28 December 2009

Field to Table

Hunting season draws to a close. I must say that this has been a good year. One hog and five deer later my freezer is packed. I'll have plenty of venison to last through the year. And seeing as how hogs are not limited by season then I'll have plenty more of that on the way, too.

I have been very fortunate to be able to do most of my hunting this year with my brother. Disclaimer: He is a much better hunter than I am. I hold him in very high regard. Whenever I have questions about hunting I turn to Bro. He is a veritable encyclopedia on all things game related. He is also a very good shot.

The day after Thanksgiving we went out for a hunt and each bagged a doe. The day after Christmas we went out again. Bro bagged three (3!) and I bagged zero (0!). Oh well, it was still loads of fun. And the fun continues in that I get to cook all of this venison any way I choose.

My first dish was a huge pot of venison chili. I'll surely make some more this winter so a full blog on that will come later. Tonight, though, I cooked up a little venison tenderloin. Are you ready? Good. Then let's take a look at how all this came to be.

It all started here:

This is the deer that I took after Thanksgiving. Tonight I cooked the tenderloins (I know they came from this one because of their size). I had an idea in mind because we had some produce from Boggy Creek Farms and the local gourmet grocery store. Also, the Missus picked up some wonderful chutney at the farmer's market. She ran into some friends of ours Larry and Lee Ann Kocurek. I have worked with Larry a couple of times at my cooking school. Lee Ann and I (and the Missus) actually go way back to one of my earlier chef gigs (c. 1993). It turns out the Kocureks have started their own business, Kocurek Family Artisan Charcuterie (this links to their Twitter page). The chutney had no ingredients list but it looked (and tasted) like figs, raisins, red pepper, mustard seed (?), white wine, vinegar, and sugar. Maybe Larry or Lee Ann will chime in and let us know.

So, the final dish was Venison Tenderloin with Carrots, Dandelion Greens, and Fig Chutney. I also did a side dish of Dutch Creamer Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Sweet Onion glazed with Balsamic Vinegar.

Here's how I did it:

I seasoned the tenderloins with salt and pepper and gave them a quick sauté, still leaving them really rare.

When they were nicely browned I let them rest on the cutting board while I sautéed the carrots (I cut them using an oblique cut, which helps them cook a little more evenly).

Then I added some of the chutney with a little water to help loosen the fond (bits of brown food stuck to the pan; remarkable flavor in that stuff). When the liquid was back to a syrupy consistency I tossed in the dandelion greens.
Once the greens were slightly wilted I placed the tenderloins back in the pan and put the whole mess in the oven (350°) while I finished the veggies (about 7 minutes).

I let the meat rest on the chopping block while I plated the veggies. It is important that you allow meat to rest after you cook it (at least 5 minutes for smaller cuts like this). This resting time lets the juices redistribute themselves throughout the muscular structure, yielding a more juicy, flavorful piece of meat. When the veggies were plated I sliced the meat and placed it on top of the carrot/dandelion mixture. Dinner was served. Yum.
Take a good look at that picture. Now scroll back up and look at the picture of the deer. That's a pretty nice transformation, huh?

I feel really good about getting my meat this way, as a hunter. I know for a FACT that there were no growth hormones or antibiotics used in the raising of this meat. I also know that it was raised humanely. Free range? It doesn't get more free range than this.

I also feel very lucky to have friends who own such a wonderful ranch. They don't hunt or lease the land anymore so the deer population has boomed. Realistically, they needed to cull some of the doe from their ranch and they let my brother and me come out to do it. Their land is absolutely gorgeous, too. There are not feeders everywhere (just one up by the house) and there are no deer blinds. When you hunt out there you actually have to "hunt". The deer eat only the natural vegetation on the land and they are truly some of the most healthy looking deer I have ever seen. The meat from these deer is so rich and sweet and tender. As it should be.

I'll be doing more "Field to Table" posts throughout the year. I look forward to showcasing how to cook venison (and wild game in general) and also showing what I do with the bounty from the local farmer's markets (Boggy Creek being my favorite) and artisans like the Kocurek family.

Bon Appétit!

No comments:

Post a Comment