Pan-seared Venison Loin with Roasted Root Vegetables and Cranberry Port Reduction

The term ‘foodshed’ is similar to the concept of a watershed: while watersheds outline the flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table and everything in between.  –

Our foodshed, the Edwards Plateau of central Texas, offers an amazing abundance of food from deer, rabbit and feral hog to freshwater crayfish, bass and catfish and every manner of fruit and vegetable.

This local dish features whitetail deer, smoked bacon, sage, cranberries, sweet potatoes, parsnips and green garlic..

Pan-seared Venison Loin with Roasted Root Vegetables and Cranberry Port Reduction

For the Reduction

1/2 cup fresh  cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon clarified butter
1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed Mayer lemon juice
1 teaspoon more-or-less guajillo honey
1 teaspoon shallot, minced
1 tablespoon port wine
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add cranberries and water and simmer until cranberries pop and begin to soften.  Add port wine and simmer until reduced in volume by about half. Stir in lemon, season to taste with salt and pepper and add just enough honey to smooth out the tartness (the sauce should be balanced rather than sweet).  Keep warm.

For the Vegetables

A seasonal variety of root vegetables, perhaps including sweet potatoes, green garlic, carrots and parsnips, cut in smallish pieces
1 teaspoon pastured butter, melted
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Toss vegetables in melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then remove and set aside.  Vegetables will be underdone at this point.

For the Venison (serves 2)

12 oz fresh, unsliced venison loin (backstrap)
2 pieces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons sage, crumbled
1 tablespoon pastured butter
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Fry bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and all the fat has rendered.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and sage to a side dish, leaving the hot bacon fat behind.  Rinse the venison, pat dry and season with salt and pepper.  Increase heat to medium and add butter to bacon fat fat.  Once shimmering, add the venison and sear until well browned, about 3 minutes per side.  Add par-roasted vegetables to the pan and place in a 400 degree oven until the venison is about 125-130 degrees at the thickest part (use a thermometer).  Remove from oven and allow to stand at least 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon cranberry reduction onto the center of a serving plate.  Slice venison into 3/4 inch-thick medallions and arrange around the plate along with roasted vegetables.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and sage and dress with a spoonful of pan juices.  Offer coarse salt on the side.

Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Blackberry and Cranberry Chutney

Succulent, aged Moulard duck breast with thyme, bay and a hint of freshly-grated nutmeg is pan-seared, then quickly roasted to a perfect medium-rare.  Served with Armagnac-flamed pan juices, asparagus with garlic and parsley root, and gingered wild blackberry and cranberry chutney..

Pan-Roasted Moulard

Pan-Roasted Moulard with Blackberry/Cranberry Chutney

For the Chutney

1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon rendered duck fat
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-grated ginger
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup wild blackberries
salt and pepper

Sauté the onions in duck fat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, vinegar, honey and cranberries. Lower heat, cover and simmer until all the cranberries have popped, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Adjust sweetness/tartness with a little vinegar or honey if you think it needs it, then season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper. The finished mixture should be thick.

For the Duck (adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller)

1/2 fresh Moulard duck breast (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup Armagnac

Use a sharp, thin knife to score a cross-hatch pattern into the fat side of the duck breast, taking care not to cut into the muscle.  Season on all sides with salt, pepper, thyme and nutmeg, then lay bay leaves against the flesh, loosely wrap in butcher’s paper and refrigerate overnight.

Allow to duck breast to sit on the counter for 20 minutes while you pre-heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the duck breast skin-side down to the hot pan, then reduce heat to medium low and cook, moving often, until the skin is golden brown and much of the fat has been rendered out.

Flip the breast over and sauté for 1 minute, then pour off the fat and place the pan in a 375 degree oven until almost medium-rare, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and allow to rest at least 5 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, de-glaze the pan with Armagnac, and add a small knob of butter.  Sauté diced parsley root until tender/crisp, then add garlic and thinly-sliced asparagus (a great way to use up leftover stalks) and sauté until the asparagus is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice the duck breast on a 1/4-inch bias and arrange on a warmed plate.  Spoon asparagus and pan juices over the top and garnish with blackberry/cranberry chutney.

Roast Caribou w/Port Wine Reduction, Cranberries and Gingerbread Muffins

Informed by a recipe from Stein Eriksen Lodge

Butter, bay, coriander, cardamom, juniper berries, non-refined sugar, pepper, paprika, salt and a caribou loin or roast.

Grind spices in a coffee grinder.  Add enough unbleached flour to double the volume and thoroughly dredge the roast.  Brown the roast on all sides in butter in a Dutch oven set over medium heat.  Add port and cook uncovered in 350-degree oven until internal temperature reaches 125 degrees.

Prepare salt & pepper gingerbread muffins and put in oven with roast.

After the roast has been cooking about 20 minutes, slice a potato and season with rosemary, sage, thyme and S&P.  Season green beans with cracked mustard seed and S&P.  Top with raw pine nuts.  Drizzle a little olive oil and melted butter over all, and put pan in oven with roast.

Remove muffins from tin and sprinkle with spiced sugar.

Cook cranberries in the juice and zest of 1 orange and a little sugar until moisture is evaporated.

Remove roast from oven and set on cutting board to rest.

Saute minced shallot, celery, carrot and garlic in butter until soft.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until moisture is evaporated.  Transfer vegetables to the pot that the caribou was roasted in.  Add additional port wine and stock.  Cook over medium-high heat until reduced in volume by half.

Serve slices of roast with pan gravy and cranberries accompanied by roast potatoes and green beans.

Rating  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Thanksgiving, part one

Brining solution: kosher salt with peppercorns, herbs and garlic, honey, bourbon and fresh sage. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the salt and bourbon, stirring until the salt is dissolved.  Turn off the heat and add snipped sage and honey.  Allow to cool to room temperature before pouring over the bird with sufficient additional water to submerge the bird.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Mead: Add simmered hibiscus calyses to traditional mead.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cranberry rhubarb chutney: cloves, ginger, coarse mustard, onion, rhubarb, cranberries, salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, non-refined sugar, raisins and apple cider vinegar.  Cook rhubarb, cranberries, onions and sugar together until the cranberries pop and the juices that are released dissolve the sugar, about 15-20 minutes.  Add raisins, mustard, ginger, vinegar and spices and cook over low heat until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Turkey stock: celery, carrot, thyme, bay, peppercorns, parsley, onion and turkey necks.  Brown the necks in a little until well colored, about 15 minutes. Add vegetables and cook until glazed, about 5 minutes.  Cover necks and vegetables with cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and skim away any foam.  Add herbs and simmer 4 hours.  Strain into a clean container and allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.