Originally printed in the Rocky Mountain News’ Adventures in Dining section.
Written by: Bill St. John
No one wants a Denver Boot and only a few have a taste for a Denver omelet. But everyone likes the Denver leg.
The Denver leg is the name for a boneless, sinewless leg of meat — commonly venison or lamb — with its “silverskin” removed. Silverskin is the shiny tissue that envelopes the meaty part of a leg and which must be stripped away before cooking. Restauranteurs and cooks all over the world now refer to a ready-to-prepare, already-butchered lamb or venison haunch as “the Denver leg.”
“The Denver leg is what we call ‘99% visual lean'” says Dale Beier, founder of Dale’s Exotic Meats in north Denver — and inventor of the Denver leg. “All you throw away is the package.”
Ten years ago, Beier went to New Zeland at the behest of Hans Fitzy, and Auckland venison seller. “He asked me to come over and help him develop this leg for sales,” says Beier. “At the time, venison was sold bone-in. But that wasn’t useful for most cooks.”
Ten years ago, Beier had already developed a way to remove sinew and silverskin from venison legs. “We had been making our own prepared legs and had started to get them into restaurants,” he says. “We were selling boneless leg to restaurants because they had asked for an easier way to get the meat.
“Well, I was over in New Zeland for about four weeks. I worked in the plant teaching them how to make the leg. At the end of the trip, one day, Hans and I and another gentleman from New Zeland sat there for I don’t know how many hours trying to come up with a name. Finally, they said, ‘Call it the Denver leg,’ for me, I guess.”
The New Zealanders came upon Beier because his business is one of America’s largest butchers of venison. “I’ve been selling venison and game meats ever since I started, 28 years ago,” he says.
Since his initial foray Down Under, Beier has been back to New Zealand “10 or 12 times.”
“We’ve worked up a Denver saddle (of venison) and a Denver shoulder,” Beier says. “In Australia now, they’re doing kangaroo Denver leg.”