Having our friend Larry over for dinner is always an occasion to put on the Ritz. Lar's an accomplished cook himself, with tastes refined by years of travel. He's one friend we can count on to help us eat our venison stew with an understanding eye.
Lar also happens to be a fellow martini drinker and a man with an adventurous pallet. Cocktails, therefore, called for our best gin, stuffed olives and a big spread from our pickle collection. We put out pickled okra and spicy Cajun dills, bread and butter pickles and our famous sweet pickled green tomatoes. One of Lar's favorites was the fresh goat cheese from Boyds, Maryland, with our green apple and tomato chutney. As much as possible, we tried to use what we already had on hand. I turned an opened jar of marinated artichoke hearts into a quick-processed spread with Parmesan cheese.
Dinner began with a garden salad with freshly picked beets from the garden, a Spanish blue cheese and honey-mustard vinaigrette. We poured a fine Argentinian Viogner wine with that.
Our main course, the venison stew, was hardly the kind of hands-off meal I usually prefer. My favorite foods are those that cook themselves. This dish, by contrast, was quite a production.
In a previous post, I described marinating and browning the venison over coals on our deck. That went into the fridge. Meanwhile, I cooked and skinned a load of cipollini onions. I then browned them in a hot skilled. Then I dug up some carrots and roasted those in the oven. A composed dish was coming into focus, with the venison, onions and carrots sitting atop an underlayer of potato-turnip mash and sauteed greens from the beets that went into the salad. I already had creamed turnips in the freezer, so it was simply a matter of cooking some potatoes out of the garden and running them through the ricer. Some grated Parmesan cheese added another layer of flavor to the mash.
The finished dish, served in a large bistro-size bowl, is pictured above. The sauce consisted of nearly two bottles of red wine (used in the marinade) and four cups of beef stock (use veal stock if you have it) all reduced on the stove to less than two cups. With it we served a succession of French reds: a Verget du Sud and 2006 Cote du Rhone purchased by me for very little at Whole Foods, and a wonderful 2005 Corbieres, Chateau de Vaugelas, that Larry generously brought.
We hardly needed dessert, but we ate it anyway: our own homemade yogurt with fresh Mission figs and a drizzle of the local honey we bought at the pickle festival in New York.
We were all thoroughly stuffed. Oh, and the venison stew was well worth all the effort.