I must confess that sometimes it would be nice to live a bit closer to the D.C. museums or other parts of the city life that I miss on occasion. Now that the cold season is upon us, I have to get creative on how to keep my brain occupied, dreaming of world-class dining and what I consider to be amazing architecture of both the old and modern worlds.
In Germany, for example, I remember a town where houses had been remodeled, their 300 year old frames violated with Bauhaus style balconies and plate glass wings jutting into the street. It was intriguing.
I move on from my urban daydreams, however, when local hunters call me and ask me if I would like some fresh game to play with. I then forget about the museums and confused houses for a spell and put my thinking cap on.
Honestly, I have done little to no work with wild venison. Farm-raised venison is a great product, but wild is a different ball game. The unregulated diet can wreak havoc on the meat’s flavor whereas you always know what you’re getting with the farm-raised.
Recently, a friend brought me a good quantity of venison legs, and it was quite a gift since a goal of mine is to master, eventually, full-carcass butchery skills. The leg can be tricky because of the shape of the aitch bone and other components that make it a difficult task. But, once the technique is in your repertoire, you’ll be able to cut out the top round and other desirable cuts, separating the pieces good for roasting from those more appropriate for stewing.
For the first leg, however, I decided to roast it in the old-fashioned manner; a classical slow roast. Since this was bone-in, I opted to bard instead of lard. All that means is that I place fat on top of the meat to help infuse some moisture and flavor into the meat as it is incredibly lean, aka tough. I don’t have any larding needles anyways, so the choice was pretty much made for me.
In the recipe, I use the term ‘mirepoix’ (“MEER-pwah”). This is a 2:1:1 combination of onion: diced celery: diced carrot. Mirepoix is used in stocks to add flavor and in this case, just dice them finer than you normally would to make a nice bed for the roast to rest on.
When I cooked the roast, I cooked it as did my good friend Craig, although his came out better. I took it to 155F (he took his a bit lower) and while the flavor was there, I think the next time I will cook it I will brine it, marinate it and/or slow cook it for hours to help break down the tissue. As an uber-lean meat, there is a natural tendency for it to be tough. The leg is a high-usage part of the animal (as opposed to the tenderloin for example), so there will be connective tissue to contend with.
Soon it will be time to check the two venison hams that I made a couple of weeks ago. I get to tweak those recipes out as well. Variety is the motivation that we crazy cooks crave.
So, the next time I gripe about not being close to the city, I will remind myself of the resources we have down our way and enjoy the bounty of the land. And I’ll get this wild venison thing wired; mark my words.
roast leg of venison
1 ea. Venison leg
Enough bacon to cover the roast
8 ea. Peeled garlic cloves
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Small bundle fresh thyme
S&P to taste
3 c. Mirepoix (described in article)
4 oz. butter
1 qt. Stock
2 c. Big, dry red wine
Season the roast with salt and pepper and then poke 8 holes into it sporadically. Make sure that the holes are large enough to accommodate the garlic cloves
Shove a clove in each hole and then spread the rosemary and thyme on the roast
Bard the roast with the bacon, ensuring that the entire roast is covered
Melt the butter and pour on top of the bacon (don’t share the last two steps with your dietician)
Place the mirepoix on the bottom of a roasting pan, and lay the roast on top
pour 1 cup of the stock and the wine in the pan and place the pan in a 240F oven
Cook for hours upon hours until the meat falls off the bone
Remove the bacon and herbs and place in a saucepan
Place the roast on a platter or cutting board and cover with foil and a towel. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you slice
scrape the goo (a very technical culinary term…I believe it’s French) from the roasting pan into the saucepan and add the remaining stock
Bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes
Strain and remove fat and place back into the saucepan and reduce to a lovely, unctuous and silky-smooth glace
Slice the venison and serve with your sauce. Great sides for this meal would be roasted squash, potatoes, carrots, mashed potatoes or any other rib-sticking goodies you can think of.