October 29, 2013

We Got Game!

We were fortunate to be given a great treat from a friend--a venison tenderloin.  While thinking of ways we could highlight the natural flavors of this protein, without overcooking it, I was inspired by a family Fall favorite from my childhood.

We decided to do a refined take on a mushroom Swiss steak.  Since we had chilly weather here in DC last week, it was the perfect time to make this hearty dish.  And since our cut of meat was super lean, this method of cooking, which involves tenderizing and braising it, really helps to create steak that melts in your mouth.  Start by taking any silver skin off of your meat.  It is tough, chewy connective tissue that you don't want.  Simply pull up the membrane and use the tip of a boning knife to gently slice it free from the meat as you pull it away.
The other thing to prep ahead of time is the leeks.  As we always do, slice them up and toss them in a bowl of water to clean out the dirt and grit.  Since there are so many layers, the dirt can get trapped between them.  In the bowl of water, the dirt will sink to the bottom, and your leeks will be clean.
Now for the fun part.  Slice the loin into filets, season, and then pound them flat.  Don't be afraid to give 'em a good whack.  You can place a piece of plastic wrap over them to prevent meat wads from flying off your cutting board.  Then lightly dredge them in a little AP flour.  Be sure to shake off any excess.
Once you've got them nice and coated brown them up in your dutch oven or slow cooker.  You just want to get a little crust on them.  They will braise for a long time so you really just want a sear on them.
Remove your steaks from the dutch oven, and set them aside. Melt some butter in the dutch oven, and toss in some freshly chopped rosemary.  Be sure to scrape up any loose brown bits of meat juices and flour.  Then add in some onions, celery, and carrots---and you got a mirepoix going.  Let them soften until they become fragrant. 
Once the mirepoix has cooked down add your leeks and 'shrooms.  Once the mushrooms have released their liquid, season the mixture with salt and pepper, and they will reabsorb it again.  At this time, add in your beef stock. Turn it down to low and add back your steaks.
Now here is the hardest part...the waiting.  Keep your temperature low and braise your meat for at least an hour per pound.  You can let it go longer and it will get more tender as the muscle and connective tissue continue to break down.  Once your meat is nice and tender, you just need to thicken up your mushroom gravy.  We used a slurry of flour and water, and a little bit of heavy cream.
We paired this meal with buttery, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and a little fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish.  The venison was amazingly tender, and the natural gaminess and earthiness of the mushrooms were so comforting as they ruminate in the gravy and buttery spuds.

Now I know we usually don'y post recipes, but I worked one up to share with my mom and sister:

4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 cup sliced leeks
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery diced
2 small carrots diced
1 medium onion diced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon italian parsley
1 1/2 pounds sliced mushrooms (I used cremini) 
3 Tbsp all purpose flour plus some extra for dreging beef steaks
3 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream 

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