Cooking up Bambi
Looking for an alternative to beef for the holidays? Consider venison. In our family, fall and winter are times for stews and roasts, both of which lend themselves to this tasty meat. Or consider marinating venison steaks and serving them with an aromatic sauce such as Julia Child’s Sauce Venaison.
Skimming through my cookbook collection, I found venison recipes with many variations, but these are some of the family favorites. Not surprisingly, they also come from some of cookbooks that are well worn and put to much use. Still searching for a holiday gift for someone with an interest in cooking? How about one of the great books from which these recipes came?
Currently, however, it’s deer season on Block Island, a good time to befriend a hunter. Child must have done so while living in France, for she has a specialized sauce recipe just for venison.
Brown Sauce for Venison
(to be served with venison steaks)
From: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Volume One
Author: Julia Child
Child prepares a Sauce Ragout; a flour based brown sauce made with giblets (whatever is on hand, duck, chicken, turkey). Before serving, she beats 1/2 cup red current jelly and 1/2 cup whipping cream into the sauce. Child’s recipe for Sauce Ragout, which makes four cups, follows:
Brown 1-4 cups of giblets, bones, meat trimmings, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, and ½ cup chopped onions in about six tbsp of oil or butter (I use olive oil) in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove from the pan and save the contents. Brown 4 tbsp of flour in the oil over medium to low heat. Add more oil if necessary. Remove from heat.
In another pot, heat to boiling, six cups of beef stock. Beat the heated stock into the brown sauce, along with the saved giblets and vegetables. You can, at this point also add 3 tablespoons of tomato paste (optional). Add an herb bouquet, tied in cheesecloth to the broth: 3 parsley springs, a bay leaf and ¼ teaspoon of thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for two to four hours. Degrease if necessary. Strain, correct the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste (the recipe calls for “copious amounts” of black pepper. Before serving add the current jelly and cream and beat well.
Serve this over a marinated venison steak, with roasted potatoes and a side of green veggies.
Saddle of Venison with Red Wine Sauce
From: “Essential Pepin”
Author: Jacques Pepin
Jacques Pepin, who for many years cooked side by side with Julia Child on her famous PBS cooking show offers this roasted venison alternative. His marinade works well for venison steaks as well. Another of our family’s favorite cookbooks!
For the marinade:
2 cups hearty red wine such as a Syrah, Merlot or Grenache
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 and ½ cups diced leeks
¼ cup diced carrots
¾ cups diced celery
1 and ½ cups diced onions
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 bone-in saddle of venison (about 4-5 pounds)
Pepin instructs combining all ingredients and bringing to a boil for one minute. Then pour the mix over the saddle of meat that has been placed in a large baking dish. Marinate, refrigerated, at least for hours and up to eight.
Now cook the meat. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then sprinkle the saddle that has been removed from the marinade (save he marinade!) with salt and pepper. Rub it with butter before placing it in a roasting pan. Roast for 35 minutes for medium rare and baste regularly with pan juices while it is cooking. Transfer it to an ovenproof platter when it is done and keep warm in a 160-degree oven.
Prepare the Sauce: While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. It is similar to Child’s recipe, except for the addition of soy sauce. He adds about 2 tbsp. of soy sauce to his brown sauce. Use the soy sauce according to taste. Pepin then pours the sauce into the roasting pan for cooking to get the flavor of the pan juices. He boils the mixture with the added jelly for about two minutes. Then he strains it and adds the cream before bringing to a short boil again, maybe just a 30 seconds to a minute, depending on your stove’s heat. Remember to stir!
To serve, pour a few tablespoons of the sauce on top of the saddle and bring to the table to carve. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
The meat of venison lends it self to long cooking times so it is perfect for stews. Two variations follow, again from two of our family’s favorite cookbooks.
Venison Stew a la Rosso & Lukins for six people
From: "The New Basics Cookbook"
Authors: Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups Madeira
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
8 juniper berries, crushed
1 bay leaf
3 lbs. boneless venison shoulder cut into one-inch cubes
8 oz bacon cut into one-inch pieces
3 tbsp flour
1 rutabaga, about two and a half pounds, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
12 small white onions
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
2 cups pitted dates
1 large fennel bulb, julienned
3 tbsp coarsely chopped Italian parsley
The chefs combine the stock, Madeira, vinegar, ½ cup of olive oil, garlic, thyme, 1 tsp. of the pepper, juniper berries, and bay leaf in a bowl, stir it up, then add the venison cubes. Let it marinate for at least two hours at room temperature.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the venison and reserve the marinade. Pat the meat dry. Cook the bacon in a large flameproof casserole over medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon. Add the venison in batches and brown quickly over medium-high heat. Add some olive oil if necessary. Return all meat to the casserole and sprinkle with flour. Stir well. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the reserved marinade and cook another two minutes. Add the rutabaga, cover the casserole and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
While the venison cooks, place the onions in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil for five minutes. Rinse in cold water and remove the skins, careful not to remove the root end. Sauté the onions in 2 tbsp of butter in a skillet for about two minutes, then add 1 tsp of sugar and cook until they are caramelized, about one minute longer. Add the onions and dates to the casserole. Add two more tbsp of butter to the skillet, and the fennel pieces. Cook over medium high heat for three minutes. Add the remaining tsp of sugar and one tsp of pepper and cook another few minutes until caramelized.
When ready to serve, gently fold the cooked fennel into the stew. Sprinkle the stew with parsley and bring to table piping hot.
Venison Cider Stew for Four
From: "A Well-Seasoned Appetite"
Author: Molly O’Neill (also a columnist with the New York Times)
1 tbsp bacon fat (I use olive oil instead)
1 lb leg of venison cut into one-inch cubes
2 tbsp flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 minced onion
2 small celery roots, trimmed, peeled and cubed
½ cup apple cider
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 tsp kosher salt to taste
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup dried apples, diced
¼ cup calvados
¼ cup pistachios coarsely chopped
Warm the fat or oil in a large heavy pot on the stove. Dust the venison with the flour and add to the pan (I use a plastic bag for this. Put the flour and venison in a bag and shake). Add the dusted venison to the pan and cook until well browned. Remove from the pan and add the onion. Reduce the heat and cook until the onion is soft, about five minutes. Add the celery roots and cook three more minutes. Add the cider, vinegar, broth, salt, pepper, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the celery root is tender, about an hour. Discard the cinnamon stick. Stir the venison into the stew. I simmer the stew an additional half hour to make sure venison is cooked through.
Soak the dried apples in the Calvados while the stew cooks. When ready to serve, ladle the stew into large bowls. Garnish with the Calvados mixture and the chopped pistachios.
Or Keep It Simple
The tried and true Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker offers simple to complicated recipes for venison. The cookbook also has a handy chart to illustrate the various cuts of meat on the deer. The very simplest follows:
From: “The Joy of Cooking,” 75th Anniversary Edition
Authors: Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Rombauer
Combine four parts ground venison with one part fresh pork sausage. Cook as you would a hamburger, on the grill or stovetop. Allow extra time to make sure the meat is cooked through and not pink. Serve with Salsa Fresca, recipe follows:
Salsa Fresca (Pico de Gallo)
Makes two spicy cups
Combine in a bowl:
½ small white or red onion or scallions, chopped
2 tbsp fresh limejuice
3-5 ripe plum tomatoes diced and if desired, seeded
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 to 5 Serrano or jalapeno peppers to taste, seeded and minced. Note: when cutting up peppers, wash hands thoroughly afterwards to get rid of oils from the peppers!
Six radishes finely minced: optional
One medium garlic clove minced: optional
Stir all and add ¼ tsp of salt. Mix well and serve with the burgers.