|my sized portion|
|man sized portion|
I love venison. I'd had it a few times and it hadn't made that much of an impression on me until I had it at the Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue last winter. The chef had roasted the venison and paired it with, I think it was a hazelnut spaetzle... (yum!!!) Obviously nutritional values vary based on the type of game you're choosing to prepare, but overall they, game meats, [which are basically anything that is hunted; venison, rabbit, buffalo, kangaroo, yak, alligator... ;)] are supposed to be a healthier choice. Thus, I've been trying to incorporate more game meat into my diet. Livestrong compared the nutritional values of venison with beef, venison is lower in total fat content, saturated fat, and a three ounce serving of venison contains slightly more protein than a three ounce serving of beef.
Most grocery stores don't carry venison, and I am certainly not going to go out and hunt my own for the following reasons;
1) I would probably cry
2) I would have so much guilt over being the direct cause for the death of Bambi I wouldn't be able to eat it
3) Who am I kidding with the "probably", I would definitely cry
4) The whole experience might make me a vegetarian and I like meat too much to do that
[After re-reading my list I could totally go on a rant about how it's bizarre how far removed we are from our food as a society. We're so... sterile. I'm totally guilty of this, but most people think their animal proteins origin is the freezer aisle and give it no more thought... I'm going to stop now.]
So, I went to the local butcher and they were able to order a 3 lb venison tenderloin for me.
I love the local butcher. They're a little more expensive but they're so sweet!! After some questions about how best to prepare the tenderloin, they lent me a cookbook that solely discussed game meats and the best ways to prepare them. I devoured that in about 2 hours and my little head was filled to the brim teeming with ideas.
1) The Venison Tenderloin
In the end I decided to marinate the venison for a few hours in about 3 cups of red wine, with whole peppercorns, tarragon, salt, ground pepper and a healthy pinch of “Herbs de Provence.”
When I was ready I drained the excess liquid from the marinade and pat-dried the meat.
Every single recipe I read that involved a marinade with venison specified the importance of "pat drying" the meat before roasting.
We have a monster oven so you may have to raise the temperature of your oven a few degrees warmer, but I had preheated the oven to 350 degrees. I also preheated the baking pan in the oven and allowed 2 teaspoons of butter to melt covering the bottom of the pan as the oven warmed up while I drained the marinade. The melted butter created a tasty searing effect on the meat when I first put it into the oven. I cooked the tenderloin for exactly 17 minutes. The butcher kept stressing the importance of serving the meat medium-rare. "It's incredibly easy for this meat to get too tough." The cookbook suggested letting the meat get to an internal temperature of 130 degrees... I didn't use the meat thermometer I used the finger test.
Once the venison was out of the oven I let it rest in a warm spot until I was ready to serve it (about 15 minutes). I reserved the drippings from the baking dish and I used it in the onions and mushrooms to round out the flavors.
2) Onions and Mushrooms.
For the salad I made to accompany this, I had toasted hazelnuts in the pan I intended to use for the onions and mushrooms. I wanted a hint of the hazelnut flavor in there without it being overbearing.
I toasted them for about 10 minutes mixing them intermittently. Nuts have their own oils, so you don't need to add anything to the pan, actually I would recommend strongly against adding any outside fat or oil.
Toasting nuts before using them in any recipe magnifies their flavor significantly!!
After toasting the hazelnuts, pour them into a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb any oil and allow them to cool.
Soooo here is where I became the victim of an impulse buy, I saw these in the store and I had to try them, Maitake mushrooms otherwise known as the Hen of the Woods.
Maitake mushrooms are native to the mountains of Northern Japan. These mushrooms have historically been coveted for their supposed health benefits to the immune system. At one point in history they were actually worth their weight in silver. Maitake extracts are still marketed today. There are also studies being conducted evaluating the positive effects these mushrooms are said to have in slowing/stopping the development of cancerous cells. This mushroom is also reported to have a stabilizing effect on the glucose levels in diabetics.
In addition to being good for you, it's also tasty! After looking up some information on them I also looked at a bunch of recipes that seem very tempting... anyway tonight I wasn't sure exactly how best to prepare them, so I decided to treat them like any other mushroom.
I coarsely chopped one VERY large yellow onion, allowed that to sweat in the pan over medium heat with a small amount of butter, salt and pepper and then added the mushrooms. I chose to mix in the drippings from the venison baking pan, to build the flavor.
Once it's done cooking, remove from the heat and keep in a warm place until you're ready to serve it with the venison.
3) Mixed Green Winter Salad with Feta Cheese, Chopped Dates, and Roasted Garlic, with a Port Wine Reduction, Herbed Olive Oil, and Toasted Hazelnuts served over roasted Acorn Squash.
That's a mouthful.
Let's start with the reduction, I had used a saucepan tonight to make a homemade cranberry sauce, I'm waiting to see how that pans out before I write about it. Originally I had intended for that to be a glaze on the venison and then I realized that the cranberry sauce should be refrigerated for 6 hours prior to serving... grrrr.
Anyway, after making that ooey-gooey sticky goodness I was going to simply deglaze the saucepan when I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone. So. I used about half a cup of port wine, a quarter cup of water and I let that cook over a low heat for about 15-20 minutes with a whole clove of the already roasted garlic. I used this for the dressing, in combination with an herbed olive oil. You can buy them or make your own, it's relatively easy to do, but I just used the store bought one I had on hand.
Another part of my impulse buying today was an acorn squash, I'm still working out the kinks on roasting these so as you can see, they're a little crispier than what I had originally planned on but they were still delicious.
For the rest of the salad I added crumbled Feta cheese, about 1 cup of sliced dried dates, about 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts, and some finely sliced/crushed roasted garlic. You only need about maybe one to two cloves for the entire salad. The idea was to just give a hint of the flavor. Season the salad with some freshly ground pepper and you're good to go
4. Roasted Garlic.
I am obsessed. I've been trying to do this for MONTHS.
About two years ago, I went to San Francisco and went to the Stinking Rose. The Stinking Rose is a restaurant completely dedicated to garlic. Sounds stinky? Guess again.
It was delicious! they even had garlic ice cream! I'm not planning on making that anytime soon, but the one thing they did that really struck me was that they gave you whole heads of garlic that had been roasted to eat whole, or spread on the bread they gave you like butter.
It was SO good.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, cut about 1/4 off the top of a whole bulb of garlic, generously coat with olive oil, roast for about 20-25 minutes. The tops of the garlic will caramelize into a pretty golden color and the bulbs will be soft to the touch.
Remove the garlic from the bulbs, use/eat immediately on toasted pane rustica with a little salt or a little sprinkle of parmesan, or refrigerate to keep for another day.
As you can see I used a cupcake tray to roast my garlic, I've found it just makes handling them and clean up a lot easier.