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Venison June 20, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game.

This dish came about quite by accident as I never expected to find venison in my local supermarket! My supermarket (Coles, if any Australians are interested) has one refrigerator in the meat section that is filled with random, semi-exotic meat. You might get kangaroo one week, bone marrow the next. Livers and other innards are also there sometimes. This week when I checked it out it had venison fillets! I couldn’t help but buy them. I’ve had venison plenty of times in restaurants but had never before cooked with them so was eager to see what I could do with them.

The first thing to note about venison is that it’s very lean, not unlike kangaroo, so it either needs to be cooked quickly, or fat needs to be added if it is to be cooked for a long time. As I had fillets only, I decided on the quick cooking method, and after some searching came across this recipe, which I used as a guide to my dish, although I did not follow it exactly.

To start with, I prepared the venison. I put salt, peppercorns, chilli, and dried cranberries (no juniper berries) in a mortar, and pounded them until they were combined, and in smaller pieces. I then moved the spices into a bowl and dredged the venison fillets in the mix, leaving them to stand for 1 hour.

While that was standing, I prepared some vegetables to roast that I could serve with the venison. I cut up carrots, onion, garlic, turnip and parsnip, and tossed the lot in olive oil, salt and pepper and dried oregano. This went into the oven to roast.

Once that was in the oven, I set to work preparing the sauce. I took half a bottle of red wine (rather than the full bottle suggested in the recipe), and simmered this with shallots, cloves, garlic, more dried cranberries and a little bit of brown sugar. After this boiled, I turned it down to a low heat and continued to let this cook so that all the flavours were infused.

Once this had reduced, I removed the shallots, cloves and garlic pieces so the sauce was clear. Bolstered by my recent success using a beurre manie, I mixed up some flour and butter and added it to the sauce, which had the effect of immediately thickening it. At this point I also checked the roasting vegetables, tossing them around and turning them. I returned them to the oven while I went to work to cook the venison.

By this time, the venison had been sitting in its spice mixture for at least an hour if not a little more. To my delight, the spice mixture mostly adhered to the venison when I removed it from the bowl. I heated up some butter in a pan until it was frothy, and added the venison.

After I’d browned it on all sides, I put the whole frying pan in the oven to finish off the venison. Incidentally, I find it very convenient to have an all-metal frying pan, as it means I can move it straight from the stove to the oven without worrying about switching pans. Likewise with my Le Creuset pot, which gets a substantial workout both on the stove and in the oven!

I left the venison in the oven for about 7-8 minutes – certainly less than 10. The recipe instructed to leave it in the oven for 10 minutes for 600g of venison, and I had less than that. I then took the venison out of the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes. I think that resting meat is possibly one of the worst things to do to someone – I know it’s better for the meat and results in a more delicious end product – but it’s positively torture waiting for delicious meat for another time period after it’s been cooked!

By this time, the vegetables were also ready and when the meat was finished resting, I was ready to serve. I sliced each piece of venison into smaller pieces, drizzled some sauce over the top, and added some vegetables to the plate.

Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t actually describe how good the meat was. The vegetables were nice enough, and provided a good contrast to the venison. However, the meat was where it was all happening. I had, for once, been able to perfectly cook the meat, and it was well done on the outside while still juicy on the inside (incidentally I have since used this method to cook beef, which also came out perfectly). The spices had formed a crust on the exterior, which provided a salty, sweet kick to the meat. And the sauce was tangy and savoury, and just the right consistency. The red wine in the sauce was a good accompaniment to the venison, which was full-flavoured without being heavy.

Since making this dish, I have been on the lookout for any more venison at my supermarket. Unfortunately, to date no venison has been available, but I certainly live in hope! I make sure I check this specific fridge each time I go to the supermarket, so that I make sure I don’t miss out on any strange and unusual meats that become available.



1. gs - June 24, 2010

This sounds like a fantastic recipe — thanks! But I’m curious as to why you passed on the venison recipe from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. It’s curious that both recipes call for juniper berries — not a common ingredient.

inspiredbywolfe - June 25, 2010

Hi gs,

You’ve highlighted the main reason I didn’t go with the Nero Wolfe recipe – juniper berries! Or lack of… If I’m doing a Wolfe recipe I do try and stick to the recipe as much as possible and I felt that substituting the juniper berries was a pretty big change. A friend has now sourced some juniper berries for me so next time my supermarket has venison I’ll be sure to try the Wolfe recipe!

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