FOOD WISE: Methodist Men serve up delicious game dishes, raise money for charities

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The Liberty Hill United Methodist Church's Methodist Men served hundreds at the annual Wild Game Dinner April 28 at Liberty Hill High School. (Photo by Renee Morgan)

By CHEF RENEE MORGAN

You know, there’s nothing better than having a bunch of big, strong, handsome men cooking up a fabulous dinner and serving it to you, attending to your every need like a queen.

Last Saturday night, I had the great pleasure of just such an experience at the Annual Wild Game Dinner put on by the men of the Liberty Hill United Methodist Church.

I’m here to tell ya, if you missed this year’s dinner, you missed something special. Now in its fourth year, the LHUMC Wild Game Dinner really offers something for everyone. From great food, live and silent auctions, and a jammin’ band to door prizes and drawings for some pretty sweet rifles, it was THE place to be in Liberty Hill.

Speaking of great food, man can these guys cook! Jeff Anderson, President of the LHUMC men’s group, told me many of the men hunt for the game themselves all year in preparation for this event. There were so many choices of delicious game dishes. Diners could choose from several venison or oryx enchiladas, venison meatloaf, catfish, a couple of gumbos, chilis, and several dove dishes, including every good Texan’s favorite dove diablo. All this was accompanied by green beens, roasted potatoes, garlic bread, cole slaw and beans. What more could you ask for?

My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach. I just had to have the chicken fried venison, one of my childhood favorites. This version had just the perfect amount of breading and was oh so tender. A litmus test for me of good cookery is how much seasoning I do or don’t need to add at the table. All of the food, including the venison was perfectly seasoned, not requiring so much as a speck of salt at the table.

Another dish I was really excited to try was the oryx enchiladas. As a chef, I thought it would be difficult to find any protein I haven’t tasted. I’ve always prided myself on being willing to try any kind of food. This was a first for me. I have to say, I loved it!

The enchiladas were a TexMex delight. Like a traditional enchilada, they were covered in a tomato based sauce heavily flavored with the traditional Mexican chilis and covered with an ooey, gooey layer of cheesy goodness. As for the meat, it was like super-lean steak. Yummy!

As I was waiting in line to get to the grub, Mr. Anderson leaned over and in a low, almost reverential tone, instructed that I should make sure to get a bowl of Estes Major’s famous venison creole. Mama didn’t raise no fool, so I heeded his advice. With a daddy from Louisiana, I’m pretty picky about my creole and cajun food. With the first spoonful, I was transported back to my MawMaw’s dinner table. Just the right amount of spice, layers and layers of flavor without burning me up. This man must have some roots in the Bayou. The only thing that could have made me love this creole any better would have been a big plate of rice for it to be ladled over and maybe some jalapeno cornbread to sop.

As if all that weren’t enough, how about an assortment of fabulous desserts, including brownies, chocolate cakes, and peach and pineapple cobblers? The ladies organization of the church baked and served all of these great sweet treats.

Now, aren’t you sorry you missed it? Well, there is always next year and it should be even bigger and better in 2013.

You see, the church will soon complete construction on its 12,000+ square foot multi-use facility, where the event will be held next year. This building project has been several years in the making and one of the church members told me that when they actually started construction last year, the project was delayed for several weeks when the contractor’s own home burned in the Bastrop fires.

You know, as a chef and event planner, I can tell you pulling off an event of this size takes a lot of planning and work, and that is an understatement. Why do they do it? Well, besides being fantastic cooks and hosts, these guys are all heart, too. In this one event, they feed somewhere around 350-400 people and all the money raised from the dinner and auctions goes to charity. With the more than $10,000 raised last year, they helped to fund community outreach and local mission projects, including the Liberty Hill Community Food Bank, Spirit Reins and Lions Foundation Park, assist local senior citizens who are not able to do their own repairs and yard work any longer, and help to support the Methodist Children’s Home.

For more information about the Annual Wild Game Dinner, go to www.LHUMCTX.org.

Chef Reneé is an award-winning, classically trained chef. She earned her culinary degree at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, as well as a bachelor of music degree from Hardin-Simmons University. She has an extensive background in events planning and management. Reneé lives in Liberty Hill with her husband, John, their dogs, cats, chickens and one ornery rooster.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here is my favorite Sangria recipe. It gets even better if you make it the day before you plan to serve it.

Chef Reneé’s Sangria

1 bottle any kind of red wine (I like to use merlot or zinfandel)

2 cups ginger ale

1-2 shots brandy

2 oranges, juiced

2 tablespoon sugar

1 cinnamon stick

pinch coriander

sliced orange, lime, strawberries and/or peaches

Mix all ingredients and serve over ice.

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