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.

Numbles, Umbles, Humble Pie

Originally a pie made of numbles, or umbles—i.e. the liver, kidneys, etc., of a deer, humble pie was made to be eaten by servants and huntsmen, while the lord of the manor and his guests dined on venison. “The keeper hath the skin, head, umbles, chine, and shoulders.”—Holinshed: Chrouicle, i. 204.

Samuel Pepys makes many references to such pies in his diary, writing on the 5th of July 1662 “I having some venison given me a day or two ago, and so I had a shoulder roasted, another baked, and the umbles baked in a pie, and all very well done”  and on the 8th of July the next year “Mrs Turner came in and did bring us an Umble-pie hot out of her oven, extraordinarily good.”

While this isn’t medieval Europe and I don’t have a freshly-killed deer on hand, I do have some very nice pastured beef liver and a fair selection of herbs and root vegetables..


Humble Pie

Minimally-processed whole foods, in a manner recognizable by our ancestors

For the pie dough (adapted from a recipe by Michael Ruhlman)

6 oz (by weight) sprouted whole wheat flour
4 oz (1 stick) pastured butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 oz filtered ice water
1 pinch sea salt

Combine the flour and butter in a glass bowl, rubbing the butter between your fingers until pea-sized.  Add the salt and ice water gradually and mix gently until just combined.  Don’t over-work the dough, or it will become tough.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling

Set 1 1/2 cups beef stock, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon coarse mustard and 2 oz red wine to simmer on the back burner.

Chop such root vegetables as you have available.  I’m using purple potatoes, leek, carrots, celery, garlic and a few just-dug field onions.

Mince fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, curly parsley and rosemary.

Dice a bit of pork belly or uncured bacon and put in a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook until browned.  Add the potatoes and brown quickly.

Add the carrots, leeks and celery and allow to brown.

Add the garlic, onions and herbs and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

Cut partially-frozen beef liver into long strips, then cut the strips into bite-sized lengths.  Dredge lightly in sprouted wheat flour season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Melt pastured butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until slightly browned.  Add the liver and sear quickly until browned but still rare on the inside.

Add the liver to the cooked vegetables and stir to combine.

Make a small amount roux from equal part sprouted wheat flour and butter, cooking out until the raw flour taste is gone (about 5 minutes of constant stirring).

Thicken the now-reduced beef stock by whisking in the roux.  Allow to simmer a minute, then pour over the liver and vegetables.  Stir to combine.

Roll out the pie dough until large enough to just fit inside the 1st skillet, then place it on top of the liver mixture and lightly press into place.

Brush the dough with a an egg beaten with a little water, then cut some vent holes to allow the steam to escape.

Place the pie in a 350 degree oven and bake until golden brown, maybe 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

“Samuel Pepys, FRS (pronounced /ˈpiːps/ “peeps”; 23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament, who is now most famous for his diary. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalization of the Royal Navy.

The detailed private diary he kept during 1660–1669 was first published in the nineteenth century, and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.” –Wikipedia

This post is part of the Clean Your Plate August: Liver! Recipe Challenge
at The Nourished Kitchen

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Sunday Chicken

You might also like this recipe for Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Roast chicken and vegetables is a densely nutritional, healing meal. Here’s a really tasty all-in-one-pan recipe using olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs..


Herb Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

Partially peel and par-boil a few potatoes in salted water.  Drain, bash and set aside.

Wash a fresh, pastured chicken inside and out with plenty of kosher salt and cold, filtered water. Pat dry.

Stuff the cavity of the bird with fresh rosemary, sage and thyme and set in a large heavy skillet.

Surround the bird with potatoes and coarsely chopped garlic, leeks, purple carrots, beets or whatever root vegetables you have on hand.

Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the contents of the pan.  Add fresh herbs and drizzle everything with olive oil and season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees until juices run clear, about 1 hour.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before carving and serving with pan juices.

Save the bones for soup stock.

Duck Leg Demi-Confit, Wild Rice, Root Vegetables and Grand Marnier Demi-Glace (favorite)

Traditional French confit (kahn-FEE) of duck takes up to 8 weeks to make; its flavor is unparalleled.  This recipe uses similar techniques, approximating the flavor of traditional confit in just 24 hours (hence duck leg demi-confit).  Served with Grand Marnier demi-glace, root vegetables and wild rice..

The day before, rinse duck legs and pat dry.  Place on top of a 1/8 inch bed of kosher salt in a non-reactive dish.  Add a dozen bruised garlic cloves to the dish.  Season duck with ground bay leaf, thyme, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, corriander and cumin.  Cover duck completely with kosher salt, cover dish and refrigerate for 18-24 hours.

2 hours before dinner, remove the duck and garlic from the refrigerater and brush away all of the salt.

Brown the duck legs in rendered duck fat, remove to a side dish and pour off (and reserve) all but 2 tablespoons of fat.  Sauté celery, leeks, carrots, thyme and garlic in same pan until browned, about 10 minutes.

Return duck to pan and add enough homemade chicken stock to cover all but the tops of the duck.  The goal is to braise the duck until tender, but still have a crispy skin.  Season liberally with fresh cracked pepper and place in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees and remove pan.  Add wild rice and more stock if neccessary.  Baste duck with reserved fat and return to oven for 1 hour.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the duck and vegetables to a side dish and keep warm.  Degalze pan with Grand Marnier, add chicken stock and reduce quickly.  Finish with demi-glace.

To serve, arrange duck on top of vegetable rice mixture, dress with demi-glace and garnish with slivered scallions and orange pieces.