Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wild Deer - Cooked Slowly

Vegetarian and vegan friends....read no further! I was given some wild deer the other day, enough to make a stew for six, and two pies. It was given to me by a friend who has a hunter husband, the deer came from upstate New York, which is funny because we have plenty of deer right here in Montauk, I often think about how we could feed some folks in the hamlet, through the winter, on local venison sausages, burgers, and pies. If you have the permits you can go-a-hunting, but during hunting season it seems as though most of the hunters are from out of town, and they often do not behave so well in our woods. The NZ'er has fantasized about buying a bow and arrow, but for now he just grumbles about the deer and mutters on about installing electric fences and cattle stops.

A word about friends sharing food; last week a friend gave us littlenecks and steamers, he has the best in town, my secret supplier......it's all about the hanging, and another friend had a very successful day cod fishing, so we had roasted cod on a bed of bubble and squeak for dinner. Come summer there will be the swapping of mesclun, tomatoes, celeriac, and herbs, and more sharing of fish and shellfish, I love this town! More about bubble and squeak later.

The reason we are not so fond of the deer is because they eat everything in the garden, they eat holly leaves for goodness sake, and their favorite snack of all time is Yew.....mine are protected and very tall, ha, ha! they are a huge nuisance on the roads too, especially at dusk. I don't mean to imply that because they eat my garden I want to eat them! in fact I had never cooked venison and only eaten it once, and I was a little squeamish about it, maybe it's because I see so much of bambi, but the hunter husband made it easy for me, giving me prime cuts, all beautifully trimmed. The meat is very dark, but this is a good thing, due to the high iron content, and according to my mate Stephanie Alexander wild venison benefits from an overnight bathe in a wine marinade and also slow cooking. I used some of our 2008 Stonecrop Pinot for the marinade, seemed a bit decadent, and maybe not the red to use for this purpose, but there was an absence of red wine in the house, just good old Stonecrop........ #2!  Ok, time to move on.

The meat was so tender, really tender, with a wonderful flavor of juniper berries, the orange peel tasted so good too, next time I will put a few more strips in the stew, it tasted more like an exotic fruit rather than orange zest. I used the leftovers of the stew to make two pies, one for us and one for the little boy who lives down the road (not so little, big, strapping, athletic Australian, he needs his iron).

Daube Of Venison
Stephanie Alexander The Cook's Companion
Serves 6

2 1/2 lb boned venison  
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
4 garlic cloves peeled
3 cups veal stock
1 bouquet garni
3 juniper berries
2 tablespoons port, muscat or tokay
1 strip of orange zest
1 tablespoon of treacle (I didn't have treacle so I used golden syrup)
1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bouquet garni
3 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups red wine

To make the marinade combine all ingredients in a large glass or ceramic dish large enough to take the marinade and the venison. Cut venison into 1 1/2 inch cubes and turn in marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day preheat oven to 300f. Remove venison from marinade and dry with kitchen paper, roll in seasoned flour. Strain marinade and reserve. Cut bacon into thin strips and heat oil in a large enamelled cast-iron casserole, saute bacon until it starts to crisp. Add onion, carrot and garlic and saute, stirring until onion has softened. Tip in venison and stir. Pour in strained marinade and enough stock to just cover meat. Add bouquet garni, juniper berries, port, orange zest and treacle. Grind on pepper, then cover tightly with foil, or if you have a lid, even better. Put into oven and cook for 4 hours.

Remove casserole from oven and check - the meat should be very tender and the juices should have a sauce-like consistency. If juices are too thin, remove meat and vegetables to a warm baking dish with a slotted spoon, then boil juices on stove top to reduce. Taste for seasoning. Return meat and vegetables to casserole.

Take the casserole straight to the table and serve with mashed potatoes.

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