The hunter who treats his venison with the respect that a butcher reserves for a beef will find that those stories about deer meat being tough are untrue. The keep-it-tender rules to follow after the animal has been shot are few and simple: it should be bled promptly, then dressed out and cooled. Hanging the carcass is one way to do this. Rolling it upon a cradle of logs on the ground (so air can circulate freely) is another. After the meat has cooled it should age for a few days—many prefer a week to 10 days—and then be butchered (see drawing above for the principal cuts). The delicately flavored meat is now ready to freeze or cook. Here are some of the best recipes I have found in a lifetime of enjoying venison.
This is a festive dish, enormously good, with venison in one of its traditional appearances. Here is the way Particular Parsons, our chef at the defunct Heart's Content Club, served it a few weeks after the season ended to give the meat plenty of time to age properly.
Marinate the meat for 24 hours in the following: 2/3 red wine, 1/3 water (enough to cover meat), a sliced onion, bit of garlic, pinch of thyme, 2 bay leaves—and no salt.
Remove the fat, lard the saddle generously with salt pork and insert a few slivers of garlic in knife incisions. Roast in 350� oven 25 minutes to the pound, basting frequently with the drippings or warm red wine. Remove meat to an ovenproof platter and keep in the oven.
Skim most of fat from drippings, add 1 glass red wine, 1 tablespoon brandy, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 4 ounces tart jelly, same amount of sour cream stirred in slowly as the mixture comes to a boil. Let the gravy reduce, then thicken slightly with paste of flour and cold water. Serve this superb gravy separately.
Roll 1-inch cubes of lean meat in flour seasoned with sage, rosemary, marjoram, salt and pepper. Saut� the pieces slowly in butter until they are delicately browned. Now arrange the meat in a huge casserole—a layer of meat, a layer of small potato balls, a layer of onion rings, until all the cubes of meat are used up. The casserole should then be covered and placed in a 325� oven for 30 minutes. Then add enough light cream to cover. When the cream has been absorbed, add a mixture of finely diced mushroom caps cooked in claret. The dish is ready when most of the liquid has again been absorbed.
To round out the venison, serve asparagus tips in Hollandaise sauce, a salad of tomato slices in heavy French dressing sprinkled with chopped chives, and scones. For a wine: Burgundy at room temperature. Here's a suggestion for dessert: Stilton cheese, toasted crackers, a bit of Major Gray's chutney, port wine and coffee.