Outside of hunting, this time of year means one thing to my family: football. An extension of football is tailgating. One of my favorite tailgating dishes is a play on the Bleu Cheese Burger from the Thurman Café in Columbus, Ohio. Imagine a three-quarter-pound, all-beef patty topped with a ginormous amount of bacon, loads of mozzarella, a ton of blue cheese, and a mountain of mushrooms! For clean up, forget the napkins and invest in a pressure washer. You feel me? Although juicy, tender, and forever scrumptious, the burger often leads to stains on my Buckeyes jersey. Have no fear, this quesadilla is here! Combine the same mozz, blue, and mushroom goodness with caramelized onions, and smack it between two flour tortillas to provide a much more finger-friendly eating experience (note that I said finger-friendly, not figure!). Add these to your next tailgate and everyone will be doing the flavor wave!
Serves 4 to 6. Makes two quesadillas.
- 1 pound ground venison
- 1/4-pound thick sliced bacon, diced fine (homemade or local preferred)
- 1/4-cup bluu cheese (I used a Gorgonzola)
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, halved and sliced thin
- 2 cups sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
- 1 fresh sage leaf chopped fine
- 1/2-teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 fresh flour tortillas
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral flavored oil
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Leftover spice blend from my goat burger recipe (use any blend you like but of course, I recommend mine!)
Honey-chipotle sour cream
- 1 cup quality sour cream
- 1 tablespoon local honey
- 1-2 chipotles with the adobo sauce (I always use at least two—bring on the heat!)
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
Work is finished for the day. It is time to relax. Pour yourself a drink, turn on the tunes, and put on your Cookin’ in Camo apron. It is near feeding time!
Preheat the oven to 400 or fire up the grill.
Place the venison in a medium-large bowl and season liberally with the spice blend. Set aside until ready to brown.
To make the honey-chipotle sour cream, blend all the ingredients except for the chives in a food processor until nearly smooth. Mix in the chives by hand. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a cold, large, sauté pan, add the bacon slices. Place the pan over a medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy, flipping as needed. This should take approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once crisp, remove onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Place the pan with the bacon fat back on the heat, and add the sliced onions. Season with a heavy pinch of salt. Now add the tablespoon of butter and baking soda to the pan and stir. Allow the onions to caramelize until a deep amber-brown is reached. The process takes roughly 20 to 25 minutes.
While the onions caramelize, place a separate sauté pan over medium heat. Once heated, add the tablespoon of canola oil and the chopped baby bellas. Toss in the dried thyme and chopped sage leaf. Allow the mushrooms to reach a deep golden brown. Again, this only takes 5 to 7 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are browned and the onions are caramelized, toss the onions into the mushroom pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, using a paper towel, wipe the large skillet the onions were in clean and place the pan back over a medium-high heat. Add the canola oil followed by the venison. Like a steak, we want the ground venison to form a gorgeous crust on the outside so don’t start tossing it around like you’re Emeril! Take a drink, sing a karaoke song, and leave it alone! After the song is over or roughly 4 minutes, flip the meat mixture and allow the other sides to brown the same. Taste and add salt if needed.
To build a quesadilla, brush some canola oil on the bottom half of a tortilla. On the non-oiled part, evenly layer half of the venison. Top that with half of the onions and mushroom, followed by half of the mozzarella and blue cheese. Top with another tortilla. Brush the top of tortilla with canola oil as well. Place the tortilla directly on the oven rack or grill grate and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until crispy and golden (if using the grill, flip the quesadilla half way through). Remove from the circle of deliciousness from the oven. Unless you enjoy singeing your taste buds off, allow to rest for a minimum 5 minutes.
Once rested, cut the quesadilla into 8 even wedges. Serve garnished topped with fresh chopped chives, and a big ole dollop of the honey-chipotle sour cream! As always, hunt, cook, share, enjoy!
Editor’s note: This recipe is the tenth in a series of several provided by Tyler Viars, a dedicated “forest to fork” hunter and professional chef. Click here to read last week’s recipe, squirrel with a mushroom-vegetable ragout.
Image by Tina Marie Photography