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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Archery and Ungulates

posted by on January 26 at 23:45 PM

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

Celery salt

Cinnamon stick

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.

RSS icon Comments


damn, Dom. Now I really am hungry.

Posted by gnossos | January 27, 2008 12:11 AM

Yup, deer, killed by a hunter, is much better than beef, pork or chicken, killed in a slaughterhouse.

To be a priss, it's not "rodent," but "ungulate."

Posted by scotto | January 27, 2008 12:21 AM

i love gamey meat. Lamb, venison... so much more interesting than plain old beef which basically just tastes like fat

Posted by martin | January 27, 2008 12:25 AM
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 told me how her family actually hunts the deer: with a bow and arrow. Send it over.
Ever ask Mary why she is a vegetarian?

The first sentence I won't argue with. ("nature, red in tooth and claw," and all that) But I think you have been watching to many Rambo movies. Granted, for any given deer, the odds a being killed by a bowhunter are probably much less than by one using a modern rifle because of the difficulty of bow hunting, but the fact that you were going to eat it means this deer did not escape. While a skilled bowhunter can, on a good day, kill a deer pretty quickly, even a highly skilled hunter can have a bad day, and it can take hours or days for a deer to die. Being the forgiving sort, I won't wish being shot with an arrow on you, but being torn apart by pit bulls shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes

Oops, missed this: "Bambi tasted like free-range Jesus" Um, I don't believe I've ever heard that phrase before. But Jeffery, wasn't the fictional (you hope) Jesus supposed to be a man? this seems a little strange even for the Stranger. Never mind about that pit bull thing, since you are going to Hell anyway (where the pit bulls aren't so quick about their work), I hope you live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in your sleep.

Posted by Bambi's Mom | January 27, 2008 3:33 AM

Damn, Domenic, we'll make a hunter out of you yet. Being out there in the woods, sometimes for days on end, just you and the deer, and even using a rifle, where the deer really does have all the advantages, somehow makes the meat taste even better. And Dom, if you thought the venison tasted better than beef, elk tastes that much better than deer. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 27, 2008 5:59 AM

I need to know whether it's oven braising or done on the stove-top, and the time, Dominic. Now.

Posted by Spoogie | January 27, 2008 8:27 AM

I love the folded-paper-towel napkin. And it may be a trick of the photo's lighting, but did you serve your mother supper using mismatched wax-finish paper plates?

I love it. Is this an aesthetic response to your father's international-travel fine-dining blog?

Posted by doeadeerafemaledeer | January 27, 2008 8:39 AM

@6 - Doing both is best:

Preheat oven to 400, heat up cast iron frying pan on the stove-top. put a little olive oil in the pan and braise the meat on both sides (for a flat piece) or all around for a roast; about 4 minutes per side. Once the outside is all cooked, put the pan into the oven to cook the whole thing through, 7-10 minutes should work.

Posted by LT L | January 27, 2008 9:20 AM


Posted by Bauhaus | January 27, 2008 9:43 AM


I always figured game meat tasted better, because well, it IS better: leaner, more dense, higher protein muscle tissue.

Plus, on the rare occasions these days when I get my hands on deer or venison, I find I simply can't consume it in large quantities. A six-ounce portion is usually more than enough for me, I suppose because it is so protein-rich.

And damn, Dominic, nice accompaniments. Sounds like it was a terrific meal!

Posted by COMTE | January 27, 2008 9:48 AM

I just finished reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. In it he hunts a wild boar in Sonoma county, which has the added benefit that it is not indigenous wildlife, but an invasive species; a pest animal.

Deer are now also considered pest animals, but that is in the context of a couple of centuries of "wildlife management." Killing predators and harvesting bucks to maximize the deer harvest.

Posted by Michael J Swassing | January 27, 2008 10:43 AM

Grew up in the woods eating lots of game.

Venison = cook with fruit, dates, rasins, prunes = slow = moist = onion = salt and pepper

Elk the same.

Older game need marinate, some bacon bits sprinkled around will help tame the flavor.

Give bear to the dogs.

Antelope is THE finest, next to young wild goat.

Remember deer are plentiful, not at all endangered and must be harvested to avoid over population.

Posted by Jackie | January 27, 2008 10:49 AM

Best slog post ever. I only wish the description of the braising could go on as long as the braising did.

Australian, eh? Are you named after the car?

Posted by Fnarf | January 27, 2008 11:05 AM

Not to mention the fact that in certain of the San Juan islands, all you need is a bag of bread to catch one.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 27, 2008 11:50 AM

Answers to questions: The plates were mismatched, but they were ceramic, not paper. I braised the meat for about an hour, entirely on the stove but would have used the oven if I had a huge cast-iron pan.

Thanks, Fnarf. The name's not after the car. It’s an Americanization of the German Hochfeld, meaning high field. The paternal grandparents changed it to Holden after escaping the Holocaust by the skin of their teeth.

Posted by Dominic Holden | January 27, 2008 2:01 PM

A couple of comments.

Elk is awesome. Wild pig is excellent.

Deer fat is nasty, and should be removed when the animal is butchered. If you're making sausage, adding pork fat is recommended.

Posted by jamon serrano | January 27, 2008 4:48 PM

To elaborate further, jamon: adding pork fat is recommended no matter WHAT you're doing. Pork fat is the elixir of the gods -- incredible texture, meltability, flavor....

Posted by Fnarf | January 27, 2008 5:56 PM

I join @16 in commending elk meat. My friend's niece married an eastern Oregon cowboy who goes deer hunting and then turns the whole family onto steaks. My friend claims they're lower in bad things (well, except karma) than buffalo.

Posted by maddogm13 | January 27, 2008 9:00 PM

Umm, I meant elk hunting, 'course.

Posted by maddogm13 | January 27, 2008 9:01 PM

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