I live in Brooklyn. I’m sure that you can find parts of this borough that have deer in them, but not in Williamsburg. I live in the city; I don’t hunt. However, I am lucky enough to work with a woman whose husband is a hunter and had recently been on a big hunting trip. She asked if I would be interested in taking some of their bounty, and of course, I was really excited about the possibility. You can’t just walk into a grocery store around here and pick up some venison. Little did I know that she was going to bring me an entire haunch! I felt a brief pang of nervousness when presented with this giant hunk of meat. I have heard that venison is quite lean and can be difficult to cook, but on the other hand, I absolutely love getting to work with unfamiliar ingredients and couldn’t wait to get home and see what I could do with it. If you’ve never had deer before, I hope that one day you have the chance! It’s got much less fat than other red meats, like beef, and has a deep, rich flavor, especially if you get it fresh. It can be roasted, cooked as steaks, or made into jerky, so it’s worth doing a little work to track some venison down. If you’re a hunter or know someone who is, I’d love to hear how you like to prepare it. As I had never made venison before, I figured that this new adventure would be perfectly paired together with my McCormick Spices partnership in promoting their 2013 Flavor Forecast. As I previously explained with my Orange Scented Gingerbread Cookies, I am pleased to be working with McCormick again in their recipe development and sharing all of their ideas for 2013 with you. This year, they are focusing on global food with hidden potential, eating personally handcrafted food the way you like it, and not having to worry about apologizing for liking what you like! All of those are themes that I can certainly get behind, and I’m sure that you can, too. McCormick is showcasing some bold new flavors for 2013, and one that inspired me was the idea of hearty cuts of meat. I don’t think it gets much heartier than an entire leg of venison! I also made sure to use some smoked paprika with this dish, so as to make it feel warm, comforting, and, yes, hearty. Most people, like me, have probably not roasted venison at home before, so I hope that you are inspired by this and go out there and try something you’d usually never try. This is all in the spirit of McCormick’s quest to save the world from boring food!
Because I had a leg of venison, I figured that the best way to cook it would be to roast it. I made sure to rub the haunch down with a bold, vibrant rub. I put juniper berries, peppercorns, fennel, smoked paprika, curry powder, and, of course, plenty of salt. It smelled wonderfully aromatic and there’s nothing quite like a roast to put you in the holiday spirit. I basted the leg in my homemade stock, but you can use whatever you prefer. Carving a leg can be a bit tricky, but I just went for the meatiest part with my sharpest knife and sliced as thinly as possible. We had our friend Matt over to try this out with us, and he and Kramer both agreed that the venison was perfectly tender. I was pleasantly surprised! Honestly, I had prepared myself for the worst, but I think when you are working with a tricky piece of meat, the best thing to do is to just keep a careful eye on it. I served this with polenta, but rice, potatoes, or even roasted vegetables would be a lovely compliment. Of course, there will be plenty of leftovers, but I will leave that for another day.
Place the venison in a roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. After 1 hour, baste with 1 1/2 cups of stock, be it beef or chicken. Roast for another hour, baste again, then check the temperature of the venison before removing it from the oven, allowing it to rest and carving.
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 10 cloves of garlic, minced very well
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 venison haunch (about 15 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons melted bacon fat (or vegetable oil)
- 3½ cups stock
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind up the salt, juniper berries, peppercorns, curry powder, paprika, rosemary, pepper flakes, and fennel. Add in the minced garlic and olive oil and mix until you have a paste. Rub the paste all over the venison, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
- When you are ready to roast, be sure to remove the venison from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the venison in a roasting pan with a rack, pat with your bacon fat or oil, and place on the lowest level of the oven. Roast for 1 hour. When the hour is almost up, heat up your stock in a small sauce pan.
- When the 1 hour is up, take the venison out of the oven, turn it over, and baste with half of your stock. Return to the oven for an additional hour. After that hour, remove, turn the venison again, and baste with the remaining warm stock. Roast the venison for an additional 15-20 minutes, then check the temperature in the thickest part of the haunch. You want the temperature to be at least 128 degrees F for medium-rare.
- Once the venison is ready, place it on a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. While the venison rests, place the drippings from the pan in a saucepan and reduce over medium heat for 20 minutes or so, stirring every so often.
- When you’re ready to eat, carve the roast. I recommend going at an angle at the meatiest part and going from there, slicing thinly against the grain. Serve with the gravy and your favorite side dish.