Oh, deer: venison recipes. January 20, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Colonial cooking, cooking with game, deer, game, venison recipes
Silence Dogood here. Though our friend Ben and I live deep in the heart of deer-hunting country (there’s a deer blind in the field directly across the road from our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven), neither of us has ever eaten venison. So I was unprepared when my brother sent me an e-mail this weekend to say that a colleague had presented him and his family with four venison steaks, and he wondered if I could tell him how to cook them.
Well, in a word, no. But never let it be said that Silence Dogood is not up to a challenge! Heading to my trusty accomplice, Google, I typed in “venison recipes,” expecting to be taken to something like the Cabela’s website. Instead, to my astonishment, what came up first was Jamie Oliver’s website! Never averse to looking at Jamie Oliver, I clicked on the link, searched the site for “venison,” and lo and behold, two recipes appeared, for Pan-Seared Venison with Blueberries, Shallots, and Red Wine, and for Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff. Both sound pretty tasty, eh? You can find the recipes, with lovely photos of the finished dishes (plus some lovely photos of Jamie himself) at www.jamieoliver.com.
My brother had heard that venison, not a fatty meat, could easily get tough if mishandled. Jamie appeared to take care of that by adding what he endearingly referred to as “glugs” or “lugs” of olive oil and “knobs” of butter to each dish, along with a spirited splash of red wine in the case of the Pan-Seared Venison and brandy for the Stroganoff. Cutting the meat fairly fine and cooking it for a brief time also kept it nicely tender and juicy.
Jamie’s wording in both recipes is simply classic. I don’t want to give anything away (or earn an X-rating for our blog), but check out Jamie’s intro to the Pan-Seared Venison recipe for a priceless example of the differences between British and American usage. I can’t wait to share this one with Ben! Oh, dear, I mean, deer.
Now, Jamie’s recipes looked delicious. They also required a ton of ingredients and took a quite a bit of preparation, not ideal for two adults with incredibly hectic schedules and two young, active kids. Where could I find a simpler recipe that didn’t descend to the “Take a can of mushroom soup” level? Hmmm, I thought. When were people historically eating a lot of venison? Why, when this country was first settled! Inspired, I headed for my Colonial cookbooks.
Starting at the beginning, I took Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery off the shelf. But fond as I am of Martha, I couldn’t help but feel that her recipe for venison in a pastry crust, though it might be quite tasty, would require almost as much preparation as Jamie Oliver’s recipes, and probably wouldn’t sit well with the kids, who are unlikely to have ever encountered a meat pie. I did learn something fascinating, though: Martha, like her British ancestors, prepared a “faux venison” dish called “Red Dear of Beefe” that begins with these appetizing instructions: “First take a piece of young buttock beefe & lard it.” This dish decended directly from the home country, where deer and deer parks were the exclusive property of the nobility, which gave venison quite the cachet. More humble folks had to fake it with rump roast.
Undaunted, I next turned to Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book, where I found a somewhat more straightforward recipe that in fact did use actual venison. Here it is in its totality: “Lard well a saddle of venison, dust with salt and pepper. Put in a hot oven. Baste with cream, as it is not very fat. Serve with currant jelly sauce.” Unfortunately, while flipping through the pages to reach the relevant one, I encountered a recipe for “Remains of Boiled Fish.” I wonder how often Mr. Jefferson ate that!
Moving on, I picked up The Early American Cookbook. This time, I struck gold. If you’re ever confronted by a gift of venison, or eat it regularly and want to try something a bit different, here are three easy recipes that all sound good:
Roast Venison with Sour Cream Gravy
3 cups dry red wine, divided
1/2 cup apple cider
3 bay leaves
4 whole peppercorns
1 6-pound venison roast
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dairy sour cream [Er, as opposed to what?---Silence]
In a shallow dish combine 2 1/2 cups wine with cider, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Place venison in wine mixture; cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove venison from marinade and place on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up. Sprinkle with salt. Insert a meat thermometer in center of thickest part of meat, not touching bone or resting in fat. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Strain 1 cup of the marinade and add to melted butter. Brush meat with this mixture several times during roasting time. Roast meat to desired degree of doneness, approximately 25 minutes per pound for medium rare. Remove roast to a warm platter. In a 1 1/2 quart saucepan combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 3/4 cup drippings from the venison and stir until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Reduce heat to low and stir in sour cream. Heat to serving temperature, but do not boil. Serve with venison. Serves 6 to 8.
Venison Steaks or Chops
8 venison steaks or chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
Dry red wine
Freshly ground pepper
Seasoned all-purpose flour [Uh, seasoned with what?!---Silence]
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, minced
1/2 cup diced celery
Place steaks or chops in a shallow dish and pour enough red wine over the top to barely cover meat. Sprinkle liberally with pepper. Let stand overnight, turning occasionally. Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry. Dredge in seasoned flour. Heat enough butter in a large, heavy skillet to cover the bottom. Add steaks and cook on both sides until browned and tender. While steaks are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in another skillet. Add mushrooms, bacon, onion and celery and cook slowly until onion is tender. Stir in about 1/4 cup wine, bring to a boil, and simmer 2 minutes. Serve steaks topped with wine sauce. Serves 8.
Leftovers? Not a problem. Just toss together this easy casserole—don’t be fooled by its name, “Day-After Pie”—for another 4 to 6 hearty servings:
3 cups warm cooked rice
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, well beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 to 3 cups leftover cubed venison with gravy
Salt and pepper to taste
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix warm rice with butter, egg, and nutmeg. Butter a 1 1/2-quart casserole well and cover bottom and sides with about two-thirds of the rice mixture. Put cubed meat and gravy in center. If they are already well seasoned, season with a very little salt and pepper. Place sliced eggs over meat. Cover with remaining rice mixture. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.
Of course, I couldn’t leave the subject until I had consulted with that venerable authority, my 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking, passed down through three generations of my family and counting. And sure enough, Irma S. Rombauer had quite a lot to say on the subject of venison, beginning with a commentary on how long you had to hang venison before it was fit to eat (not, hopefully, an issue in the case of my brother’s steaks). Irma offers two simple recipes for venison steaks. (As you’ll see, she has her own unique way of putting recipes together.) The first basically tells you to rub venison steaks with a cut clove of garlic and a generous amount of butter, season with salt and paprika or pepper, and broil under a broiler until they’re “crisp and brown on the outside, rare and juicy within.” Then serve with Currant Jelly Sauce (a surprisingly complicated recipe) or Maitre d’Hotel Butter, which sounds scary but is really just 1/4 cup softened butter creamed with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, with 3/4 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice stirred in until totally blended just before serving.
Here’s Irma’s other recipe for venison steaks:
Venison Loin Steaks or Cutlets
These may be dipped in:
Seasoned bread crumbs
Broil the steaks or saute them quickly in butter. Or rub:
2 venison steaks
A cut clove of garlic
Heat until sizzling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Saute the steaks quickly in this until both sides are brown. Season the steaks with:
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup thick cream
1 1/2 tablespoons currant jelly
2 tablespoons butter
Add additional seasoning if required.
Irma also provides recipes for Roast Leg of Venison, Saddle of Venison, and Venison Pot Roast or Stew, and they all look good. Do you have favorite venison recipes? If so, please share them! I’d hate for my brother to end up with an inedible dish, or to be so intimidated by the prospect of cooking those steaks that they continued to live in the freezer for untold ages. Talk about “Oh, deer!”
‘Til next time,