Hunters have a tendency to enjoy venison, but many non-hunters are somewhat squeamish about this typically tasty meat. As a result, those with fresh venison meat often find themselves looking for unique ways to serve the meat so everyone can enjoy it, even those people who might be reticent to give it a try. The following recipe for “Venison Meatball Sliders” from Jon Bonnell’s Texas Favorites (Gibbs Smith) is a great way to get the whole family to enjoy venison for all it has to offer.

Makes 14-16 sliders

• 1 pound venison meat

• 1/2 pound pork shoulder

• 2 eggs

• 1 shallot, minced

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

• 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

• 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

• 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• 14 to 16 mini buns or rolls

• Grated mozzarella cheese for garnish

Clean the venison very well, removing all fat and silver skin, then cut into large chunks. Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks as well. Toss all ingredients together (except for the rolls and cheese garnish) in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Grind all ingredients together through the smallest plate on your grinder. Mix well, then test one meatball for seasonings by quickly sauteing a small portion in a pan and tasting it; adjust the seasonings if necessary. Form the mixture into golf ball-size meatballs by rolling between your hands. Deep-fry the meatballs for 1 minute in 350-degree oil; then remove and let the meatballs drain.

Place the meatballs gently in the simmering marinara sauce (see recipe below); simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Serve on mini buns or small rolls with an extra spoonful of marinara sauce for each one. Add a touch of grated mozzarella cheese to the top of each meatball, if desired.

Marinara Sauce

Makes 5 cups

• 1 yellow onion, chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 ribs celery, chopped

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 1/2 cup dry red wine

• 4 cups canned diced tomatoes with juice

• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

• 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepot, saute the onion, garlic and celery in olive oil until soft. Deglaze with red wine and reduce until the pan is almost dry. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer for 8 minutes and then puree with a stick blender until smooth. Stir in the herbs and seasonings; simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes, then serve.