Chow Archery and Ungulates
posted by January 26 at 23:45 PMon
Jonah was looking for a place to play Big Buck Hunter earlier. Damn, I should have invited him over for dinner. My housemate Mary, you see, her father and brother hunt deer. And they recently offered to share their meaty harvest. It’s a tempting offer. Ever since I read Diet for New America as a teenager, I’ve felt pretty bad about eating store-bought meat. Eating wild deer seems more humane—at least they run free before being gunned down. However, I’d never eaten venison, let alone prepared it. But then Mary—a vegetarian, like the rest of my roommates—told me how her family actually hunts the deer: with a bow and arrow. Send it over.
Three white paper packages stamped “Not For Sale” arrived in my kitchen, and tonight I invited my mom and some friends over to devour the big, antlered rodent. Slicing through the raw round-steak, the tight fibers verified this was not lazy cattle from a corral, but a forest creature that darted from wolves and leapt over creeks. The scent of animal blood was everywhere. I marinated the cuts in Côtes du Rhône, seared them brown, and braised them in beef stock and more wine. Bambi tasted like free-range Jesus.
Clockwise from bottom: Braised venison round steak topped with a cranberry-port relish with blanched citrus zest; a mix of caramelized onions wheels, Portobello mushrooms, shallots, cherry tomatoes, and, thank you, O great pig-Lord, bacon; a gratin of organic Russet potatoes and gruyere; arugula and D’Anjou pear salad in a lemon, shallot, and mint vinaigrette. Wines, from me mum’s native Australia, brought by me mum: St. Hallett Shiraz, 2002, from Barossa Valley; Lindemans Pyrus, 2000, Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, from Coonawarra. Big buck hunting, indeed.
Recipe after the jump.
I didn’t really use a recipe. But there’s what I did to big Bambi.
Venison round-steak: three pounds, deboned and defatted
Onion: three, cut into ¾” wheels
Bacon: five strips, diced
Portobello mushrooms: two, diced
Shallot: One, sliced
Flour: A cup
Kosher salt: Don’t be afraid to use salt
Soy sauce: liquid salt
Black pepper: Grind it, don’t shake it
Carrots: three, sliced
Garlic: Three cloves, sliced
Rosemary: some, chopped
Bottle of Côtes du Rhône
Slice out the bones, excess fat, and connective tissue from the venison and place in large bowl. To make a marinade, add sliced carrots, celery salt, soy sauce, bay leaves, one sliced onion, three garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, rosemary, and half a bottle of Côtes du Rhône. Set aside in refrigerator for a few hours. Begin drinking other half of bottle of wine.
Remove meat from marinade, pat dry and dredge in a flour mixture of salt and pepper. Shake off the excess powder and add to a hot pan with plenty of oil. Brown for about 45 seconds on each side, until it’s the color of a spring fawn on the outside but raw inside. Add meat cuts and a big pinch of rosemary (fresh, if your neighbors have a planter box) to a barely simmering stock of beef and red wine. The liquid should just barely cover the meat and only slightly simmer. Think mid-low heat. Cover. Drink.
Caramelize the onion wheels and set aside. Brown your bacon, and every couple minutes add the shallots, then the mushrooms, then the cooked onions, and finally your cherry tomatoes and cook until the skins start to shrivel. Add your veggie mix to the meat. Check meat. Serve when cooked through, but don’t let it cook to gray mush.
This salad dressing is like crack: Minced shallots, juice of four baby lemons, some white wine, tablespoon of mayonnaise, olive oil, minced mint, salt, sugar, honey, mustard. I didn’t measure the quantities, but, as a rule, you want more oil than lemon juice. Use sugar to make the dressing sweet and honey to make it complex. Mustard is salad dressing’s friend.