recipes and tips there.  It is from his blog that I learned about the difference that starting with room temperature meat can make to the end product.  (I'm not saying leave it out all day, just don't place it in the oven while really cold or the inside temperature will not come up to 140F before the outside burns.)


A Man in the Woods


  1. R Lawrence Hope . . . super genius. This is excellent. Can't wait for a chance to taste!

    You have given me oodles of new ideas here. My mind is spinning and salivating at the same time.

    And an old one with new twists.

    PS - Bet you would love matambra. It deserves a "wild game" make over.

    Best - Fishless.

  2. Amazing--You need to enter this years World Champion Squirrel Cook off.
    here is some cool reasons the cook off is important--
    We are living in a truly exciting time for the culinary experience regarding Wild Game. Restaurants and chefs worldwide are experimenting and serving wild game dishes. In the last few years, well known chef/hunters have published numerous cookbooks combining the merits of formal cooking with wild game. Chef/hunters such Hank Shaw and Jesse Griffths are prime examples. Furthermore, the hunting industry itself is shifting increasingly towards the culinary aspects of hunting with several TV new shows such as "Meateater" and "Dead Meat" dedicated to showcasing "Trophy Eating" rather than "trophy hunting", while traditional hunting magazines like "Field and Stream" now maintain popular wild game cooking blogs on their website.

    An event such as the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off not only captures the spirit of this new trend, but synthesizes aspects of the competitive food circuits such as the massively popular BBQ Competitions. With the firm Ozark tradition of not only hunting, but eating wild game, specifically squirrel, combined with the culinary renaissance that is blossoming in the hunting world, the stage is set in Arkansas to develop a cooking competition that will draw both competitors and attendees from far and wide. The novelty of cooking and eating Squirrels is enough to attract mainstream national media attention while the tradition of wild game eating is enough to attract hunters. Where hunters go, the hunting industry follows. Additionally there are the aspects of interest from trained chefs and the industry and "foodie" tourism that inherently follows.

  3. Good job, Coot!

    And thanks for sharing.

    Looks fantastic!