Got a freezer full of wild game but not a whole lot else in the pantry? Grocery stores and restaurants closed, or you just straight up don’t want to be around people? Fear not, the MeatEater crew can help. Welcome to Freestyle Cooking, where we share simple dish ideas based around common, household ingredients and recipes that we often invented on the fly.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, sometimes you need to cook but you don’t necessarily have a whole suite of ingredients—either due to quarantine or just being a lazy bachelor. Such an intersection of events last year led me to impulsively dump the remainder of a jar of pickled vegetables, spices, and juices into my crockpot with an elk shoulder roast, since I lacked any stock to use. I didn’t expect much, but I brought the mixture out to hunting camp that weekend and my friends went nuts for it. Now I make it any time a pickle jar gets half empty in the fridge.
If you try to follow these ingredients to a T, you’re kinda missing the point. Use whatever stuff you have on hand. Don’t go to the grocery store! Everyone probably has a tough cut of meat in the freezer and a half-eaten jar of pickles shoved in the back of the fridge. Put those together and throw in whatever else makes sense. You might be surprised how tasty it is.
- 2 lb. venison roast
- 1 or 2 cups pickle juice (or substitute 1/2 cup of vinegar or 1 cup sauerkraut)
- Remaining pickles in jar, sliced
- 4 cups water, or enough to cover the meat
- 2 tbsp. each salt and pepper
- 4 oz. butter or cooking oil
- 2 cups potatoes, carrots, asparagus, green beans, or celery, fresh, canned, or pickled
- 1 cup white rice (optional)
Also works with
- Pour the pickle juice and water into your crockpot and turn it to high. Reserve the pickles. If you have some sort of wild game, chicken, or beef stock (or a light beer), dump some of that in too.
- Cover your roast with salt and pepper and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Pour the remaining salt and pepper into the crockpot. Slice the pickles and add those to the pot.
- Place a skillet over high heat and melt 2 oz. of butter. When it starts to bubble, set the roast in the skillet and sear it hard on all sides. When it is browned and slightly charred, move the meat to the crockpot. Pour in the remaining butter and cover the meat with water as needed.
- When the liquid begins to bubble, reduce the crockpot heat to low—unless you want to eat relatively soon, then go on high. It will take about five hours to break down the meat on high, or about eight hours on low. I like to get a roast started on low in the morning before work to have it ready in time for dinner.
- About an hour or two before you’re ready to eat, chop up whatever potatoes, carrots, celery, asparagus, or green beans you have on hand. Sauté in butter until they begin to brown, then add to the crockpot. Sometimes I’ll also throw in a cup of white rice to thicken it into a stew, or to soak up the broth and remaining veggies and meat for leftovers.
- When you can break apart flakes of the meat with a fork and the connective tissue is falling apart, you’re ready to eat. Serve in a bowl or over rice. It’s great scooped up with garlic bread.