Venison. It’s What’s for Dinner.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Last week a friend of mine was gifted a deer haunch from a co-worker. Not the typical lunch item might expect to share at the local HomeDepot, but there you go. Here in PA, we’re rather share-y when it comes to big game.
It wouldn’t fit in their freezer, and his wife wasn’t keen on it anyway, so he passed it along to me to cook up for dinner with a couple of families. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement. Thinking to myself, “Oh, I can pop that baby into my 20 quart roaster tomorrow, and just let it go all day low and slow, with minimal heat and mess. YAY!”
Reality is a funny thing though. Once i got it home, it didn’t take a yardstick to tell me there was no way that leg was fitting in my roaster. I found my biggest roasting pan, and checked to see if I could get it in the oven at least, and as long as it was at an angle, it just fit. Cheered by the prospect that I would NOT be forced to build a fire pit complete with roasting spit in my backyard, I started researching just what was the appropriate way to DEAL with such an impressive piece of flesh.
As always, I first looked to my trusty kitchen companion, Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions. Unfortunately, Sally makes the laughable assumption that folks don’t wish to cook like Captain Caveman, and so all of the venison recipes contained therein assume small, manageable size cuts of meat. But I did garner one small nugget of wisdom that was NOT included in any other recipes I found thereafter, which was that the game needed to be soaked in an acidic marinade, preferably overnight, prior to cooking.
With my new found wisdom in hand, I next turned to my ever-faithful Internets– a universe of knowledge and facts at my fingertips. After sifting through many ideas, recipes and suggestions online, I decided I would wing it. Truly, my most favorite method of cooking, I assure you. It’s my default mode, which has led to many a kitchen disaster, but more often than not, some yummy comestibles have resulted.
I really like the general method outlined on Field and Stream‘s website, though I didn’t have the particulars, so utilizing what I had on hand, I came up with a pretty good paste-like marinade, rubbed it all in and covering with foil, stuck it in the cold oven to sit over night (on site had stressed allowing the meat to come to room temp before roasting, and that made sense to me.)
At 8:30 the next morning, I set the oven for 250 degrees F, and let ‘er rip.around noonish, I flipped the whole thing over, and then a couple of hours later, flipped it again. At about 2:30, I turned the oven temp to 350, and set the time for 30 minutes. When the timer went off, I check the temp with a meat thermometer– 150. PERFECT! I took it out and let it rest under some tented foil, where it coasted fully to 160. (the folks I was cooking for weren’t going to be down with anything less than well done!)
But there were drippings. Oh, the drippings. A more decadent broth of yummy richness I have never tasted! So I made gravy. Oh yes. I made gravy.
We all ate well that night, and the leftovers went into a venison stew the next day, which was presented at our church’s Harvest Fest Soup and Bread Lunch the next day. The leftovers from THAT now reside in my freezer, next to the bones which WILL be made into stock in short order.
Oh, and did I mention the tallow? HOW COULD I FORGET THE TALLOW??? Of course, about a cup of tallow came off the roast into the drippings, which I allowed to harden on top of the drippings in the fridge and then saved in a freezer bag, along with the fattiest bits of meat and skin, so that I can melt it all down and skim it off later for all the magical goodness that is deer fat. It’s a wonderful thing, indeed it is.
This is the good life. *bliss*
1 deer leg
1 cup of Celtic sea salt (or regular kosher salt if the price gets you– I used half and half)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup EVOO
1 cup raw apple cider vinegar
Seasoning (peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, sage, cayenne etc. Use your judgment and eyeball it– I used anywhere from a quarter to half a palm-full. Use enough to sufficiently spice the whole haunch.)
In small bowl, mix ingredients for marinade to achieve a loose paste. Rub paste all over roast, cover in roasting pan and allow to marinate overnight (12-24 hours) in refrigerator, or on counter if you plan to cook it immediately the next morning. It will need a couple of hours to come to room temperature before putting in the hot oven.
When you are ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F. Allow to roast for 3-4 hours, checking to make sure it isn’t browning too fast. AT about four hours, flip it over (carefully, you may need an assistant for this– this piece of meat is NO JOKE.) and allow to cook for another hour- hour and a half. Flip again and cook until deep brown, or meat thermometer reads desired doneness (rare– 135, Medium-rare 140-150, Medium 160, Well done 165 and up.) If the top isn’t as brown as you would like, raise temp to 350 for 20-30 minutes, keeping an eye on temp.
Remove from oven and allow to rest under tented foil for AT LEAST 20 minutes to redistribute juices before slicing.
Pour off pan drippings into a gravy strainer (or something that will allow you to pour off the fat separately.) In saute pan over medium heat, stir together 2 T of fat with 2 T of flour, cooking for about 5 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste. Slowwly add in two cups of pan drippings/broth, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer until thickend, adding liquid as necessary to bring to desired consistency. NOTE: The pan drippings may be very salty form the brine. You will probably want to use a combo of drippings plus beef broth and/or water. Keep tasting to make sure it’s to your preference.
Serve over slices of venison, potatoes, sandwiches, straight from the bowl. Whatever.