I’ve talked a lot about venison at The Pleasant House. There’s a reason for that. I’m teaching myself and sharing with others how versatile whole animal cookery can be. If you are familiar with my flickr set on deer butchery you will see that it continues to expand, a direct reflection of my own growth with each experience.
My friend and fellow cook Darrin hosted a spectacular dinner party with his lovely girlfriend, Rebecca, at their apartment on New Year’s Day. One of the incredibly delicious courses (there were seven or eight) consisted of simple roasted veal bones with sea salt and parsley salad. This recipe came from Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson. Henderson’s restaurant, St. John, is near the meat market in London. The St. John cookbooks contain many of the recipes used at the restaurant, which specializes in cookery that utilizes all parts of the animal. Sure, all of the prime cuts are prepared, but the nasty bits and off-cuts get just as much love as all the rest.
I was so thrilled to discover this preparation for braised leg and shoulder of venison in Nose to Tail Eating because I knew that my brother would be butchering another deer soon and I would be able to procure some product to try out the recipe. In a properly dry British way, Henderson cleverly and humorously introduces each recipe. The recipes are not written as sterile bullet points but instead read like practiced personal accounts of the hows and whys of ingredient combinations and the effects of such ingredients upon the taster. In fact, one recipe, crab and mayonnaise, “probably does not count as a recipe, more like a few thoughts.” There is an actual recipe for mayonnaise on a different page “that is not too stiff, as this does not make a friendly partner for your crab.”
In this particular recipe Henderson is so bold and confident as to proclaim the results to be “unctuous,” and I trust him. What is so serious about unctuous, you ask? In food circles, this descriptive term carries great weight. Unctuous is used to refer to the transcendentally pleasurable rich and melting texture that is found in certain foods. A great wine, an aged cheese, ice cream, pork belly–any food that seems soul satisfyingly soothing is unctuous. Sure, there is tender, but tender is tender. Tender is one dimensional; unctuous is three-dimensional deliciousness.
While Henderson witfully built up my expectations for a humble deer leg, I, too, have talked up his recipe and you must be eager to hear the outcome. Hear and see the results in the video below. Obviously, you cannot smell the results unless I prepare the recipe for you, which I hope to do eventually, or unless you prepare it for yourself–if you think it’s worth it. I enjoyed how Darrin introduced the recipe he prepared by reading from Nose to Tail Eating at his dinner party and was inspired to do the same here: