Too often venison and other wild game gets a bad rap. Cooks find it too gamey, too tough, or too much work to prepare. But nothing give you more connection with the land than a well-prepared meal straight from the forest and fields.
Debra, is a culinary adventuress, ready to tackle any kitchen challenge. On her way to the farm recently, she called ahead and requested that I set out some venison loin roast to thaw. She had a recipe she wanted us to try: Pavé of Venison with Blueberries and Port Sauce. Oh, my! The name held promise of a splendid dish. She explained that it was one she learned from the Scottish food writer, instructor, and food stylist Maxine Clark during a cooking course in Sicily.
“What is pavé?” I asked.
“It’s the French word for pavement,” she explained.
At first I feared that might refer to the firmness of the meat. No, she said, it describes the shape of the cuts; rectangular, more like pavers.
Animals who forage in the wild and develop little fat benefit from marinating. The process not only tenderizes the meat, it adds extra flavor and lock in the moisture, making it an important first step in cooking wild game. In her cookbook, Venison, Maxine has an excellent marinade recipe that’s shown below.
Marinade for Venison
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs. wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs fresh thyme or sage, or 1 Tbs dried sage
- 2 crushed juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. black pepper (no salt at this stage)
Pour into a large, strong plastic bag. Add the venison and seal, shaking a few time to mix meat and liquid. Leave to marinate in a cool place for 2-4 hours, or longer. Pour off the marinade and blot filets with paper towel. Rub each with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill according to recipe.
The Dearness of Deer Season
As I oohed and aahed over the tasty pavé of venison in the puddle of blueberry sauce, I recalled moving to rural Missouri more than 50 years ago. I had grown up in a big Eastern city. I was unaware of the “code of the hills,” that governed hunting and fishing in the Ozarks. It wasn’t long before I discovered that these outdoor activity are sacrosanct.
I learned this the hard way, having had a house under construction on two occasions that coincided with hunting season. There was nothing in the contract that said work on my house would cease for a week or two during this hallowed time. Of course not. Being off from work to tromp about the woods with guns and dogs was implied in the agreement like weekends and holidays. Or as Tom Beveridge, geologist and folklorist explained, a contract in the Ozarks carries “a silent rider rendering it void if hunting, fishing, or visiting kinsfolk reverse priorities.”
After that I gained more respect for the various hunting seasons and calendared them, wore orange when walking about the wooded areas of our farm, and learned to cook the various meats, fish and fowl that showed up in my freezer.
I learned the dearness of deer season.