January 25, 2009
So, there is this venison dish that I'd been meaning to make ever since we saw the "Furred Game" episode of "Jamie at Home," but I never got around to it.
This Saturday we went to Ferry Building to see if we could find some venison loin (aka backstrap). Golden Gate Meats did have it, but it was not cheap (very not cheap). We bought it anyway. While we were there, we also picked up some Rancho Gordo beans and some Boccalone guanciale and prosciutto cotto.
I ended buying 1.5lb of venison loin. I cut it in half and saved one piece for another meal. I oiled the remaining piece and crusted it with a mixture of rosemary (obtained from a nearby bush), juniper berries (from the store), salt, and pepper. Then I seared it and roasted it for about 10 minutes, turning once. For the sauce, I deglazed with a little red wine, reduced it, and mounted with butter.
The side was a gratin of potatoes and celery root, cut into thick disks, par-boiled, and baked with sage, cream, and parmesan. I then topped it with more parmesan and browned the top.
The dish turned out really well, it was worth the expense. The meat was perfectly done all the way through, and the flavor of the crust nicely complimented the flavor of the meat. I thought the sauce had some bitter notes (I got some singed garlic in there), but Emily said it was fine.
The gratin was also tasty, but I think the sauce could be refined a little - it tasted too much like cream for my tastes. At the very least it could use a little nutmeg, possibly a second cheese, and maybe a dash of wasabi or curry powder. (Compare Keller's cauliflower gratin.)
We frequently make venison burgers, but this was the first time I've eaten a venison steak since I was very young. It was also the first time I've worked with juniper berries - they have an interesting flavor that seems to go well with the rosemary. I look forward to using them in the future.