Texas Tailgating: Atomic Deer Turds
Photo by Robb Walsh
Note: This is a rerun of a post from 2008 in which former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh shares a favorite tailgating recipe in honor of game day.
Tailgaters love to stuff jalapeños with cheese (usually cream cheese) and wrap meat around them. To make "atomic buffalo turds," you stuff a half a jalapeño with a "cocktail smokie" sausage and cream cheese, wrap it with bacon, secure with a toothpick and grill until the bacon is crisp. Then there's "armadillo eggs," made by wrapping pork sausage around a cream cheese-stuffed pepper.
In Texas, where tailgaters, trail drive riders and hunting camp cooks have lots of venison on hand, variations on this theme use deer meat. I've seen butterflied venison backstrap and venison hamburger meat used as the outer layer around a stuffed jalapeño -- but the most common meat for this use is venison sausage. These are known by a number of names including "atomic deer turds," or, in polite company, "venison sausage balls."
I made some of these on my backyard grill for breakfast this morning. The initial burn of the jalapeño was intense enough to wake me up, but it quickly subsided into a pleasant mouth buzz that went great with my morning coffee. The trick to taming the heat is to clean out as much of the white inner membrane as you can before you stuff the pepper with cheese. If you really want to tone it down, you can also cut the pepper in half.
Atomic Deer Turds
I usually use aged gouda or jack cheese, but you can use whatever you have handy. Cream cheese works, too. Substitute pork sausage and you've got "armadillo eggs."
- 2 small jalapeños
- 2 one-inch chunks of cheese
- 6-8 ounces venison sausage, cold
- Cooking spray
Cut the the tops off the jalapeños, leaving one and a quarter inches of the bottom end of the pepper. With a butter knife, hollow out the inside of the pepper, removing all of the seeds and as much of the white pith as possible without puncturing the chile. Cut some cheese so that it fits inside the pepper.
Flatten a cold 3- to 4-ounce patty of venison sausage on a cutting board with your palm. Peel it up and fold it around the stuffed pepper, squeezing to form an oblong shape. Spray some oil on a grill or griddle and cook the stuffed sausage over medium heat, turning often, for about 15 minutes or until well-browned on all sides.
Allow to cool enough to handle, then, with a sharp knife, cut each oblong in half so you can see the pepper and cheese. Serve immediately.
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