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Chris Whonsetler’s Recipe for Szechuan Venison Kebabs with Stir-Fried Vegetables

Spicy, aromatic Asian flavors pair beautifully with wild game in this surprising fusion dish.

MAGAZINE FOOD SPREADS, fashion, and portraiture have long been the mainstays of photographer Chris Whonsetler’s camerawork. But he takes a more back-to-the-land approach to his From Field to Table web collection of videos, photoshoots, and cooking demos. Here, he shares his take on a Szechuan dish full of Asian flavors that work perfectly to tame the earthy gaminess of wild or farm-raised venison. (Beef, bison, or pork can be substituted.) If you are new to using Szechuan peppercorns, which add a searing, tingling heat, add a small amount at first and then adjust seasoning to your taste at the end. For more tender vegetables, skewer them separately from the venison and cook until they begin to soften and caramelize.

Szechuan Venison Kebabs with Stir-Fried Vegetables

Serves 3–4

Ingredients:

For kebabs:

  • 1 pound venison loin or chops, trimmed and cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into one-inch pieces
  • Wooden or metal skewers for grilling
  • Cooked white rice for serving

For marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or finely crushed Szechuan peppercorns (or more or less to taste)

For vegetable accompaniment:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Place cubes of venison in a large zip-top bag and pour half of the marinade over the meat. Seal bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. Marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour or up to two hours.
  2. Prepare charcoal for a hot fire or heat a gas grill to high. Skewer venison and vegetables together, making sure to let most of the marinade drip back into the bag. Clean grill with brush and oil lightly with a paper towel or brush. Grill kebabs over high heat, turning every couple of minutes until venison develops a good crust and meat is to your desired doneness, approximately 2–3 minutes per side. If fire flares under kebabs, remove to cooler side of grill briefly, then return to higher heat. Remove kebabs to a plate and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, one minute. Add whites of green onions, water chestnuts, and carrots and cook until vegetables are crisp tender, 6–8 minutes. Add green onion tops. Add broth, reserving 3 tablespoons. Add sesame oil and black vinegar. Stir cornstarch and reserved broth in a small bowl, then slowly drizzle into skillet with vegetables. Continue to cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
  4. To serve, mound rice on a platter, then spoon vegetables over rice. Garnish with sesame seeds. Place kebabs on top of vegetables and garnish with sliced green onion tops. Serve hot.
Terry Kirts joined Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in journals and anthologies including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the 2011 collection To the Refrigerator Gods.
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