As a professional and a passionate chef, I am always trying to one up dishes on our menus. Different this, different that, in order to continually tweak and improve the dish. However, eventually a routine will set in because we will execute that dish hundreds of times often using the same proteins (There are only so many ways to serve beef, chicken etc) so I was intrigued a few years back when venison, bison and game finally came out of the closet!!!
Sure, it’s been around forever and hunters anxiously wait for hunting season in the fall, but the general interest wasn’t there. It was almost a “where’s Waldo” to find venison, bison or game in the bigger cities…
Today of course the tables have turned.
From sliders to Bourguignon, tartar to confit, chili and now even sausages, it’s clear our affair with gamier meats has just begun and the beauty of it is that there is something for everybody. Gourmet grocers and trendy restaurants alike proudly feature what is probably thought to be the healthiest cut of meat out there.
Your local chain grocer stocks the flesh and bones of beef, pork, lamb, chicken,—some of which are raised free of chemicals and confinement and are nearly as free to romp and roam as bison or deer. Yet despite all of this, many consumers choose game like venison or bison while they fuss over recipes like brides planning a wedding and with good reason.
Some of the best chefs in Canada have come to understand and market the connection between venison, bison, game, the wild places where they live, and the dish for all its positive attributes. Richer and heavier recipes such as Venison Osso Bucco are probably enjoyed more during winter months, while game such as duck and quail find their place on the menu or at your table more often in the warmer months.
The taming of the wild or how we learned to love game…
Aside from the incredible quality of the meat, venison, bison or smaller game are also very practical as they can be prepared many diffrent ways which also affects the cost. For instance, cubed venison or bison from the shoulder area will be a lot cheaper than filet from the hind. Yet you are still buying a high quality product. Then of course there is the the high content of minerals. In a world obsessed with health, youth and looks, Bambi and friends are a no brainer. Why? Because it is low in fat, because of its low waste ratio to consumable product, because it is free of growth hormones, antibiotics, and antifungal fed or injected into commercial livestock,because eating from the wild resonates with the current slow-food and regional cuisine movement and it is relatively cheap to obtain.
A little history…
The first European explorers to the New World were astonished by the numbers of “stag” that they met upon their arrival. It was lead versus flesh (guess who won?) as early pilgrims, pioneers, priests and trappers lined up for what was to become an endless buffet at the first Thanksgiving. Saved from starvation, our newly arrived ancestors quickly realized the potential of our four legged friends. New World quests for freedom and riches were fueled by the demand for the flesh of whitetail deer and all the possibilities its fur could provide. This Fur trade endeavor would eventually grow to become quite the industry and possibly Bay Street’s ancestor.
While it is common practice to place everybody under one hoof, it should
be noted that there is a significant difference between bison and venison. Taste for one is very different. Venison ( deer) for one is much gamier with very pronounced tanins in the flesh whereas bison is more like the Ferrari of beef. Not so much a pronounced flavour but a very very lean cut of meat with much less fat. Color on the other hand will resemble a little more with venison leaning towards a dark Burgundy.
The gamier flavor and stronger tannins permit you to pair with sauces with bolder flavors which in turn invite wines with more body and substance. Obvious pairing will be with red vaterials. Depending on the dish (sauce) varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and some older Merlot are a safe choice.
Venison Tartare Recipe:
25 ml of balsamic vinegar
15 ml of scotch.
1 french shallot cut in small brunoise
40 g of mustard seeds
15 g of ginger diced very small with sharp knife 10 pieces of chive
15 ml of walnut oil
15 ml of truffle oil
20 ml of olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
250g of venison (filet) diced very small with sharp knife 1⁄2 green apple cut in small brunoise
Using a very cold metal bowl, mix together first 5 ingredients in the order they appear
With the use of a whisk, slowly stir in the oils as if to make vinaigrette (dressing)
Salt and pepper to taste
Gently mix in venison and green apple brunoise
Combine and mix thoroughly, then place in a metal ring for immediate use Serve with grilled / toasted baguette or croutons
Important: Raw meat should not be left at room temperature
With demand now firmly in place, it’s no surprise that farms have popped up around the country. One of the first pioneers noteworthy of mention because of its consistent quality is : Le Cerf de BOILEAU in Quebec. It is the largest red deer farm in North America, maintains a herd of approximately 2500 head of red deer on a farm of over 1000 acres.
Interestingly, you can also visit the farm in St-André-Avellin just 60 mins out of Ottawa on the way to Mont-Tremblant.