Is it just me, or is Spring the biggest tease of all the seasons? I don’t know how the weather looks in your neck of the woods, but here in the D.C. area a day or two of beautiful, sunshine-y, warmish days are followed by sometimes 20 degree drops in temperature with rains and crazy winds. For example, just a week ago I went for a lovely seven mile run in shorts and a tank-top. That evening I packed up my winter sweaters…only to pull one out the next morning to shield myself from the wintry chill that arrived overnight. Brrrrr! On these early days of spring, when a shiver or two lingers in the air, we can find ourselves still craving a bowl of something warm and comforting. However, by this time I am chili and stew tired out. Time for something new, right? Now last we spoke, I promised to share my new experiences with you. Well, to break out of the season transition doldrums, I ventured into the “new” territory of…venison!
It is no surprise that I work with a number of hunters and overall outdoors men (and women); it’s the military after all. Monday mornings during hunting season, I’d often hear of miserable hours of sitting in cold drizzle with no game, see video clips of foraging bears, and lend an ear to the venting of the bad “etiquette” of late-starting hunters scoping out for spots and scaring away the deer. As the weeks passed on, it appeared to me that this past season was un-plentiful. It wasn’t until nearly the very end that one of my friends stopped by super excited to share his catch (as promised) and presented me with a neatly butcher wrapped package of venison chops. The catch to the promise, of course, was to share what I thought about my first experience with venison.
I followed my friend’s recommendation to prepare a small piece of venison in order to just taste the flavor of the meat itself. “Just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, ” he said, “sear it in a pan then finish it in the oven like you would a nice steak.” Roger that! Upon opening the package that weekend, I noticed the deep, rich color of the meat. Meat doesn’t look that nice even from the higher end grocery stores! I added checking out the downtown butcher shop to my to-do list so that I could make a comparison some day. Then I removed a piece of venison from the package, froze the rest for later, and followed my friend’s recommended preparation. Below is how it turned out. Now doesn’t that look tasty?
My first thoughts as I chewed that initial bite of venison was, “What’s this “gamey” flavor everyone keeps talking about?” To me, the venison tasted almost identical to beef, albeit drier and a bit tougher than a piece of beef prepared in the same manner. My second bite, I took it slower. I went ahead and chewed and chewed allowing every bit of my mouth to have contact with the venison as I tried to discern that distinct flavor. Still, I did not notice much of a difference, only this time I did discover a mild, earthy after-taste that reminded me of mushrooms.
That slight earthiness of the venison inspired me to use the remaining meat in a Stroganoff, a creamy dish of sauteed beef and mushrooms simmered in sour-cream. I’d been dying to make some for the longest time (I grew up on Hamburger Helper’s Potato Stroganoff!). The venison and the incoming spring provided me the perfect excuse and opportunity to bust out of that muddy spring rut I mentioned earlier. To fight the lingering chill, the venison Stroganoff provided warm and creamy comfort without the heaviness of a fall or winter stews, while the earthy notes of from the venison and mushrooms gave hint to the coming freshness of spring.
Now c’mon already Spring. We’re ready for you!
- 1 pound venison
- 6 ounce package cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided in half
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup beef or chicken stock
- 1 large bay leave
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1 cup full fat sour-cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked rice or egg noodles
- Pat venison dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.
- Sear venison in pan. Use Emilie’s guide to cook venison to desired doneness. Remove venison from pan, setting aside to rest.
- Reduce heat to medium and melt remaining butter in pan and pour in olive oil. Add shallots and mushrooms, slowly sauteing until soft, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add minced garlic to the mushrooms and cook one minute more.
- Pour in stock and add mustard and bay leaf to pan. Stir, scraping up any bits left over from searing the venison.
- Raise heat back to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer 5 minutes.
- While sauce simmers, slice the venison.
- Stir sour-cream into the mushroom sauce and let sauce warm through. Be careful not to let the sauce come to a boil or the sour-cream may break.
- Fold in venison and parsley and remove from heat.
- Serve Venison Stroganoff over rice or egg noodles.