Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Neighbors Sharing Venison

Having a front-yard kitchen garden brings us into contact with all kinds of admirers. People stop on the sidewalk to talk about the garden they remember from their grandmother. Or about their own garden. Drivers stopped at the traffic signal on the corner shout encouragement and questions out their car windows. "What you got growing there?"

One day an elderly gentleman from down the street stopped to chat about the Angus cattle he grows on a farm in Virginia and his troubles making any money from them. I suggested he might make a small fortune selling the meat in the local farmers markets. The man's nephew came around to collect some of our tomatoes. A few weeks later he brought a big venison roast as a gift.

This was some beautiful meat, about five pounds I'd guess. I cut it into big stewing pieces, trimmed away the silver skin and set to browning it. I've gotten so much grief from my wife about frying meat in the kitchen--(our pathetic Jenn-Air fan doesn't help much--the grease ends up all over the walls)--I decided to move my braising operation outside to the charcoal grill.

Here you see the meat browning in one of my favorite Le Creuset enameled pots directly over charcoal. Who knew?

The meat was marinated two days with lots of red onion, sliced carrots, celery, a head of garlic sliced in half, a big fistful of thyme sprigs, parsley, and nearly two bottles of red wine--all squished together in two freezer bags. After the long marinade, the meat was well-drained and even squeezed dry in paper towels. I used a lot of paper towels. Season the meat aggressively with coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper. After browning, the meat is again drained on paper towels.

Perhaps I should not have been so surprised how well everything cooked in a pot set over hot coals. There was a generous layer of brown bits left at the bottom of the pot. After draining the marinade and picking out all the herbs, the remaining vegetables go into the pot to deglaze. Stir in about 1/4 cup flour and cook a few minutes more.

Finally, pour the reserved marinade liquid over the vegetables and press the meat into the liquid.

Cover the pot and simmer for two hours, or until the meat is perfectly tender. The dying coals make a cozy cooking environment for my enameled pot.

"See, look at all the grease spots," says my wife when I invite her onto the deck to see what I've been doing. Indeed, there are flecks of grease everywhere, just the thing she'd been complaining about in our kitchen. "Maybe what we need is a gas grill with a burner," she suggests. Maybe. But now I like making stew over hot coals.

I'm so pleased with myself, I have to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine and a little cheese. There's a nice breeze blowing on the decks. That's something you don't get in the kitchen either.


Becca said...

I'm jealous of your pot. Mine is fake Le Creuset, the real thing is a little beyond the budget of a college student.

Good to know I could use mine on the grill though since my mom also gets annoyed when anyone fries meat (or anything else for that matter) indoors. It had never occured to me although it makes perfect sense.

Magic Cochin said...

Venison for some tomatoes - that was some deal!

You can't beat cooking in a Le Creuset - I bet that venison tasted blissful! We wonder just how many suppers have been cooked in ours - must be over 1500 by now!

Celia :)

Sylvie said...

did you use lard to brown the meat? That would give in another depth of flavor.

We love venison. We'll be eating the last of last year over the next few weeks, to make room (we hope) for this hunting season!

A mixture of ground venison and ground pork, highly seasoned with garden herbs and home made tomato sauce (and lots of garlic) makes the best spaghetti sauce (using my cast-iron pan, not my Le Creuset, though...)


Riana Lagarde said...

venison is one of my favorites as well, what a great idea to cook outside like that! a friend gifted me a le crueset, i use it for everything now. bon appetit from france

Ed Bruske said...

Becca, we have three Le Creusets in different sizes. They're the best pots we own, and very versatile.

Riana, so good to hear from you. I really appreciate the greetings from France. Wish we were there.

Emily said...

I have a few Staub enameled cast-iron pots like these, and I rarely use anything else.
Becca—look in consignment or second-hand/thrift stores—you'd be surprised how many people give away perfectly wonderful cookware!