I’ve never cooked venison. Sure, I have used sausage made with venison, but never a nice piece of backstrap. So, when a friend of ours was kind enough to give us some of that tender lean cut of deer, I knew I would cook it for a special occasion for Diana and I. This past weekend was our 8 year anniversary, a special occasion for sure.
I had seen this recipe in Gordon Ramsay’s “*** Chef” book, that translates to “Three Star Chef” BTW and it’s the only book of his worth buying.
Mr. Ramsay simply sears the venison in butter and then roasts it to medium rare. I made a change here and cooked the backstrap sous vide in my immersion circulator. This guarantees a perfectly cooked piece of meat that is not dry and cooked exactly to medium rare. I vacuum packed the meat with a bit of butter, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. I let it cook in the water bath at 135 F for about 2 hours while I prepared the meal. It really would’ve been ready in a little over an hour but that’s the beauty of this process. As long as the water temperature is at or a little below the target meat temperature, you can leave the meat in there for a good bit of time with no overcooking or drying. To finish it, I seared the meat for about 30 seconds on each side in clarified butter in a very hot cast iron pan.
The Braised Cabbage:
This was the ingredient that took the most time cooking. A long time. Like 3 hours! It was the best braised cabbage I’ve ever had though. It’s simply cooked with brown sugar, a little red wine vinegar, butter and some salt. It cooks slowly in a heavy pot with a piece of parchment on top. While the cabbage cooks, the mositure evaporates and it caramelizes slightly. Sweet, a bit tangy and not mushy.
The Beet Fondant:
Sliced beets cooked in butter and stock until glazed and soft.
The Parsnip Puree:
I cooked diced parsnips in milk and pureed them with cream, a little butter, salt and pepper. This luscious mixture was velvety smooth and so good I could’ve eaten it by itself. Instead it went into a squeeze bottle to be used for those cool looking parsnip puree drops around the dish.
The Creamed Mushrooms:
Well, Ramsay uses fresh “Cepes” here, aka Porcini muchrooms. Awsome stuff if you can find them…and afford them when you do (think $40/lb at least). Instead I did what I normally do in these situations. I used plain old white shrooms and added reconstituted (soaked in warm water) dried Porcini mushrooms to the mix. The dried stuff is quiet fantastic as well and adds so much flavor to anything. Mushrooms were suteed and mixed with a little cream.
The Parsnip Chips:
I used a peeler to make very thin slices of parsnips. These were then fried until crisp.
The Red Wine Sauce:
This is a classic red wine reduction made with a base of shallots and some meat scraps. In goes red wine and gets reduced. Then a pint of stock and that gets reduced too. I ended up with a rich delicious and deep colored sauce.
To assemble the dish, I put a nice pile of braised cabbage in a bowl. A slice or two of beet goes on top, then the creamed mushrooms. I sliced the venison on a bias and arranged it all around. The parsnip puree goes around the venison in large dots. Very carefully I add the sauce and top the plate with the parsnip chips. Everything in the dish worked so good. The venison was deeply flavored and tender. It stood up perfectly to the other elements of the dish and as a whole this was a special dish for a special occasion.