By now, you guys probably know my love for all things venison. Lean, healthy, extremely versatile and despite – or because of – the gamey aromas, absolutely yumtastic in combination with a large variety of fruit and nuts… what’s not to love about it~? I realize that, if you’re not living in a foresty region, any kind of wild game might be a rare and therefore expensive sight in your butcher’s display.
Even in our corner of the world it can be on the more expensive side of things despite its availability, unless you have a licensed hunter on speed dial. The beauty of a rare treat like this, however, is that it gives me just another reason to make my venison-dishes really count. So, now that the fence season for deer is over and the stalls at the farmer’s market are bursting with mushrooms, chestnuts and – another rare treat – extremely late black cherries, the time has come for one of my favorite autumn-forest-feasts.
Just on a side-note: I usually make this dish a little earlier in Autumn, when the regular cherry- and early mushroom seasons overlap, because betting on the late cherries has been too much of a gamble in the last couple of years, but when I spotted these pretties on the farmer’s market a week ago, I just couldn’t resist~ Oh, by the way, while the dish may sound ponzy and the ingredient-list may seem a bit extensive, this one is quite the breeze to make – and it’s a one-pan dish… well, one pan and a small pot to be precise~
The Cherry-Port Jus
200ml Black Cherry Juice
200ml Red Port
1 Teabag containing the following Venison Spices – if you don’t have open teabags for loose tea (paper or cloth ones both work fine), bundle the spices up in a square of muslin and tightly tie it up with butcher’s string
1 dried Porcini Mushroom
5 Allspice Berries
2 Coffee Beans
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds
½ Tsp Mustard Seeds
¼ Cinnamon Stick
1 small Hot Chilli, halved – I use ¼ – 1/3 Habanero or a small Birds Eye
1 Bay Leaf
1) Pour the port and the cherry juice into a wide-rimmed pot and pop in the teabag.
2) Set the heat to medium-low and allow the lot to gently simmer away for 15-20 mins to reduce the liquids by ½.
3) Once the liquid levels in your pot are closing in on the desired amounts, set a heavy-based pan onto medium-high heat and leave it to heat up to its maximum temperature with the lid closed.
4) The remaining steps of the recipe will roll down in one go, one ingredient after another, into the same pan, so make sure you have everything ready prepped and in easy reach at this point.
5) Keep an eye on the jus and turn the heat off once it reaches the 1/2-mark – it should reach this point just in time to finish off the dish, but spare a moment to check every once in a while, just in case…
400g/4 small, 90-100g Venison Fillet Steaks
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
1 Sprig of Rosemary
1) Add the butter, garlic and rosemary sprig to your pan.
2) Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel.
3) Once the butter has melted and the delicious aromas of the garlic and rosemary are starting to waft up to you, gently place the venison in the pan.
4) You’re going to sear the steaks for 4 mins total – start by giving them 1 min on each side to get the crisp-creating process going.
5) Generously season the meat with salt during this first phase.
6) Turn the heat to high and sear the steaks for 3 more mins, flipping them every 15-20 secs to get a nice crust all around their outside.
7) While you’re not busy turning them over, drizzle them with the honey and continually baste them with the herby butter in your pan.
8) On the last flip-over, treat the venison with a generous crack of pepper, then gently pick them up with a pair of kitchen tongs and place them on a warm plate before covering them with a sheet of aluminum foil.
9) Set the plate aside, preferably somewhere warm and cosy, while you’re finishing up the rest. During this phase, the residual heat will do a terrific job of finishing off your caramelized-on-the-outside yummies with an evenly juicy rosé interior.
10) Turn the heat beneath your pan down to medium, remove and discard the crushed garlic clove and have a closer look at your rosemary sprig – if the border between “crispy” and “burned” is a bit too fuzzy for comfort, remove the sprig as well. If it looks like it can take a bit more heat, keep it in for the time being.
The Chestnut, Cherry & Chanterelle Ragout
100g Chanterelles, carefully cleaned and double-checked for treacherous grains hiding in their folds
170-200g Black Cherries, halved and pitted
200g Pre-cooked Chestnuts
1 Shallot, finely diced
3 Leaves of Sage
1 Sprig of Tarragon
Alt: 2 Sprigs of Garden Savory – in case the anise’y touch of the tarragon isn’t exactly your cup of tea
2-3 Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
Salt, Nutmeg and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
1) Pop the small knob of butter into the remaining venison-juices in your pan and allow it to melt.
2) Add the shallot cubes, sage leaves, chestnuts and the chanterelles before seasoning the lot with a pinch of salt as well as a generous helping each of black pepper and nutmeg.
3) Give the contents of your pan a hearty flip or two to distribute the seasoning throughout the mix.
4) Deglaze the pan with the Cherry-Port Jus, then turn the heat down once more, to medium-low.
5) Add the cherries and the tarragon sprig to your pan, lightly shake the pan to keep the cherries from getting any ideas about sticking to the bottom and allow the ragout to simmer away gently for 5 mins.
6) Remove the tarragon, rosemary and sage leaves and have a look-see.
7) By now, the jus should have reduced down to a syrupy sauce, coating everything with a glossy coat.
8) If it’s not there just yet, give it a few more minutes if the consistency of your chanterelles allows for more time in the heat.
9) Have a taste-test while you’re at it and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Turn off the heat once you’re satisfied.
10) Gently place the venison on top of the lot, close the lid and give the steaks 2-3 mins to warm though again.
11) Munch-time~! Plate up, 2 steaks and a comfy pile of the ragout per person, and sprinkle the servings with the chopped parsley.