23 April 2010
It's amazing what you can do with a couple of these.
Every Easter I want to do something different than lamb or ham. As a recovering preacher's kid I have had my share of lamb and ham on Easter. So one Easter about 3 or 4 years ago I decided to have a butterflied steel head trout stuffed with mushrooms, walnut bread, and Turkish spices. I like to get really outside the box sometimes. So began my quest for the not-so-Easter-dinner. I was off to a good start.
Since that day I have begun harvesting my own meat. If you have been following these posts then you probably know that I have LOTS of venison in my freezer right now (though I have been putting a dent in it). I also have (had) two recipes of puff pastry and a bag of peas. Around this past Easter I was reading a great book entitled "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". In one scene a character makes a 'venison pie' for dinner. There was no description of the dish other than the name. So methinks, "I bet I could do that." And I did. And it was yummy.
First I par-boiled some Yukon Gold potatoes. The were peeled and cut into large pieces. When you par-boil something you are not cooking it all the way. This means that the potatoes were left a little bit hard because they would be baking with the assembled pie. If I cooked them all the way then they would have been mush in the finished product.
The next thing that I had to do was brown the meat. I used 2 lbs. of ground venison. I was in a bit of rush and put a little too much meat in the pan all at once. Do this step in batches so that you get good caramelization on the meat. I added some minced garlic at the end of the browning step.
The next step was to cook the veggies. I used carrots (quartered and chopped), pearl onions (frozen), Shiitake mushrooms (stemmed and sliced), and peas (frozen). I know, I know. Some of you may be shocked that Monsieur Punk Chef is using frozen ingredients. "You kill your own meat but don't blanch and peel your own pearl onions and harvest your own peas?" Nope. Sometimes I take the path of least resistance. Sometimes I also like to use what I have on hand, too. Anyway, back to the egg, or the pie. Sauté the vegetables so that the ones that will take longer to cook go into the pan first. I started with the carrots, adding a little EVOO to the pan.
Then I added the pearl onions. I let these two cook together for a while so that they became well caramelized. I'm also keeping the heat moderate so that I don't burn the wonderful fond developing on the bottom of the pan.
At this point it was time to add the mushrooms and aromatics. I chose bay leaf, sage, thyme, juniper berries (crushed), salt, and pepper. Sage and juniper berries are two of my favorite spices with venison. When the mushrooms are soft remove the vegetables to a bowl and set them aside.
Now add the cooked meat back to the pan and sprinkle about 3 Tbsp. of flour on it. Stir the meat well and let the flour cook until it starts to smell 'toasty'.
When the flour loses it's 'raw' smell add about a cup of strong red wine. I used a Minervois, from the Languedoc region of France (quite possibly my favorite wine producing region of the world). The mixture will become thick so stir it constantly to avoid burning. When the alcohol smell from the wine is gone you can add a little stock or water to make a thick sauce. I added about 2 cups of chicken stock because I had it around.
The veggies went back into the pan with the meat and I added the peas and potatoes (make sure that you are using a very large sauté pan for this recipe). I also threw in some parsley, again because it was lying around and I wanted to use it up. Everything was mixed together very well and tasted for seasoning.
I put the whole mess in a casserole dish that was big enough and deep enough to hold it. I have a large oval Le Creuset casserole dish that works well for recipes like this.
Now for the puff pastry topping. If you can make your own (note to self: blog on puff pastry), that would be best. If you have to buy a commercial brand look for one that is all butter. In a pinch, Pepperidge Farm brand will work but because it is in squares you may have to patch the topping together. No worries, though. It will be fine.
My puff pastry was frozen (but homemade) so I had to let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. The next day (Easter) I let it sit on the counter until it was fully thawed. Then I put it back in the fridge so that it would stay cold. It is important for the pastry to be cold when you work with it so that the butter won't get soft and cause the pastry dough to stick and tear.
When I was ready to top the pie I cut the loaf of pastry dough in half and rolled out one half into the shape of a large oval; slightly larger than the casserole dish. Be sure that you have a floured surface on which to roll your dough.
Gently fold up the dough so that you can transfer it to the pie. Unfold the dough on top of the pie, tuck the edges in, and brush it with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp. milk or cream). Cut some decorative slits in the top. Not only do the slits look pretty but they allow some steam to escape during cooking.
Bake the pie in a preheated 375° oven for about 45 minutes or until the crust is puffed, golden, and you can see some bubbles in the pie filling.
Let the pie rest for about 10 minutes and then serve it with garden salad (yes, this time all the greens came from my garden).
I had a bunch of this left over so I took some in to work and fed my staff and volunteer crew on a class that I taught the day after Easter. Everybody loved it and my colleague Louis took one bite and said, "Dude, this is SCREAMING for a Burgundy." I had to agree, though I would have been just as happy with a Languedoc wine. Even though the recipe was improvised it did have a very French accent. Si bon!
Now, what to do with the other half of that puff pastry. I can't refreeze it. I KNOW! I'll make some quick chocolate croissants.