Turn those big chunks of deer meat into delicious Sunday dinner!
Wild game cooks know that ground venison swaps out nicely for tacos, burgers, and chili—and that backstraps and steaks are some of the finest, juiciest meat around. But what they may not know is that venison roasts can be fall-apart tender and packed with flavor. Making this happen in your kitchen or camp is easy. Just follow these tips.
Watch the heat: You might be tempted to crank your oven to 350 and toss in your venison roast. Don’t do it! This is a sure way to turn top-shelf chow into chewy shoe leather. Instead, keep your oven in the 180 to 250 range. Depending on the oven and size of roast, this means eight hours cooking on the long end and three on the short end. Make sure to cover your roaster and start out with a cup of broth or wine in the bottom. This combination of low temperature and moisture works wonders.
Seal the deal: Rolling roasts in flour does double duty. The flour helps the precious pan juices turn into gravy and it also serves as a coating to lock in moisture. Regular white flour works well and for gluten free eaters, try sorghum flour. Brown the floured roast well on all sides; use butter, bacon fat, or peanut oil. Carry this out in a Dutch oven or similar stovetop-to-oven-friendly vessel.
Choose your flavor: The sky’s the limit when it comes to flavor treatments. Mushrooms and red wine. Root vegetables and stock. Dried fruit and chicken broth. Sauerkraut and beer. It all depends on what kind of taste you’re going for. The important thing is that you begin with some flavorful liquid in the bottom of the roaster so you have a basis for your gravy. Otherwise your roast may turn out tough.
Make it dicey: Mirepoix—or a mix of diced vegetables—is the French word for fine-chopped onions, carrots, and celery that are browned in fat and added as the flavor base for a stew or roast. Tomato, garlic, and onion—or sofrito—serves the same purpose in Spanish cooking just as onion, celery, and bell pepper are considered the holy trinity in Cajun and Creole kitchens. Don’t forget mushrooms, onions, and green herbs. This little step of browning vegetables adds big flavor. If you don’t feel like browning, just toss the raw veggies in the bottom of the roaster.
Keep it simple: All these flavor combinations take roasts in delicious and different directions. However, it’s best to resist getting too crazy or adding too many flavors. You want to lead the ingredients into a unified direction. Think enhance instead of disguise. Roasts from a young deer have a milder flavor and are naturally tender. Roasts from mature animals will be more robust. Either way, the end product will be first-rate.
Soak it up: Venison roasts are perfect weekend fare because you can enjoy how good the house smells during the long cooking time. They can also be winning weeknight dinners if you put the browned meat and veggies on low in the slow cooker in the morning. Either way, you’ll have fork-tender meat awash in savory juices. Make sure to have the right stuff on hand to soak all this up. Mashed potatoes, egg noodles, and risotto rice are my sides of choice. Don’t forget a loaf of crusty bread and bottle of robust red wine (Tempranillos, Malbecs, and Cabernets are my choices). Porters and stouts work equally well.
Sunday Dinner Venison Roast
4- or 5-pound venison roast trimmed of fat and at room temperature
1 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
Thyme, rosemary or green herb of choice
4 tablespoons butter or bacon fat
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot peeled and diced
1 cup of dry red wine
1 bay leaf