Venison, Pommes Maxim, Charred Strawberries, Blueberry Sauce

I still had one shoulder left (I used the other one here) from the deer my neighbor gave me. I wanted to use it in a preparation that capitalizes on the good berries available in stores right about now. On the Alinea-Mosaic  site I was reading about a dish they are working on and the chef incorporated strawberries, both raw and charred. They served the charred strawberries with squab, so venison made sense to me. All the preparation that the strawberries needed was to slice them, brush them with very little grape seed oil and very quickly char them in a hot pan.

The venison was done confit style like the previous one. For this shoulder I used both orange and lemon zest in the cure in addition to cinnamon sticks and brown sugar. To cook it, I rubbed it with duck fat and vacuum packed it, then cooked it sous vide at 180F for 20 hours. I wanted to melt all the collagen since I was going to use the liquid in the bag as a binder for the “venison log” later on. In hindsight, probably a bit less time would’ve been fine, closer to 12 hours. The meat was falling off the bone, so I shredded it and de-fatted the liquid in the bag. I then reduced the liquid to about 1/3 of a cup and mixed most of it into the meat. I also stirred in a few tablespoons of sherry vinegar to liven up the flavor.  The meat mixture was tightly wrapped in plastic wrap into a tight roulade and popped in the fridge to set and firm up. For service, I sliced the log into 2 inch thick slices, smeared one surface with Dijon mustard and coated it with regular bread crumbs. These disks were then pan-fried till crispy in olive oil.

For a starch I made Pommes Maxim, the recipe for these cool looking potatoes is from Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure. They are a bit tricky to make and need some patience, but are well worth it. The potato is sliced thin on a mandolin, then the slices are cut into circles with a pastry cutter. After a quick blanch in salted water, the potatoes get coated in corn starch and arranged on parchment circles in a concentric overlapping shape. These can happily sit in the fridge for a day or so now. Right before serving, I pan-fried the potatoes in clarified butter until golden, crispy and delicious. These are very delicious!


For a sauce I made pickled blueberries and a blueberry gastrique. The recipe is from Alinea where they serve it with bison. The berries are cooked in a mixture of red wine and sugar, then left to macerate for a couple of hours before being removed. The blueberry flavored mixture is mixed with venison stock that I made a couple of weeks ago from the same deer. That sauce is reduced to a syrupy consistency and the flavor adjusted using some of the leftover liquid from the venison bag. The sauce is a little tart, sweet and very deeply flavored.

For a slightly sharp and different flavor I made a eucalyptus pudding, again based on an Alinea recipe and is made following their standard method of setting a mixture with agar and then pureeing in  a blender for a pudding-like texture. I used a fraction of the recommended amount of eucalyptus oil and the pudding was pretty damn strong. It’s worth noting that Diana was not crazy about this component, so I am glad I only used a little bit of it as a dollop on the venison disks and a few drops as a base for the strawberries.


To finish the dish, I garnished it with a few arugula leaves, drops of reduced balsamic vinegar and fresh oregano leaves and flowers. This was a very tasty and wonderful looking plate of food. The tart sauce and the berries worked very well with the rich and unctuous venison. The arugula and balsamic reduction brightened the flavors even more and worked with the blueberries to contrast the richness of the dish. Did I say the Pommes Maxim were delicious already? They were and we could barely keep the kids away from eating all of our portions of what they called potato chips.

Confit of Venison Shoulder, Cauliflower Gratin and Bean Puree

The whole reason this dish came together are those neat looking Cocottes, the small red ceramic dishes. Diana, always keeping an eye for good deals, picked them up as a Christmas present for me at Tuesday Morning for a good price. I knew I would be using these things as soon as I possibly could.

As luck would have it, I had some cooked and vacuum packed confit of venison shoulder on hand. To do that, I had used one of the deer shoulders from a deer my neighbor gave me and cured it as I would do duck confit using shallots, salt, rosemary and added juniper berries for good measure. 24 hours later I rinsed and dried the meat then packed it with a little duck fat in a FoodSaver bag. This was then cooked sous vide at 185F (85 C) for several hours. When ready to serve I divided the meat into chunks and seared it in grape seed oil over high heat.

To use the the nice little red pots, I prepared a cauliflower gratin. This is an amazing recipe and along with the quiche is the recipe I prepare the most from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook. The cauliflower prepared like that is delicious and the highlight of this dish. Sure, the venison was tasty. It’s meat afterall and is cooked in duck fat with herbs. It’s succulent and robust. However, to make a simple cauliflower taste so damn divine is what real cooking is all about. I did deviate a little bit from Keller’s recipe here. I cooked the stems and some of the florets sous vide @ 185F (85 C) for 2 hours until very tender then pureed them. I cooked the rest at the same temperature with some butter and salt in the bag for about 45 minutes until perfectly cooked. To finish the gratin, the puree is mixed with cream and flavored with shallots and thyme, then mixed with the florets in the small pans and topped with Gruyere cheese and bread crumbs. I baked these until bubbly and the crumbs are golden.

To serve the dish I used a puree of white beans cooked with leeks as a base for the venison. For a sauce I blanched the green pats of a bunch of scallions and pureed it with olive oil and lemon juice.