February 17, 2009
Venison Part II: tenderloin with porcini mushroom risotto
I wanted to post the second part of my venison adventure so that you would see that it wasn't just a blip on the radar. I have talked to many people who say that venison tastes "gamey" or strange, or that they just were not impressed.
I, for one, did not have that experience as you saw from the first venison post, and this dish confirms that. One more for the buck. Or for us, as the case may be.
I decided with the tenderloin to make the most of its deep, natural flavors and serve it with a risotto that was just as rich. This complementary richness of flavor would be the crowning glory of my dish.
I love the way the meat looks raw and crimson-colored, but before you accuse me of being "blood-thirsty" and "gross," just let me say that there is nothing wrong with liking the look of good, ultra-fresh animal meat. On the contrary, it is a stance that many people can relate to when it comes to the fresh, glistening look of sushi-grade fish. That's a dead animal too, lest we forget.
But the meat here tastes as great as it looks and the appearance of meat in its raw form is just as important as the cooked form. If it doesn't look good, don't buy it --rule number one for me. And, if you have a healthy respect for the food you prepare, you should be able to admire its natural beauty. So, I have a clean conscience. It's clean also because I know that this deer was killed by someone I know and it was given to us as a gesture of sharing. That sharing between the animal and its predator and between the hunter and us is what the natural world is all about. I surprise even myself here.
Anyway, I had some risotto as well as some dried porcini mushrooms in the cupboard so I soaked the mushrooms in about 1/3 cup of warm water while the meat was marinated with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme from my still productive herb garden. This soaking/marinading lasted about 30 minutes. (* Don't throw out the mushroom water! it will come in handy for the sauce).
The combination of fresh thyme, mushrooms and a sauce based on dijon mustard was just the thing to bring out the flavor of the venison. It was pretty easy to do as well.
I made the risotto as usual, with white wine and broth, parmesan cheese and butter, stirring for about 20 minutes. When it was ready, I quickly seared the meat in olive oil (some of the pieces were cut too small but the larger ones were cooked perfectly. As I said before, cooking venison is tricky and it can be ruined easily! Lesson learned: cut pieces that are uniform in size and not too small that they'll cook too fast).
I quickly deglazed the crispy meat bits left in the skillet with white wine and a mixture of the mushroom water and about 2 tsp. of good dijon mustard. I let that liquid cook down for a minute until it was thick and poured it over the meat which rested on top of the risotto.
We enjoyed this delicious venison dish with a gorgeous Cotes du Rhone Domain Catherine le Goeuil hand-selected for us by our friend Will at Woodland Wine Merchant. It was a little bit of a splurge for a weeknight, but the venison merited such a treat. And what a marriage made in Heaven it was.
Thank you again, my deer. We loved you.