Growing up in in a slightly granola household we would celebrate the solstice with friends and family at a yearly gathering in the mountains. Year after year, the familiar smell of venison chili would fill the home that was filled with laughing Buddhas and Tibetan Singing bowls. We would indulge in sprouted breads, ancient grain salads, stewed elk or venison and corn bread. Each celebration was accompanied by a ceremony where we would release our intentions for the new year into the universe. For me these are memories I find comfort in and it is funny how the word venison can make them come flooding back.
If you ever visit Colorado you will see that there are plenty of deer and elk, so venison is a staple of Colorado cuisine. When I was asked to cook a New Years dish that represents where I come from, venison was the first thing that came to my mind.
This dish takes a lot of time to make. It is well worth it, however, I encourage you to try just one part of it! Maybe it is the venison, maybe the butternut squash or even the brown butter pear. Enjoy!
Ingredients: Serves 4
Venison and Rub
Venison Loin - 1 each (30 oz)
Cacao Nibs - 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 2 tbsp
Sage - 2 tbsp
Thyme - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tbsp
Butter - 3 tbsp (for cooking)
Garlic - 2 cloves crushed (for cooking)
Thyme - 2 sprigs (for cooking)
Butternut Squash Puree
Butternut Squash - 1 small each peeled and diced
Chicken Stock - 1 cup
Thyme - 2 sprigs
Rosemary - 2 sprigs
Butter - 1/4 cup
Chanterelle Mushroom - 2 cup mushroom
White wine vinegar - 1 cup
Granulated sugar - 3 tbsp
Black peppercorns - 12 each
Coriander seeds - 10
Garlic clove, thinly sliced - 1
Kosher salt - 3 tbsp
Water - 3/4 cup
Demi Glace - store bought is ok - 1/2 cup
Port Wine - 1 cup reduced to 2 tbsp
Juniper Berries - 5 each
Clove - 1 each
Thyme - 2 sprigs
Sherry Vinegar - 1 tsp
Pear - 1 each brunoise (super small dice)
Pickled Chanterelle Mushroom - 12 mushrooms (cut in 1/2)
Venison and Rub - cut the venison filet in half (lengthwise to make two smaller but equally as long pieces)
Make the rub by blending the sage, thyme, sugar, salt and cacao in a spice mixer.
Rub the mixture all over the vension and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Twist the ends so that the piece becomes cylindrical. Let it cure for 1 hour.
To cook (do last) - Venison needs to be rare/medium rare. Anything more and the meat will be tough. The loins are small and lean and will cook fast. In a cast iron skillet over medium heat put a pat of butter and splash of oil. When shimmering place loin in the pan. cook till deep brown, about 1 1/2 min, flip the venison over and then cook the other side the same. Roll to a side that has not been seared and add the butter, garlic and thyme. Baste the venison with butter until internal temp reaches 130 degrees F. Remove from pan and let rest for 10 min. Slice at the last min. The venison should be very red with minimal grey. The whole cooking process should be very short, less then 10 min. depending on size.
Butternut Squash Puree - peel the squash and cut into a dice. Place a pan over medium heat and add a bit of butter. Begin to cook the squash making sure not to brown the pieces too much. Once the squash starts to cook, about 5 min, add a bit of chicken stock to the pan and cover to let it steam. Cook until the squash is tender. Remove the lid and let any remaining liquid evaporate.
In another pan place the remainder of the butter over medium high heat. Cook the butter until it starts to brown. Add the rosemary and thyme and turn the heat off. Let the herbs steep for 20 min.
Place the squash in a blender and begin to puree. If it is too thick add a touch of stock. Once the squash is starting to blend, slowly drizzle the butter in. Do not add the herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Brown Butter Pear - Cut the pear into 1 inch cubes. In a pan over medium high heat melt butter. When it starts to bubble, add the pears. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, then flip. When other side is golden remove from the pan. Pour excess oil into infused herb butter.
Pickled Chanterelle - Clean the chanterelle mushroom by scraping the stem with the back of a knife. A layer should be removed. Brush off any additional dirt with a moist paper towel.
In a sauce pot, bring the pickling liquid ingredients to a boil. Turn the flame off pour the liquid over the mushrooms in a bowl. Let sit for 10 min. Taste. If it is pickled to your liking then remove them and cut in half.
Game Jus - Reduce wine with juniper berries and clove, when reduced add the demi glace and thyme. When ready to serve, add a splash of vinegar. The sauce should be 'nape' or coat the back of a spoon. make sure it is not too thick.
Garnish - Peel and cut the apple into small brunoise. Cut the mushrooms in half.
To Finish - put a swoosh of puree on the plate. Slice the venison into 1 1/2 inch pieces, add cubes of brown butter pear and top with sauce and finish with raw pear and pickled mushroom garnish.