I arrived home from work last Friday evening to find a strange man in our kitchen. Actually, it was my hunting friend Brendan. It’s not that he’s strange per se. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting him and I certainly wasn’t expecting him to have two beautiful cuts of venison as a gift for the Wife and I. He reminded me that he had promised to drop some in at some stage after a shoot. The promise to “drop some in” is one made often by hunters as a way of ending conversation with greedy non shooters. It leaves everybody’s dignity intact and is not a promise that anybody expects to be kept. I understand this and, recognising myself in the latter description accepted the promise for what I believed it to be worth.
However, Brendan is made of finer stuff than the average hunter. A promise made is a promise to be kept. So, I felt obliged to do proper justice the two fine pieces of meat. The conversation around the hunt was fascinating for me. Two perfect specimens had presented themselves in Brendan’s sights. He hadn’t taken either shot. He is a responsible, licensed hunter. Neither were safe. On the encounter with the third (a young Sika deer), conditions were right and you know what happened next.
Brendan assured me that the carcass had been hung well for five days. The haunch and lower leg cuts were beautiful.
This called for some culinary creativity. I decided to cook the haunch sous vide for 6 hours at 56ºC. Having looked online, I could find no definitive guidance and settled on what I thought would be right for such a lovely piece of meat. To add a bit of flavour, I cooked it with juniper berries, rosemary, thyme and a load of seasoning.
I vacuum sealed this and put it in the water bath.
While the haunch was cooking, I prepared the daub. First I had to remove the meat from the bones.
This took me about half an hour to complete, using a very sharp boning knife. I get as nervous as the deer should have been when using this. I don’t get a lot of practice.
To cook the daub of venison, I needed a few ingredients as follows:
- 800 grammes of venison meat (for that is what there was)
- Half a bottle of robust red wine (the balance of the bottle for the chef)
- 4 beef bombs (Home made highly concentrated beef stock)*
- 5 or 6 shallots
- 6 cloves of garlic or 3 single bulb garlics
- 2 bay leaves
- Half a tablespoon of flour
- Salt and pepper to season
*Use a pint of good stock instead and be prepared to do a bit more reducing.
First, I seasoned the flour in a plastic bag, then adding the venison and shaking to cover.
I fried the meat, in batches, until brown on all sides.
I chopped the garlic and shallots. When it was browned, I removed the venison and reserved. Next, in went the garlic and shallots and I fried them very gently until they caramelised and looked a nice brown colour.
Remove and reserve. Turn the heat up and add the wine. Deglaze the pan. Bring this to a rolling boil, to remove any alcohol. Add the ‘beef bombs’
I added back the venison, garlic and shallots, then added the bay leaves. I stirred and let this lot thicken. Then I wedged in the bones. They had plenty of flavour to add.
I placed a lid on and turned the heat down to its lowest setting. Leaving it this way for about an hour and a half to two hours, stirring occasionally. I did add a little extra water as it dried out a little too much.
I removed the bones and got ready to serve the daub.
I removed the haunch from its plastic bag. I then heated a frying pan, adding a little oil and browning the haunch on all sides. It was cooked and only needed this for a bit of caramelisation and decorative purposes.
I carved the haunch and served it with a generous spoonful of daub.
We served it with the daub, some puréed parsnips and tiny carrots.
The daub was rich and unctuous.The wine, garlic and shallot sauce added a wonderful flavour. The haunch was literally “melt in the mouth” with lovely herb and juniper notes throughout. It was a fantastic meal. Undoubtedly the best venison we have ever tasted. Both the daub and sous vide were exceptional. I would gladly (and hope to) cook either again. Thanks be to goodness Brendan is both a good shot and a man of his word. I for one really appreciate both.